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Friday, February 14, 2014

Once a Dig-it, always a Dig-it

Image of Dig-It multi-purpose tool

Every submarine, cruiser or carrier has a nuke on board who, for whatever reason, no matter how often they get screwed (a typical example would be defined as steaming for coner liberty) or are awake for 30 hours straight doing drills preparing for ORSE or the long stressful hours or the significant time away from your family, etc. Yet deep down they still “dig-it”. In other words, they enjoy what would make most other people miserable. 

The reality is, in many ways, why would anyone other than a masochist “dig” a life like this? The fact is, after their first sea command half of the nukes leave the Navy for better opportunities in the civilian word.
I cannot judge a person for digging something I would not, we all are familiar with the term,”One person's trash is another person's treasure”.  Nonetheless, I am unsure as to how this occurs.

Here are some of my theories which come to immediately to mind:  1) you tell yourself you enjoy the misery in order to get yourself through it 2) you believe there is nothing better for you in the civilian world 3) you are trying to get into an officer program and realize your time as an enlisted nuke is limited 4) you have physiological issues which were not caught during the nuclear training pipeline.

In light of the possible reasons if you are still on or used to be on a boat how can you tell if your fellow nuke is a digit?

1) Expressing no apparent desire to get off the boat and enjoy a decent quality of life 2) discussing the occurrences of the engine room while they are on liberty. In my case, being stationed in Hawaii there were so many other things which might be discussed other than the latest engine room incident with your engineering officer 3) Life after the Nuclear Navy is not a discussion.  Furthermore, a digit would stay in for 40 years if the Navy would allow them to and had billets to fill. 4) Telling nuke jokes to the civilian community and not being able to figure out why you get blank stares in return.

Do you remember any one on you past commands you could describe as a “dig-it”. Anyone care to provide some insight as to why?

P.S. And what was with the Leatherman or Gerber multi-tool every “dig-it” seemed to carry?

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Navy Nuke checkout process

Image of Qualification Card

We all remember the checkout process as we went through the nuclear pipeline. The idea was as you picked up more plant knowledge you would acquire enough signatures on your qualification card to allow you qualify your watch station.

A qualified watch stander would ask you bunch of questions about the subject you were trying to get the signed off. A question or two might be relevant while the others could be classified as useless.

After enough questions you would be asked something which you did not know the answer to.  This resulted in a look-up meaning you would find out the answer and get back to the person who gave you a look-up. After providing your response and a few more iterations with look-ups to additional items (if you didn’t get tossed out) you left with the “John Hancock” on your qualification card and headed for the next checkout.

The entire point of training is to prepare you to do your job which is being a qualified watch-stander prepared to keep the plant in a safe condition during normal operation and in the event of any possible casualties.  Keeping this goal in mind might there be a better a way to prepare someone to do that?  

The checkout proves you can look-up answers to questions you did not remember at the time of your checkout but why not just give the information I needed for a watch-stander to do his/her job.

Any nuke will tell you there is not any lack of things you need to keep mind in order to qualify and stand the watch on your own.

Photo courtesy of 

Monday, July 1, 2013

“I Had it, You Got It”

Duty section  watchstanders logs
 Any nuke will tell you how we were trained to relieve a watch. For starters, like you learned in nuke school you let the oncoming watch stander know what is going on with the plant and what he will need to do during his watch before signing over the logs to your relief. Then there are watch section turnovers which occur once you arrive at the fleet. In my time, the simplest turnover I have heard included the six words, “I had it, you got it”. 

     I remember one instance during deployment when the watch stander scheduled to relieve me at 8:00 A.M. arrived in no condition to relieve the watch due to his clear inebriation. I am a firm believer of looking out for your buddies but, on the other hand, you are now day after duty and you would like some liberty.

     On another occasion I went aft to relive the SRO who. To my surprise, I came across a set of logs lying on the deck after I opened the watertight door giving me access to the engine room. Surely these were the shutdown rover logs. To my shock these were the SRO logs and I happened to be a long way from the maneuvering area.  I arrived at the horseshoe with trepidation as to what I would find; fortunately the plant seemed stable even though the pressurizer light happened to be on as if the pressurizer heater button needed for some attention. 

     I remember another instance where I had been summoned to relieve the watch. As I walked through berthing I noticed a set of signed logs lying on the lump of blankets under which some unidentified crew member slept peacefully. Was this person signed into the watch? I have learned during my time as a nuke on occasions you should not ask questions you do not want the answers to. In any case, I figured the guy on watch who I needed to relieve would want to get to the rack so I did not gave the question another thought.

     What are your stories?  - What are some of the most interesting “turnovers” you conducted in your time as a nuke?

