Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Do Submarine Officers Enjoy Their Job?

A reader writes in:
I am currently an NCO in the Army but have been thinking about getting out and heading back to college to finish up my degree and do NROTC to become a sub officer (I know that seems odd, but I just have this thing about submarines). I know the pipeline and the schooling recs, but I cannot seem to find anything about the life of an officer and if people actually enjoy it or not, it seems that SWO's are a generally miserable lot; are sub officers in the same situation? Any information you have or advice you are willing to give would be appreciated.
Personally, I enjoyed life as a submarine officer. I thought the closeness of the crew, and the knowledge that you were doing an important job with an outstanding team, made the good significantly outweigh the bad. Additionally, the feeling of being surface OOD in the middle of a clear South Pacific night with no traffic, good water all around, a leisurely PIM, and a quiet lookout -- while rare -- makes it all worthwhile.

That being said, I figured I'd open it up to all of you guys. What advice would you give this young man? (Bonus points to those who can avoid turning this into another DADT/women on submarines thread. We already have dozens of those.)


Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

I am twenty eight years removed from riding the nuclear powered tubes drilling holes in the ocean but I have to agree with you Joel. I enjoyed my time at sea and working with the smart young men that were the life blood of the sub. I served when the tempo of operations was high and can claim only three shore tours in my twenty four year career, two of which came after my command tour. I would not trade the experience for anything. My Uncle's submerging yachts took me to Australia, South America, Europe, Asia, and points in between. Shipyard periods were "hell" but operating the sub at sea was fantastic. I never ceased to marvel when a Flank Bell was rung up at the throttleman opened the throttles, TAVE dropped and power increased without any further immediate action. I always had a lump in my throat going to PD until I heard the OOD (or myself) say "No close contacts." I am sure that it is different today with touch screens, computers, and perimasts but I expect the crew unity and teamwork has not changed. That is what makes submarining special.

2/11/2011 9:18 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

(I know that seems odd, but I just have this thing about submarines).

If you truely want to scratch that itch, there is no other place on earth to do it. Go for it.

SWOs are miserable because they serve on skimmers - essentially floating prisons. They have a guard force called Masters-At-Arms, to keep everyone in line. Submarines don't.

Submarines have small crews, so for better or worse, you get to know everybody from mess crank to CO.


2/11/2011 9:25 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think it'd be accurate or honest to portray the life of a submarine officer in a one-dimensional, I-love-it or I-hate-it sort of way...but FWIW, here's my take on the major threads of the experience:

Most positive: You're living the modern-day version of the Starship Enterprise 'Federation Officer' experience...complete with relative autonomy operations-wise, sometimes incredible foreign port calls, and the sense when on-mission that the nation is depending on you to do a great job in the most serious way, even if you can never talk about it. It's a high(est) tech, on-the-frontier experience. Suggested reading: "Blind Man's Bluff."

Reality Check #1: Sleep deprivation via 3-section, 6-hour watches unlike anything you'll likely ever experience again, fostered by a work-'em-til-they-drop cave man mentality that refuses to recognize the factual, debilitative effects of sleep loss and screwing with people's bio-rhythms. In a phrase: an utterly fucked up way to live as a human being.

Reality Check #2: There's this thing called "shipyard overhaul" that you may find yourself landing in instead of going to sea. Time-frame: years. Living conditions: a hole in the ground can be cleaner. Effect on everyone's morale: unbelievably bad.

Reality Check #3: If you hate women, but love dumbfuck semi- (or totally-) gay humor, then this is the place for you. You will most likely spend weeks or months without seeing a woman worth your while when deployed. The ones you do see will have an STD checklist that misses no blocks, and will be as dumb as the tugboat wenches that sent you to sea. Suggested reading (just kidding): "My Nuclear Family."

Reality Check #4: Q - Family friendly? A - Are you out of your fucking mind? You'll witness and possibly experience moral depravity and dishonorable conduct unlike anything this side of the Sudan...and that goes for the women left behind as well as the crew.

Final Reality Check - This is a place for lonely social rejects...and it will occur to you at some point that your being there puts you in the same category...and it will feel like anything but temporary at the time.

Now...did I enjoy being a submarine officer? Sometimes, absolutely yes. Did I hate the side-effect, reality-check experiences? Always, absolutely yes. Would I do it all over again, knowing what I know now? _NFW_.

2/11/2011 9:35 AM

Anonymous Bearing Rate said...

Most hide their misery very well, plus youth and nativity make the unbearable seem not that bad. However, if I were to go back knowing what I know now, I'd be kicked off the boat within 6 months, tops.

2/11/2011 10:23 AM

Anonymous YNC(SS), USN, Retired said...

Interesting comments. Two pro, two con. Were the second two career folks, or in for obligation and then gone?

I retired from the Navy in March 1987 after 28 great years. Fifteen surface, including two years assigned to the Army in Vietnam, and 13 on two attack boats (590 and 677).

I'd do it all over again. I thought I knew about ships; and then I reported to SCULPIN in 1974. I discovered that I didn't know much about ships, and started learning right then. Those folks are so bright, and very helpful when it comes to showing a someone what they need to learn and know.

It's all about attitude. Do you want to do this thing? Yes? Then lets get'er done.

Did I miss my days on skimmers and being able to see the ocean and sky? Yes. But that's alright, those are images I will never forget.

My longest lasting friendships are folks I served with in those two boats. There were two from my skimmer days, but one died about 15 years ago. One remains.

You want to join us. Come on in, the water's fine.

2/11/2011 11:08 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto on Bearing Rate's comments.

Submarining is definitily a young "persons" game, both phyiscally and mentally.

My personal observations of some older first tour Sailors that came to boats later in life often suffered with many more issues.

Maybe there's something to be said about teaching an old dog a new trick?

2/11/2011 11:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would offer a different perspective. I progressed through the submarine officer ranks to command and I still have the privilege of riding submarines on ocassion to offer advice and training. I would echo wtfdnucsailor's comments that speak to the inherent pride and respect you have - the "lump in the throat" - for the awsome responsibility that you have as a submarine officer. Even with touch screens and digital video display, the sense of risk during a PD evoltution is palatable in Control until you get the assuring "no close Contacts" report.

Like anything you do there are good days and bad days, but I can honestly say I would do it all over again. It's easy to remember the fun days now, but I still see enopugh lessons learned messages and see enough mistakes that I remember the pain we feel as we try to maintain the necessary highest standards of safety, operational proficiency, and warfighting readiness.

My fondest JO memories are similar to Joels - early morning watch on the surface transiting the South China Sea to Singapore. can't beat the ops before the transit or the liberty after.

2/11/2011 11:23 AM

Blogger Vigilis said...

Judging by earlier postings on TSSP itself, either officer retention or submarine selection is a current problem for nuclear officers on submarines, causing admitted tweaking of the all 'volunteer' concept.

While historic traditions, recreations and commaraderie of subs have been hollowed out, the surface navy has instituted a poor imitation of the "submarine warfare insignia" (DOLPHINS)!

