Naval Reactors... Gestapo or Soulless Automons?
(I admit that the title of this post is a little over-the-top, but I really just wanted to see if I could snag the #1 Google listing for "Naval Reactors Gestapo"; that should bring me in a few hits. Update -- As I was checking it to add the link, though, I found I already had the #1 result. We'll see how long it takes this one to take it away, simply as a check on the Google algorithm...)
So there I was... I was stationed at NPTU Charleston on MTS 626 as a Shift Engineer as my post-JO shore tour. There were about seven Naval Reactors guys in the local office; as a general rule, they were all jerks. (I'll probably get the guys in Groton that I worked with in trouble, but they generally weren't jerks; based on my other dealings with NR, though, I think they were an anomaly.) They expected phone calls about any problem, and the Shift Engineer could get in a lot of trouble by not keeping them informed. When we were on midshift, I'd occasionally have something come up that I knew I didn't have to inform them about right away, but that they'd be pissed if I didn't call them sometime during the night. I used to wait until about 4:15am to call them; I figured at that point it'd be harder for them to get back to sleep.
Anyway, one day I'm on day shift, and were preparing for a really complex test during a maintenance period. The youngest NR guy (a really weasely little sh*t) comes into my "office" with a complaint that "your ETs don't have all references present at the worksite for RC Div maintenance". (For those not familiar with Navy Nuclear Power, this is probably the most frequently violated rule out there; each procedure normally lists about 8 references, which were big-ass, really heavy books, and often they were only listed for some dumb comment like "don't piss on live electrical wires" or something asinine like that.) Anyway, this NR guy is sitting on my desk as he tells me this, and it was a pretty stressful time, so I guess I kind of snapped at him. "I appreciate the comment, but in the future I'd appreciate it if you could inform me if you're starting a monitor watch, and I'd also appreciate it if you didn't sit on my desk." Well, he gets all huffy, and says he wasn't going to make it an official comment, but now he would, so I had to get out the sheet and write it up. (One thing that NR guys do is that they never write down their own deficiency comments; they make the duty officer do it. That way, if they make a mistake, they can claim the duty officer wrote it down wrong.)
Back to the story. OK, I could accept that he would make the comment "official" in retaliation for me talking back to him, but then he goes up and... tells his boss! Next thing I know, the phone's ringing, and it's the head of the local office, yelling at me that the guy I talked back to was "the Admiral's official representative" and asking if I would "tell the Admiral to get off your desk." I'm pretty exercised at this point, so I say something to the effect of "No, but I don't think the Admiral would sit on my desk." He hangs up, and five minutes later my bosses boss is down there telling me not to piss off Naval Reactors anymore.
A couple months go by. The thing about NR reps is that most of the field reps are active duty military, but they don't ever wear their uniforms; they're normally Lieutenants or below, so most people they hassle outrank them, but that doesn't count in the NR world. Anyway, this kid whose chops I busted was an E-6, and he was having a really hard time passing the CPO exam, which he needed to do to become eligible for the Limited Duty Officer board. (NR guys get commissioned that way; essentially all of them that "make the board" get selected.) NR told him that since he didn't pass the exam, they were sending him back to the fleet as an ET1, which was his normal rate. By this time, I already had my orders to be Engineer on Connecticut (SSN 22) and he decided that going to the shipyard would be the best job for him. (I always thought they should have one boat set aside for ex-NR guys; kinda like the section of prison where they put the ex-cops.) He figured the detailer will give him whatever he asked for. So, he comes up to me and says, "It looks like I'll be working for you next; I guess I won't be able to sit on your desk... heh, heh". I said something non-commital, but what I was really thinking was... "Oh, yes, Petty Officer Xxxxx; you come work for me, and I'll be sending you into the bilge, but it won't be for a zone inspection".
Anyway, he ended up going to a boomer in King's Bay (and later passed the CPO exam, so I heard NR took him back) and I reported to the Connecticut. The first thing my new CO says to me is, "I heard you like to tell NR guys to get off your table. Please don't piss them off here." I imagine it's probably an urban legend in Charleston by now; some story about how a Shift Engineer punched the NR guy or something.
In conclusion: What are Naval Reactors guys anyway? If you want an organization to design the best and safest military reactors in the world where price isn't an object, they're your guys. As far as the local reps who move into NR from the Fleet, in order to spy on their old shipmates, I kind of pity them; maybe they didn't have any friends on the boat. So, I guess I'd have to generally classify them as "socially inept traitors with a serious Napoleon complex". Not all of them, but enough of them to make the generalization valid. I'm sure they perform a vital role, but right now I can't figure out what it is...
Update 0932 24 May: I suppose in the interests of fairness I should link to some remarks from ADM "Skip" Bowman, who was recently relieved as NAVSEA 08; I really admired him. He talks about what is good about Naval Reactors.
Update for Google-philes, 0848 25 May: It took two days for this article to get picked up by Google; since it's from the same website as the previous #1 result, though, they just made it a sub-entry. I did, however, steal the #1 spot from bothenook for "naval reactors gestapo" in quotes... Sorry, bo!