Pay differences are a significant factor for the time being. Once SWO flags are placed in charge of submarine squadrons (or squadrons that include subs) the lustre of the submarine service will vanish and only disproportionate sacrifices will remain.

Today's officers are considered so much more 'mature' than those of yesteryear, the flags say --( I doubt this), so integration of SSNs into surface commands is not only possible today, it is fiscally desirable and an inevitable matter of time.

We need a steady stream of great submarine officers, and my hat is off to those who can unselfishly tolerate the coming SSN environment.

Of course, I am not PC.

Now, we must hear from a certain Waterbird who will chime in with his own PC wisdom of the day.

2/11/2011 11:25 AM

Anonymous Dardar the Submarian said...

I wish you all the best. There used to be a thin line between officer and enlisted on the boat, due to the close quarters. That was not just from a watchstanding perspective, but from an off-watch one. I have spent many a Saturday night taking the Captain's money in a poker game. (I was enlisted) JOs (Junior Officers) make strange bedfellows too, but it works out on a boat, somehow.

In today's Navy, there are so much political posturing that it doesn't seem to be worth it. That is. . .unless you get on the right boat. A good CO and COB combination will make a boat. Just luck of the draw and I've had both.

All I can advise is this; Do not forget where you came from. Just because you are an officer does not mean you have to be an asshole. Your guys are what will help or hurt you.

2/11/2011 12:14 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing I'd keep in mind is that as an NCO, your decision to join the submarine force would essentially lock you in until your 20 year point. I've seen at least a couple department heads who were prior enlisted and found themselves in careers they really didn't like because the financially smart thing to do was stick it out until retirement. I'm not saying that's what would necessarily happen to you, but it's at least something to consider.

There's been several comments from guys who spent their careers on submarines, and it's valuable to hear their opinions, and there are many like them who enjoyed their time and would do it again just the same.

However, you haven't heard from the multitude more who decided to get out because it wasn't for them. Personally, I'm glad I did it, and I'd probably do it again, but I'll be getting out after my shore tour. The Navy is all right, but there's nothing as a potential future submarine department head that appeals to me. Most of the sub JOs are the same way...some more vociferously than others.

Probably like many things, whenever I'm talking with a group of shore duty sub JOs, the stories mostly revolve around the significant pain of the sea tour. There's definitely good times to be had, and it is a pretty impressive responsibility to take the boat to PD or to man the bridge as surfaced OOD, and there was even once or twice standing EOOW in the Engine Room during a drill set or significant evolution that - despite the pain - kind of made me mentally stand back and think about the impressiveness of what we were able to do. But for most of the guys I was with, it's not worth it to stay in for the long haul.

A lot of times, the pain-in-the-ass part of manning the bridge made it so that even surfaced OOD was something you didn't necessarliy want to do, the paperwork and admin is cumbersome at best, and you're always a target for some extra responsibility beyond the many you already have.

Now, part of all those things is the reason I'm glad I did it, and made it through all right, and learned a lot about the business and about myself.

Another thing someone touched on is the ability to feel like you're doing some critical work out there. I think that largely depends on where you go and what you do. You may easily run into a situation that I ran into: We were deployed doing missions that existed pretty much just because we want to have a submarine in certain areas. The things we were out there to see...we knew we'd see, things happened like we thought they'd happen, and that was about it. During deployment, mini-deployment, and multiple underways, there was nothing that made me feel that what I was doing was particularly critical or necessary. I think that largely depends on the area of the world you're in, but it's something to keep in mind.

Again, that's not to say that there weren't times where it got a little exciting, but it was very few and far between.

Now, one of the things I did especially like about subs is the relationship with the crew. I can't speak for the skimmer fleet, but I felt closer to a lot of the guys in the crew than I think you would in other communities, and I think it's refreshing to be able to have knowledgable guys junior to you that can, as respectfully as possible (wink), tell the officer that they're all fucked up...and have the officer understand that it isn't a time to pull rank, but to improve themselves and know better for next time.

I feel this is probably a rambling diatribe of wish-wash, but I figure I may as well give you my perspective, and show you where there isn't a whole lot of black and white. A lot of the good comes with some bad, and a lot of the bad comes with some good.

Overall, I think a lot of the JOs are glad to be getting out after one tour, but are also probably glad they did what they did.

Good luck with your decision.

2/11/2011 12:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


This is the guy that sent the email that made the discussion. First of all thank you all for replying honestly. I leave for the 'stan in a couple of months for a year and when I get back I have to decide whether to re-enlist again or to get out and try for this. That being said I will be 28ish by the time I actually earned my commission and there has been a mention of this being a tough job to get into the older you are. Would other people agree that me being older would be a significant hurdle? Also, aside from the base 6 credits of calc and 6 of calc bases physics, are there other classes that you would reccommend to prepare me for nuke school/the interview to get there? Thanks again.
-Army wanna be bubblehead

2/11/2011 4:59 PM

Anonymous hamptonplankowner said...

If your joining to become a Naval officer and not just to pay for college because you got a history or literature degree and could not find a job then i say go for it, i wish more of the officers that i worked with had a technical degree thats my two cents


2/11/2011 5:18 PM

Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...

This may be the hardest part to explain. I'm pretty sure you have to be 27 or younger by the time you join. That used to be a requirement anyway, FWIR.

2/11/2011 5:22 PM

Blogger a_former_elt_2jv said...

Turns out I was wrong. 31 is apparently the maximum waiverable age.

Have you considered something called a 'conditional release'? The Navy could maybe make the Army bite if that's what you're into.

2/11/2011 5:29 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved being a submarine officer, but it was a lot of hard work. The best part was working with many extremely bright, highly motivated enlisted personnel. That's what really separates subs v. surface or air.

If you go NROTC, I strongly recommend a technical degree. It will make getting into subs easier and also help you when it comes time to learn and perform.

Additionally, go to the best and most expensive school that you can get into. Generally, those schools have recognizable names that can carry a lot of weight, especially if someone else is going to pay the freight. Why go to the University of Idaho if you can go to Stanford? Why go to the University of Richmond when Harvard costs the almost the same?

Good luck with your decision.

2/11/2011 6:20 PM

Blogger Mark C said...

As far as preps for nuc school and interview - really don't need more than that (the calc and physics) for the interview, the key there is that whatever you take in college that is technical in nature, make sure you know it, no BS'ing. For nuc school, thermodynamics, materials, circuits, chemistry; and a healthy work ethic and a true desire to really understand how things work. If you google nuclear power school preparations, you will find some links to some basic info put out by DOE that does have some relevance. I found that most of nuc school wasn't intellectually challenging, but a large volume to just try to digest. Good luck!

2/11/2011 6:34 PM

Blogger Daniel said...

Don't worry about the whole being older thing. Normally, things are a tad easier when you're 22 rather than 26, and 26 rather than 30. However, there were PLENTY of out of shape (or barely in shape) individuals from E-3 to E8, and I'd be lying if you wouldn't through in the occasional O-2 or O-3 once in a while. So, if there's anything that's going to make you hesitate, don't let that be it.

2/11/2011 7:14 PM

Anonymous 4MC said...

I'm here for someone to report Daniel's multiple causality post of stupidity.

We'll be sucking rubber for hours for reading that gibberish.

2/11/2011 7:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Now...did I enjoy being a submarine officer? Sometimes, absolutely yes. Did I hate the side-effect, reality-check experiences? Always, absolutely yes. Would I do it all over again, knowing what I know now? _NFW_."

If you're seriously considering life as a submarine officer, this is the one quote to remember.

If I were in your position, I'd get out for real, go to college on the GI Bill, and commission through OCS if you still want to be in the military after 4 years as a civilian. I know I was the happiest motherfucker around for a solid 18 months after I got off the boat and went to business school. (Think spontaneously breaking into laughter in the shower, smiling to myself while walking to class, that sort of thing.)

Good luck either way. For what it's worth, pilots were the most consistently happy people I met while I was a JO.

2/11/2011 7:38 PM

Blogger Daniel said...

4MC, I opted to not preview before publishing, and it could've probably been a little more polished...oh well, I'm pretty certain the overall point about age was able to be understood.

I bet if only I would have picked out a username like 34MC, DoubleclickForRovingWatch, divedive, or some other sweet Sub IC related one, that the high-visibility nickname would have certainly translated into an increased self-need to police what my comment said before posting.

Ahh, but these are the mistakes we can only afford to make once. My credibility is forever tarnished.

2/11/2011 8:34 PM

Anonymous T said...

I just separated a couple of months ago and now work in the civilian sector, making about 15% less than I did on Active duty. There is no way in hell that I would go back to a submarine. I wouldn't even go back to my shore duty job.

Submarine JO retention is barely 30% during the worst economic conditions in 30 years. There's a reason for that. There are people that love it, but it's not a majority by any means. You already have so much active duty time that it might be better to pick something that is not so divisive.

You want to go be an officer? Go be an Air Force Officer. Seriously. Their retention is awesome, they go to cooler places, and they value work/life balance alot more. They don't promote or get paid as much as sub officers, but again, I don't think it's worth the extra cash or risk of hating it at this point in your career.

2/11/2011 8:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

-Army wanna be bubblehead, No! Don't go Airforce. There's all kinds of cool shit you can do in the Navy. The AF is way too political.

2/11/2011 9:35 PM

Blogger Travis said...

Would I recommend it? Not just yes, but HELL YES!

I am a very junior, nub officer on a VA class boat, just got home from an 2330 work night on a non-duty Friday, get yelled at for my screw-ups on an almost daily basis and find very little time for my wife, whom I love very much. Yet, at the end of the day, I f***ing love it. The highs that I have experienced during my small amount of time I've spent aboard have FAR outweighed the negatives. I'll spend my Sunday putting together thousands of pages of binders and bridge books, if it means I get to see one of my sailors put on his dolphins or put on Second Class. I'll go port and starboard EDO U/I days if it means I get to spend a scant 15 minutes on the bridge for a 'look around' on a cold, Atlantic evening. I'll spend my entire weekend straining my way through an RC div end of card with a very annoyed ETC, if it means I get to laugh hysterically at some bonehead thing I or another JO said over the 2MC. There is only a bright future ahead and I hope to be able to one day call myself a 'steely eyed killer of the deep.'

-Nub officer


2/11/2011 10:26 PM

Blogger Rick said...

By all means, pursue being a nuke. But keep your options open. My memories of my time as a SWO are nothing but positive. My peers who went subs all seemed to be hating life when we met again for our Engineer exams. Later, when I worked on the MTS-635 as part of Civ-Div, this was reinforced by the stories I heard from the young lieutenants who were completing their shore duty (hah!) as Shift Engineers.

2/11/2011 10:51 PM

Anonymous T said...


This just shows different strokes for different folks. I had many of those same experiences, and that's why I hated it so much!

Congrats on finding something you enjoy, the Navy really does honestly need more people who love submarining.

Best of luck to you!

As an aside, my thoughts on the AF were that I talked to one of my buddies who "deployed" for 90 days, and spent a week or two in about five cities I would love to visit. On a submarine you're lucky to visit Bahrain... I spent 8 years in and never went to a single port visit (I got assigned to an SSBN, which was my last choice).

2/11/2011 11:04 PM

Anonymous Stsc said...

If I were you I wouldn't go subs. JO's get treated like crap for at least the first year, then they get worked like dogs once they are marginally useful. There are some great things that can happen to you but the risk of being miserable more often than not isn't worth it in my opinion. If you were an NCO for any length of time I do not think you would enjoy how a nub Ensign gets treated on a boat.

2/12/2011 2:06 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't think ANY of us call ourselves "steely eyed killers of the deep" unless it's with a thick sense of irony.

However, it IS true that the submarine force needs more people as passionate as you (and I hope you continue enjoying it)...but it's critically important that you don't expect everyone else to have the same zeal. I remember a department head who was a huge diggit. He was a decent guy, but none of the JOs could really click with him because it's like he couldn't understand the realities of the boat on the same wavelength as them.

Maintain that excitement, but just don't expect it from most other people. They'll do their jobs, but just because they don't have a grin plastered to their faces during the 3rd set of drills for the day doesn't mean that you get it more than they do.

2/12/2011 4:58 AM

Anonymous dirty blueshirt said...

As a former enlisted puke, I can only offer some observations from the outside, but here goes. I served with 4 prior enlisted officers, 1 WEPS, 1 CHOP, and 2 JOs.

The WEPS (former sub nuke EM) was by far the most awesome shiphandler I ever had the privlege of being look out for, and he was a tactical wonder. The CHOP (former surface CT) was the most miserable SOB I ever had the mis-fortune to deal with (stuck as RC-Div RPPO). The 2 JOs were a mixed bag. One was a former sub nuke ET and current ships diver, very much a take care of the division kind of guy, but if you tried to blow smoke he hammer you flat. The other was a former GSM who managed to make it into the Academy, and became as big a pain as the CHOP (this JO, as the MPA, got taped to the overhead by MS-5 after pissing off M-Div).

My only advice is this, use your skills learned as an NCO. Show your guys respect, actively seek to learn from them, and they will respect you and take care of you.

2/12/2011 6:25 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, this is great I wish I would have done this before I joined the Army! I should probably clarify some things about myself. First of all, I love the military. I am the guy that can't wait for the 2 week field excercises and deployments. I enjoy hard work and the feeling after a 20 hour day that you actually accomplished something. Also, I am coming from a combat arms background....believe me when I say I can deal with being shit on. No American citizen is treated worse than a private in the infantry.
Also, I will not ever go Air Force. Not ever. I have decided I want to be an officer because frankly I am too smart to be getting paid what I do with as much work as I do.

I have always had a passion for military history and tactics but naval history/tradition and modern naval warfare have always interested me the most which is why I want to be a Navy officer instead of an Army officer. Also, as someone coming in later in the game I would not expect to ever command my own sub, so I believe I would be able to focus more on doing a good job than looking good to the right people (I am sure every one has ecountered THOSE officers).
I love reading these posts because so much of what is said is exactly the stuff that I think/worry about. I am married (no kids) and although right now I have been doing year on year off deployments I suspect that 3 on 4 off might actually be harder.
A question: do most subs have the experiance of never getting to see foriegn ports? I will admit that is another reason I want to join the Navy, I would like to see something other than the dessert :)

-Army wanna be bubblehead

2/12/2011 7:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I happen to like seeing the dessert now and then!

-Army wannabe bubblehead

2/12/2011 8:00 AM

Anonymous T said...

From my discussions with friends, most submarine crews (like 65%, which is a rough estimate of how many SSN crews there are vs. SSBN crews) go to at least "some" ports. But, from what I can tell, skimmers generally go to more ports, and we definitely go to less ports now than we did 15 years ago. Most of my SSN buddies went to ports, but not a whole lot of them.

The Navy is a shitty travel agent, if your primary motivation is to see the world get a real job and some plane tickets.

2/12/2011 8:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as port calls go, you'd have to go fast attack. I'd have to defer to an SSGN guy to have an idea of where they go, but for SSBNs, you're going to have a more reliable schedule and more time at home, but you're not going to get a chance to go to foreign ports.

For me, I ended up at Port Canaveral, FL (obviously not a foreign port, but definitely fun), Diego Garcia (small, but a lot of fun for a little bit of time), Spain, Gibralter, Cyprus, and Bahrain. It's also not uncommon for East Coast guys to go to Scotland or the Scandinavian countries, France, Greece, or United Arab Emirates.

Someone on the West Coast will have to speak for themselves, but I know guys who have been to Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and Australia.

Keep in mind, it's somewhat luck of the draw, and if you DO go subs and go through the whole process, when you're at the point of trying to select your preference for ship, it's a good idea to talk to your detailer and make sure they understand you want to go on a high-tempo, operational boat, and not one in the shipyard (or about to go to the shipyards).

2/12/2011 8:16 AM

Anonymous 2/11/2011 9:35 AM Anon said...

"The Navy is a shitty travel agent, if your primary motivation is to see the world get a real job and some plane tickets."

AMEN, brother...!

2/12/2011 8:19 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent 35 years continuous active duty wearing dolphins, 10 of them as a nuc EN, which made me an "older" ensign. Would I do it again? I only wish I could. Command was great, but driving and developing a Division was probably greater.

2/12/2011 9:01 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, I love the military. I am the guy that can't wait for the 2 week field excercises and deployments. I enjoy hard work and the feeling after a 20 hour day that you actually accomplished something.

You're talking apples and oranges. As a former enlisted nuke I'd say that other than the friendships you form and time away from the boat, most everything about being on a boat sucked. The hard work you refer to above in the army isn't the same as the hard work on a sub. I enjoyed actual hard physical work which was why I loved dive school, but about the most physical thing you'll do on a boat is roll out of your rack (other than staying up for 36 straight hours for duty days).

Would I do it again? Yes. But my reasons are purely financial - I rolled out of the navy straight into commercial nuclear power where I've been making six figures a year for the last 20 years.

2/12/2011 9:14 AM

Anonymous Former EM1(SS) said...

As far as the age thing, while enlisted, I joined at 27 and got to my first boat just before my 29th birthday. Overall I would say it made for an easier experience. I was more able to recognize mind games and intent versus actual rudeness/dislike/"hazing." I also had to put up with a lot less of dumb mickey mouse shit since people recognized that I was more mature and had more life experience than your average 20-21 year old.

In the end I would say the age thing was to my advantage. I'll let others answer the is it worth it question, I did 8 and out and while not all roses and ducks it was more good than bad.

2/12/2011 9:42 AM

Blogger Sandy Salt said...

I say that it is worth exploring and it is definitely a good idea to get the feedback found here on this site. I loved all the opportunities I had to do really cool things, but everything has a price. For every cool CO there is a dick. For every awesome surfaced mid-watch there were 20 boring as shit submerged mid-watches. For every great friend there is an A-hole to piss you off at the drop of a hat. Always remember, your humiliation is our entertainment, so you can never let the crap get to you, ever.

The money isn't enough for the sacrifices, but it is enough to get by and do a little better. I did do a lot of cool things, but I also did a whole lot of 1 in 4 EDO in the shipyard.

Would I recommend becoming a sub officer, sure would but it isn't all sunshine and surface watches. It is incredible hard work and a crap shoot because the CO makes all the difference. As long as you know what you are getting yourself into then you should be fine.

2/12/2011 10:27 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there are a lot of good viewpoints here, but the following applies equally no matter which way you decide to go:


What does that mean? Get out, go to college, and then go into the NUPOC program your senior year if you still want to be a sub officer. It makes no sense to sign away your life today without knowing what your life will be like 4 years from now.

Your outlook on the submarine force may change significantly if you have kids, the economy improves, Obama decommissions 20 subs, etc. between now and 2015. It's really easy to make stupid decisions if you have no information. Don't commit yourself to the military again until you have to.

2/12/2011 12:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sandy Salt said: Always remember, your humiliation is our entertainment, so you can never let the crap get to you, ever.

Brings back memories of BBPB, Buttrocket, et al - remember?

2/12/2011 12:31 PM

Anonymous 4MC said...

Daniel said, "I opted to not preview before publishing, and it could've probably been a little more polished..."

Polished? How could you possible polish this turd:
"...and I'd be lying if you wouldn't through in the occasional O-2 or O-3 once in a while."

We could stare at that gem for hours and not make any progress trying to decipher it.
And the real kicker is how you managed to incorporate the PRT into this topic.

Men this stupid need to be watched, so I'm gonna keep an eye on you from now on, Daniel.

2/12/2011 3:37 PM

Blogger Sandy Salt said...

Relative bearing grease, shaft seals, mail bouys, and an oldie but a goodie the blueies doing the goldie wives while they are gone. Or if a guy was homophobic scaring the living crap out of him. You learned or were eaten alive, but it made you smarter and tougher than any other place I can think of. It was one of the last bastions of male stupidity, but it formed a hard working fast reacting team that could face just about anything the sub through our way. That included a long list of crap breaking or actually casualties (I saw a whole lot of those on those on the old boats).

2/12/2011 5:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Retired ETC(SS) I loved my time onboard submarines, but did have the occasional bad day/week/month/year. One year I remained away from home port for 300 days on a slow approach. It is not for the faint of heart, but it was rewarding. If you are serious, do it, but treat your guys well, and they will back you 100%. You might have a "bad tour" with a CO or XO that lets things go to their heads. I had two boats like this, but that is the time when you lean on your guys more, and a kind of brotherhood kicks in. If I look back at my time in, the most fun I had was when we had a bad command (SSN-689, circa '91) in the med for back to back med runs. What a blast!

2/12/2011 6:11 PM

Blogger Daniel said...


When I said "through in the occasional O-2 or O-3 once in a while" I had intended to use the word "throw" but was typing quick and didn't catch it. There's the secret, so please don't spend hours looking for the key. You could better spend those hours getting unreasonably upset at some other innocuous thing.

And the point of the comment was to address his concern about whether or not being older would affect his time on the me that relates to fitness, and I was pointing out that age isn't likely going to be the limiting factor. Therefore, I threw in a quick thought relating to the fitness of various folks on board explaining that he shouldn't worry about his age alone while debating whether to go subs... implying that other people who are likely LESS fit (regardless of age) have done fine on boats.

Now, since you mentioned you're going to "keep an eye" on me (I haven't looked at enough comments on other articles of the blog to have recognized you as the de facto Moderator And Supreme Ruler And Judge of All Comments - sorry), to keep you up to date, I haven't been paying much attention as to whether or not I have the bubble with "Daniel" selected, or the one with "Anonymous" selected, so a couple other posts you will probably be interested in here from me (since I can tell my repertoire is of importance to you):

Anonymous at 2/12/2011 8:16 AM about the port visits, Anonymous at 2/12/2011 4:58 AM about the "Steely eyed" comment, and the long one at 2/11/2011 12:31 PM.

Now, I'm usually pretty good about grammar and spelling, but I somehow imagined that if I consciously clicked Publish without previewing once for a small comment way down in a random blog, I wouldn't be destroying the very essence of someone's being...but I guess I didn't plan on hurting you. So, I apologize, and I'll do my best in the future to not so blatantly violate your sensibilities.

2/12/2011 6:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was an earlier discussion about port visits from a couple of JOs and what appeared to be guys that got out at the end of their JO tour. There are many more opportunities beyond your initial JO tour to see the world, but it is only part of the reward and satisfaction for all of the hard work we put into our Submarine Force.

Although “seeing the world” is not the main reason I joined the Navy or the Submarine Force, I can say that it has been a part of my career that I have thoroughly enjoyed. I was a JO on an SSBN and Port Canaveral was all I got, but as someone else said - not a bad port visit.

I knew I liked the job enough to go on to Dept Head, so after shore duty in CA, I was a DH on an SSN in Hawaii. In my DH tour I got to go ashore in San Diego; Seattle; Victoria, Canada; Ketchikan, Alaska; Yokosuka, Japan; Chinhea, Korea; Guam; Singapore; and Mumbai, India over two deployments – I think I remembered them all. In command, I got the chance to visit most of these same spots again over two more deployments, and I also made it to Saipan.

As an XO I visited Gibraltar; Toulon, France – included road-trips to Nice, Cannes and Monte Carlo; Naples, Italy – with a road trip to Rome; and Souda Bay, Greece – with a visit to Athens.

I could also throw in all of the other places I’ve had a chance to visit as part of my “shore duties” such as Diego Garcia; Bahrain; Gaeta, Italy; Hong Kong; and Fiji. Bottom line is that three are a wealth of opportunities to see the world even in the Submarine Service. It is not guaranteed and is very dependent on the timing and type of ship, but it is still part of our culture.

2/12/2011 7:32 PM

Anonymous 4MC said...

Danielson, did I step on your Trumpet? While you made attempts to preserve the purported phonoaesthetics while obscuring the semantics, I was neither pleased nor angered...


2/12/2011 8:44 PM

Anonymous portnstarboard said...

I concur most with Anonymous@2/11/2011 9:35 AM and his reality checks. Next comes Anonymous@2/11/2011 7:38 PM, I know exactly what he was saying about being thrilled to the very core after getting out. Nine days after I got out I started college studying electrical engineering and I had a permanent smile on my face for months. I would say the only thing that would suck more than submarine duty is skimmer puke duty. In short, the Navy sucks. I certainly had some great times during my tour on a fast attack out of Pearl and being a Sonar Tech the biggest thrill was tracking soviet submarines up close and personal. Utterly thrilling! Also, the camaraderie was real. But the fun times were the exception and the rest was perpetual bullshit dished out by genuine assholes, boring ass never ending port & starboard underway watches, rotating ORSE and NTPI workups and either back to back deployments or weekly ops where you got no rack time to speak of and arrived back in port for three section duty rotation and more port & starboard watches. There was a recruiting commercial back then describing the Navy as a great place to start. For a poor boy from nowheresville I can agree with that. But they simply could not have paid me enough money to re-enlist.

2/12/2011 10:49 PM

Anonymous MentalJim said...

I was in the nuclear navy for 20 years. 14 years as a sub officer. I personally didn't love it overall. If I would've loved it I would've been a better officer. I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything and I do not regret it. It was immensely rewarding at times, frustrating at others, and always a lot of hard work. I miss the crew and the wardroom the most. The sense of connection, teamwork, and working together to get the job done is something that I do not think I will ever find an equal to out in the 'real' world.

It is not all that fun, it is a lot of hard work, long hours, and little sleep, but you will learn things that you will not learn elsewhere. It is not for everyone, but it may be for you.

2/13/2011 7:04 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The sense of connection, teamwork, and working together to get the job done is something that I do not think I will ever find an equal to out in the 'real' world."

That is a no-shitter.

2/13/2011 7:40 AM

Blogger SJV said...

Army officers don't have the brainpower to be even enlisted nucs. Go get your degree, but don't think you can be a nuc. You won't make it. Hard truth, no BS. I've worked with West Point grads in civlant, and they just ain't very smart. Go get a business degree and leave engineering to the smart dudes.

2/13/2011 7:45 AM

Anonymous Weehawker said...

Bubblehead, Thanks for posting this question about being a Submarine Officer. My oldest son just earned his Dolphins; he's an ET3 on an SSBN. My son in law is an LT on shore duty, sub-qualified as well. Thanks for managing such a great Blog Site ! And thanks to YOU ALL for your sacrifice in serving our country. (I served in the Army during Jimma's Term, so it really didn't count ....)

2/13/2011 11:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent close to 15 years enlisted as a nuke electrician on subs. The last 11 years have been spent as a nuke LDO SWO on carriers. I was fortunate to be on two outstanding submarines (I served on four).

The SWO world is completely different from the sub world. First off, on a sub everyone has a full time job and supports a watchbill of some kind. We all share the pain. In my experience in the carrier world is that there are too many people with no full time job. At sea, at the end of the day there are several departments that just close and the last guy out gets the lights. That just seemed foreign to me coming from the "do it now" mentality of submarine world. Additionally, SWO's eat their young. I just can't get over the treatment of junior officers. On a sub, a JO is your relief, you invest the time and effort to get him qualified. The SWO world just has so many people that they are seen as disposable. All tough love, no nurture. Kind of like the abused child syndrome, they know no other way.

I enjoyed the people on subs. I think if I had gone to a surface ship first, I would have been a six year nuke. As an officer, the living conditions on a carrier are great compared to a sub and I get a four section rotation underway with the occasional "float". I wouldn't get that on a sub.

2/13/2011 12:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMO, Sub officers eat their young too. There's a lot of JO solidarity, but I've seen DH, CO, XO's treat certain JO's very unfairly.

My impression is that, like most things, YMMV, and it's very dependent on command climate.

2/13/2011 12:32 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that us technically-oriented types HATE touchy-feely stuff, but I would advise this young man to take a close look at the "corporate culture" of the sub fleet (or any civilian company, or other branch of the military he was looking at).

Particularly for a JO, that culture will be influenced, if not eclipsed by, the nuclear culture. He'll spend the majority of his time in nuclear training, nuclear qualifying, standing power plant watches, and then qualifying as ship's engineer.

Navy nuclear personnel are some of the brightest in the military, so compared to an army unit, I'd expect that he'd see fewer disciplinary problems. Since a submarine requires just about the entire crew to do much of anything, as a sub JO you are a cog in a bigger machine. I compare that to the degree of independence that, say, a fighter pilot might experience. The nuclear submarine approach is 1) know the immediate actions, and 2) know which book to break out to find a procedure to get you out of the predicament you are in.

So, even if you are primarily interested in the ship-driving and operational aspect of submarining, you'll first have to make your way through the nuclear gauntlet.

As others have said, the three-6 hour watch routine leaves you in a perpetual state of jet lag while underway. The food is good, but the opportunities to burn off the calories are harder to find.

The three unknowns include:
- The command climate of whatever boat you are assigned to.
- The type of boat you are assigned to (SSN vs SSBN). While that difference would be minimal in the engineering spaces, it does impact the ops tempo, liberty ports, and operational experiences.
- What stage of the boat's life (pre-commissioning, operating, shipyard, etc.) you end up assigned to her.

2/13/2011 6:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Although “seeing the world” is not the main reason I joined the Navy or the Submarine Force, I can say that it has been a part of my career that I have thoroughly enjoyed."

I have to say the same. Between my deployments and overseas shore tours, I have visited Portsmouth, UK; Faslane, Scotland; all over Italy; Israel; Turkey; Corfu and Souda Greece; Croatia; Slovenia; Malta; France; Gibraltar; Spain; Yokosuka, Yokohama, and Sasebo Japan; Singapore; India; Fujairah, UAE; Sydney and Canberra, Australia; and New Zealand. Been a good ride with lots more to come.

Command climate is a big part of your enjoyment of a particular tour, but you have to realize that, even as a JO, you are a part of the climate and can improve it. Also, if it is bad, you have the ability to control your reaction to the asshole you work for.

Go for your dream of volunteering subs. We need some diversity of background and thoughts in the Sub Force. Sometimes it's unhealthy that we all view the world the same way - I would take a JO with Army experience on my sub any day.

2/13/2011 7:15 PM

Anonymous SparkyWT said...

SJV @ 0745 ...
I disagree; I spent 2 years as an Army grunt, 12 years as an MM nuke, and 12 more years as an officer.
1 AA; 2 BA; 1 MA; and 1 MS degree all paid for by your generous tax contributions.
Great job plus a retirement check, paid again by your generous tax contributions.
So, before making generalizations, I suggest you do your homework.
OBTW, in your last post on your blog "High Fault Current"; you spelled "carousel" incorrectly.
As for the soldier in question; thanks for your service and your willingness to continue serving our nation. If you want gold dolphins, get them and don't let anyone dissuade you.

2/13/2011 7:41 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The original question, for anyone who has lost the bubble:

"I know the pipeline and the schooling recs, but I cannot seem to find anything about the life of an officer and if people actually enjoy it or not, it seems that SWO's are a generally miserable lot; are sub officers in the same situation? "

Honest answers on 1120 enjoyment or lack thereof are in the right zone, but telling him what to do -- or what his dream is -- is just spanking the ego-monkey (yours).

If you enjoyed your submarine officer tour, go ahead and explain that.

If you hated it, ditto.

If you actually have a balanced opinion, so much the better.

He's doesn't otherwise need either unbalanced diggits or unbalanced FTN-types telling him what to do career-wise or life-wise. Just an observation.

2/13/2011 8:07 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

{Army officers don't have the brainpower to be even enlisted nucs. Go get your degree, but don't think you can be a nuc. You won't make it.}

An incredibly harsh way to say it, but I was thinking this. Original Poster - do not assume you have the brainpower to pull this off. I doubt your Army training properly prepared you for this. Start with engineering school (not just a semester of calc) and see how you do. If you do well, then you should ponder this career choice. This is putting the cart before the horse.

2/13/2011 8:14 PM

Anonymous portnstarboard said...

"He's (sic) doesn't otherwise need either unbalanced diggits or unbalanced FTN-types ..."

Did I mention perpetual bullshit from genuine assholes?

2/13/2011 8:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My father was an enlisted Army yeoman, or whatever they call them (typist?). I was an SSN nuke officer (Rickover interviewee, served Engineer, etc.). My child has top 1% college entrance scores. No brag, just fact.

I don't disagree that most Army officers are a box of rocks, but I also don't agree that you can tell how someone smart someone is based on their service profile.

Smarts are up to good genes and the good Lord, and generalisms are not applicable in specific cases. Period.

2/13/2011 8:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

While you can't say that he is definitely not smart enough to be a nuke, you can definitely say that he is statistically less likely to have the engineering aptitude for being a sub officer than say, an MIT Mechanical Engineering Major.

2/13/2011 9:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Army, Navy, engineering degree or not, really the Navy will point out (not sure I would call it teaching) everything they want you to know about nuclear power. The question really is, can you memorize it?
The first year will be spent learning to juggle quals (aft and forward), training (receive and give), admin associated with 4 or 5 levels of review, and learn how you interact with/ lead the people you “supervise”. 70-80 hours a week (people will say over 100 depending on how they count duty day hours) is normal.
I enjoy working with a watch team. You learn and teach at the same time and hopefully grow as a group to accomplish whatever task/ mission/ testing/ inspection comes your way.
Time away from home sucks but can’t be to different from spending 6 months to a year in the desert unaccompanied. It’s a hard choice to make and if you continue to do it you hope the time you do spend at home somehow balances out the absenteeism.
Like other posts say, CO/ XO/ ENG/ COB will have a lot to do with how good or bad the climate is on board. Some people have what it takes, some don’t. Some have it but it gets squashed by repeated beatings.
It’s not for everyone, and it is a personal choice. I wish more people asked ahead of time so they felt like they knew what they were getting into.
Good luck.

2/14/2011 5:26 AM

Blogger SJV said...

Sorry for the harsh comment, but unless you're a statistical freak, you just aren't smart enough to be a nuke.

I felt the same way you do (that the officers weren't any smarter than I was) as an enlisted nuke, and my response was to get out and prove it in college. I suppose I could have gone back in as an officer, but I opted to go into industry and haven't regretted it.

Sparky: Glad to see that my tax dollars were well spent ;) Trust me when I say you aren't the only college grad out there funded by my personal payments to our uncle. Maybe one day I'll retire and get some of the money back!

2/14/2011 5:56 PM

Anonymous T said...


As an officer, I was under no qualms that I was the smartest guy on watch at any given time, and certainly NOT the best nuke.

Any officer that thinks differently is fooling himself. Sadly, there are a lot of officers that do think that their commission really does mean something other than they have a college degree.

Even in CIVLANT, I have difficulty at times figuring out what exactly makes me more qualified than the people who work for me.

2/14/2011 7:46 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am currently in the pipeline you read about so I can not speak intelligently about life on the sub. I can however relate the fact that in our class we have a young man who before going to college and Navy OCS, spent 9 years in the Army. He loves the decision he made . . . as well as his new Audi . . .

2/14/2011 9:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reluctant to make this post because it might appear I am disgruntled. I assure you I'm not or I wouldnt still be around after 24+ years. For the purposes of disclosure I am a former "initiated" CHIEF that was selected for LDO and have been selected for LCDR. (So the SUBMARINE FORCE has been pretty D@MN good to me!)

In an effort to provide a complete picture for some dynamics you will have to face as a bubblehead O-ganger that have nothing to do with fighting/driving the ship, operating the Rx, qualifying or standing endless mid-watches here are some challenges you will face should you join the Submarine Force in the next several years.

1. Integration of women to the Sub Force. (NOT a SEXIST remark or issue with women in the workforce but definitely a dynamic that WILL create a challenge! I'm certain we could fill up this website about the pros/cons of this dynamic...

2. Repeal of DADT. (Being militantly heterosexual myself not sure what to think about this one but I'm sure the mandatory training we must complete by June 2011 will be "interesting!")

3. Fewer boats to support operational tasking = More time underway. We aren’t building boats at a pace to replace boats slated to decommission (Yes depends on what report you read)

4. Older boats, less OMN money = more hours to keep things running/casrep from other boats etc (yes this isn’t new but it is becoming more of the rule than the exception, talk to the Seawolf class boat guys...)

5. The smoking lamp is out... (I know there are multiple sides to this story...)

6. 30% JO retention, (I think I read that somewhere on this site) even during a time when we have 10% unemployment in this country and our 1120 community has NUC retention bonuses etc. That should speak volumes about "climate" especially when enlisted first term retention goal is 55% yet we are holding at 63.9% across the board... Wonder what this statistic really means for the 1120 side?

I could keep going... These aren’t showstoppers but these issues sure can/do suck the life out of the job satisfaction that one should enjoy in the submarine force!

returning to rig for "patrol quiet."

"Sub Gunslinger"

2/15/2011 11:34 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Bonus points to those who can avoid turning this into another DADT/women on submarines thread. We already have dozens of those.)

Sorry I missed this as it was cropped from my screen. No Bonus points for me...

I do recommend however that you take the time to consider how, as a potential Submarine Officer one will manage these "social" issues that are going to be a fact in the future of our SUB FORCE.

If our young 1120 hopeful hasnt had the opportunity to visit a SSN he should so the dynamics of the social engineering can be something he at least has a chance to get his mind around prior to his first set of orders.

Proper Prior Planning Prevents... you get the idea.

This Time I'll go to Ultra Quiet in light of not earning bonus points...


2/15/2011 11:51 AM

Anonymous YNC(SS), USN, Retired said...

Sub Gunslinger invited attention to some things that the rest of us did not. I believe he should get bonus points. There was no rant, just an observation that our stalwart Soldier friend should be forewarned and forearmed.

Well said, sir.

You folks on active duty certainly have a task before you. I wish you well.

2/15/2011 2:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate to tell some of you guys this, but power school ain't that hard. Everyone got through in my class and only two people didn't make it through prototype (one for unknown security reasons). The pipeline isn't a challenge, it's a vacation. Don't let anyone tell you you're not good enough to start - including the Admiral, if you do decide to pursue it.

Others have summarized the ups and downs as well as I can. For me, they were the same as for everyone else - but in the end I just found that the ups were too infrequent and just not good enough to compensate for the frequency and magnitude of the downs. You may find otherwise. In the end, the only way to know is to experience it; if you feel strongly that you want to do submarine-unique things, then go for it. If all you want is the chance to lead strong teams of good people, there are plenty of industries that can offer that if you look. (I have experienced this firsthand as a program manager.)

2/15/2011 6:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A corollary to the above. It never gets better!

So when somebody says "it will be better when I get to prototype/the boat/back from sea/done with the shipyard, etc." They are wrong, it only gets worse from there.

I guess shore duty is the one exception :-)

2/15/2011 6:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate to tell some of you guys this, but power school ain't that hard. Everyone got through in my class and only two people didn't make it through prototype (one for unknown security reasons). The pipeline isn't a challenge, it's a vacation.

It's been a pump since the mid 90s. If you have a high BS tolerance, you're a shoe-in.

2/15/2011 8:03 PM

Anonymous Malefactor Oris said...

"It never gets better"....

Spoken like a indubitable commissioned Sailor. I assure you our subsistence indubitably improves as we enlisted proletariat ameliorate to rank as Chief Petty Officers.

The underlying perspicacity that endures to abode the Submarine Officer today can be traced back to a 1969 remark by Admiral Rickover. It's a refuted manifesto documented by a Hawaiian reporter whereas Rickover conferred to a gathering of junior officers and proclaiming, "I offer you the emptiness which you seek."

2/17/2011 8:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Malefactor Oris: the next time the doc suggests you get a penile implant, y'might want to go with that. At least it'll give you something else to play with besides the dictionary.

2/18/2011 6:30 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Malefactor Oris,

Interesting that you chose a handle that translates to "evil doer" in latin...

Do you really talk that way in your daily life or is this just an attempt at dictionary intelligence?

4MC report: "Emergency report, emergency report, moron with a latin and english dictionary loose on the blog..."

2/18/2011 9:17 AM

Anonymous Malefactor Oris said...

Quit yer bitchin ladies. Least y'all learned some new words and stuff.

2/18/2011 4:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh... thanks... go back to mess cookin... I think theres some dishes needing washed...

2/18/2011 4:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Embrace the suck.

2/19/2011 5:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a submarine JO. The reality check post describes my experience word-for-word.

All I'll add is this:

An extreme majority of submariners who stay in the force past their initial obligated service are either A) Married, or B) Prior-enlisted. Everyone I've known with the financial latitude to take a risk on the civilian job market has excitedly elected to do so. That, to me, speaks volumes about life as a submarine officer.

Final thought: It always strikes me as odd that most career submariner officers say the best part of the job is being on the surface ...

2/23/2011 2:12 AM

Blogger David said...

Having spent 10 years enlisted (EM1-SS) and 13 years as an officer (LCDR-Ret.) I can say that most submarine officers will tell you their experiences are lifelong and life changing.
Yes the shipyard sucks badly, sleep deprivation and work through exhaustion mentalities are prevalent and the life is hard. Time away from home, family, friends and sanity are extreme measures that are dealt with in diffenrent ways by all.
However, the mid watch surface OOD, just you and your lookout as the sun comes over the horizon is awe inspiring. Coming to PD with contacts around you will create a pucker factor unlike many.
As a Department Head, I dealt with many issues the JO's faced, tried to screen the down hill effect from a CO that was verbally abusive and demeaning on a daily basis. But, those guys get rode hard and put up wet. Most troopered through, many get out after their JO tour, but all will tell you they are better persons for having earned Dolphins.
I always wore my silver dolphins sewn on the underside of my gold dolphins because I earned them and it was a different experience. Proud to be a SUBMARINER!!!

2/28/2011 8:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm posting this for the guys who can't tell you their stories because they aren't around any more. If you have any hint of mental instability don't do it. I pray that psychological screening for submariners has gotten better since the 80s. I've never been able to find statistics but it seemed back in the 80s we were always hearing about some JO who had killed themselves. At sub school one of my classmates had his orders rearranged because of a suicide. For me there were some good times, but for the most part it was hell.
I have to credit the mental health staff at my local VA hospital for me being around to post this.

3/01/2011 10:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a prior enlisted nuke who wound up at the Academy and returned to the nuclear sub community - served on two fast attacks, one West Coast, one East coast. I have some perspective now, having been away from it all for 5 years now. I can say that serving on the boats was an invaluable experience, that mostly taught me restraint, fortitude and patience.

I read through most of the comments and I have to say that I do not think intelligence had much to do with success as a Nuclear Sub JO. It is a "hoop jumping" exercise as well as one of the biggest gut-checks you will have in your life should you decide to go through with it. How much can you endure? What is your true motivation? Because you will have to answer or find an answer to both of these questions to make it through. It is a huge mental game that in my opinion has little to do with how smart you, but rather, can you figure out how to stack and organize all your thoughts, desires and emotions in such a way to make it fit within the culture of this life.

The other thing I will say is that all of this is largely dependent on your command - read "Captain." You can make it hard on yourself or you can make it easy, but realize that this is a monarchy and what he says goes.

Figure out how to make yourself fit in and contribute, and you will most likely find some semblance of peace here. This is not a place for non-conformists.


3/08/2011 12:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I've read quite a bit of the comments here and figured I'd give my two cents as well. I'm a senior JO on an SSN that has experienced two homeports on the same boat (Guam and Pearl). I've had some mission experience, followed by some port calls, and ending in a large shipyard (SY) availability. I've done the Port and Starboard and now am in a very comfy 6 section. I, myself, am still debating if I'm going to sign another contract for a Department Head tour (which was my original intent) or finish with a shore duty to end up in the civilian sector. To go along with that, I am also prior enlisted (not a real prior because I was picked up in the nuke pipeline before I got to a real boat).

When I first got to the boat, it was wrapping up a quick stint in the shipyard and just had about 2 weeks, straight, of critiques (i.e. morale was a big steaming pile of...). Ever since I first signed my enlistment contract I had been looking forward to getting to a sub to do what I signed up for. I was a complete diggit (everyone remembers me as the guy who would be working on some crappy job saying "I F*CKING LOVE THIS SH*T!!!"). I took over as RCA and had a good ETC who was short-timing a bit since he was about to retire. Lucky for me though, he took a liking to me and we got along great. He taught me a lot on both the technical side of things and how to present problems (and their solutions) to the CO. After this, I had an ET2 as my acting LCPO for about 2 months (he arguably became one of the best "Chiefs" I could've asked for). I thought life was great! I qualified EOOW/EDO quickly (with just 10 days at sea) and I worked well with my division. Life was good.

While I was RCA, I was moving ahead in forward quals pretty quickly and we were about to head out on mission from Guam. I was 3 section EOOW and also had to stand another watch forward on my off-going time. Immediately following those watches, I had to work on divisional responsibilities during my 6 hour on-coming time along with quals due to us heading to the SY afterwards leaving me no time to get my practical factors (prac facs) complete at sea. Needless to say, I was getting about 1.5 to 2 hours of sleep a night. Well, going along with this, I received bad news from home and had to get BSP'd off and head home on Emergency Leave right after mission. Afterwards, getting back to the boat following that month off, we were in port before we made the transit over to Pearl for quite a bit and I was trying to complete my knowledge checkouts before we got underway. We had 10 days down to Australia and then 10 days from Australia to Pearl. I had nearly 200 signatures remaining that I had to get before I got qualified. I went 3 days without sleep on the way to Australia and 4 days without sleep to Pearl. Even with all of this, I still loved my job. I had some mess-ups (thank God no critiques) and could've done many things better, but I absolutely loved the crew (from the newest reporting up to the CO) and loved all of the challenges each day presented... Then, I became MPA.

12/21/2011 6:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't wait to be MPA (prior mechanic). We were heading into the SY, but I didn't care. My spirits were still high even when I didn't have a place to stay and was living on the boat/barge while we just got to Pearl (talk about a kick in the nuts). It didn't matter, this was what I wanted to do. The guys knew their stuff and would work for you if you didn't have them sitting on their ass for half of the day waiting around. However, my Chief was more of an E-7 rather than a Chief. He was an ELT, didn't have much knowledge when it came to the in's and out's of QA, work controls, and the multiple program/paperwork requirements of the division. Along with that, he definitely put himself first over the guys. Needless to say, the division suffered and I was doing my best to do the Chief's job as well as my own. My LPO and I would put the PMS plans together and I would be solely managing the corrective maintenance along with solely tracking the parts for those jobs. Not only that, but I was the only one reviewing all of our programs/binders and also the only one who would be actually reviewing the packages for all of the maintenance. Not to mention I had to go Port and Starboard for almost a month while we were sending numerous other JO's to school and I was wrapping up my qualifications so I can finally wear my fish (I did that just after getting to Pearl). The SY period was getting crazy, I was exhausted (between 120 to 140 hours at work a week, constantly running around putting out the next fire). I became that bitter JO onboard who hated life. Bitch and gripe about everything, get frustrated when someone questioned you. Overall, I became the JO I said I would never become; the one who thought he knew it all. Life was MISERABLE!... Let me say that again, Life was MISERABLE! I did get a new Chief, but by that point, I was so pissed off, I was just short of calling it quits; throwing my fish at the CO/XO and hightailing it outta there.

Not long after that, I completed my turnover as MPA, got a new comfy job as AOPS, and started standing 5 section Duty Officer rather than Engineering Duty Officer. I started to cool down.

Now, looking back at it, I can't believe I got through that phase. However, if I could do that, I can do anything that anyone ever throws at me. I know I could be an department head without too much trouble (there is always something) or get out and go be a senior manager at any company in any sector. I can learn anything and execute anything all because of my experience with the guys on the boat, the challenges I had to overcome, and the fact I can now learn almost anything under any amount of stress. I could go on and talk about what I think about this, or what I think about that, but that is all opinions. The experience(s) I talked about above here is just the facts (or that is what I was trying to give you). I'm sure there are many people out there who say when they read this "That's nothing! I did X and I did Y" or "That is completely different than what I ever did or heard of" and they are probably right. There are sooooo many different scenarios and experiences out there that you just can't even describe because every single individual is going to see those experiences in a different light. All I can say is, I am still debating about signing up for that pain once again. If I decide otherwise, I don't think it's going to be the job that decides it. I have to think of my family and the multiple facets that go along with just being in the military. The job itself is challenging, intense, and above all rewarding. Good luck in the 'stan and I hope that this massive comment helps you even a little. To everyone else who has commented, "SUBMARINES ONCE, SUBMARINES TWICE..."

12/21/2011 6:34 PM

Anonymous Paulina said...

Really helpful information, lots of thanks for your post.

9/05/2012 7:12 AM

Blogger kalaiarasi p said...

Thanks for sharing ur information......its very interesting to read........

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