Written nuclear qualification exams, a question of Integrity

Student cheating on test
I remember the moment as if it had occurred yesterday.  I had entered Nuclear Field A school as an ET after completing Boot Camp in May of 1995 and as we were about be processed EMC Paul Spracklin (at the time) addressed our group and the question he recommended we ask ourselves as we embarked on our training to become nukes was, “What are you going to do when no one I looking?”
           This quote came to mind when I read the Navy had discovered a cheating ring aboard one of its submarines, resulting in the firing of its commanding officer.
          A former officer wrote in a book published last year his superiors urged him to accept an answer key to pass a nuclear qualification exam. He said crew members received answers by email, and the submarines leadership ignored him when he complained about cheating.
       Chief Sparklin’s statement did not mean a lot to me at the time but during my career as a nuke I recalled instances where you had to make a call of doing the “right” thing with no one in khakis breathing down your neck making sure you did. 
       I remember an issue with an out of specification on our Power Plant Indicator (PPI’s) which if the Engineering Duty Officer had been notified RC division would be tasked to troubleshoot on the last night of liberty before a long underway. What call did I make? What do you think I did?
        In the case of the U.S.S. Memphis, the largest surprise is large numbers of the khaki’s involved in such a massive deviation of the integrity EMC Spracklin spoke to us on that morning in May 1995. On my boat I would have found it difficult to believe such deception would be pervasive at such high level. The officers and chiefs in our engineering department followed our Reactor Plant Manuals even when what they said made absolutely no sense. Did they not think someone would find out sooner or later? Then again I left the nuclear Navy in 2000. Could the nuclear Navy have changed so much since I left?  

Now the question I’d like to close with is,” How is the nuclear navy going to reestablish its integrity with everyone is looking? Hint: there is no answer key on this test.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Here’s a website for all you nukes to check out when you get a chance

Surfing Websites

I was trolling the Internet one evening for some good Navy related sites. On most occasions, I do not come across anything extraordinary.  In a few instances I encounter content which made it worth the effort to check out the various homepages.   

In the same way, I would like people to be able to find this blog and take something away from it after reading the entries. The casual reader may be challenged to believe some thought goes into the topics discussed and into writing these entries keeping in mind the people this blog is written for and what is intended to be about.  I would be very disappointed if any prospective reader found reading these postings a waste of time, O.K. enough digression for now.  

The posting I am thinking of was about a nuke that left the Navy and took the time to reflect on what he wished he had done differently looking back at his days as a nuke.

I will not kill the thunder of the details of the posting. Here is the link if you wanted to read another Ex Nuke’s rambling for yourself Read More: . After checking this site out please do not hesitate to check out Tell Dustin I sent you.

Reading Dustin’s posting made me give some thoughts to my time as a nuke. Perhaps I will dedicate a future posting to the things I feel I could have done better upon reflection on my time as a nuke. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How did I wind up doing this for a living after my time as a nuke?

What did you do after serving as a nuke?
After leaving the service nukes may work in industries related to their nuclear training. Some typical paths include getting an Electrical Engineering degree on the GI bill and embarking upon careers in utilities, electricity or electronics related fields.  By tradition, in the old days guys would work in the nuclear power field as reactor operators, or in industries involving electricity (motors, pump), electronics, and semiconductors. My case was usual once I transitioned into a position as a product support engineer working on semiconductor manufacturing equipment.

However, in many instances once their nuke tour was finished the Ex Navy Nuke wound up doing something entirely different than their training and sea tour. One example is a Reactor Operator who ended up as a micro-biologist after going back to college on the GI Bill. I know of another nuclear electrician who would up becoming an architect and an ELT who is now running a marketing company.

Without a doubt many ways exist to making a living whether you are using your nuclear training or not. I find it fascinating on many occasions it is more interesting to look at where guys have gone after getting their DD214’s rather than the path got us into the MEP’s office in the first place.

Are you doing something drastically opposite what you did after your time as a nuke?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Who else but nukes would you expect to work here?

Diablo Canyon Power Plant

I was on a sales call at the Pacific Gas & Electric’s nuclear Power Plant at Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo, California.  My goal was to get them to purchase one of our partner’s auto transformers.   As with any highly engineered product in order to ensure the unit could be installed upon arrival we would need to go in and measure the cement pad to ensure our application engineers would be able to design a transformer of the correct size.

Diablo Canyon happened to be a nuclear facility; therefore, we would need to clear security in order to access the location where the transformer would go.  In order to get to the front gate you had to drive seven miles on road overlooking the Pacific Ocean and once you got parked in the Parking Lot and made your way to the administration building you had to pass hordes of Ex-Marines carrying high caliber automatic weapons.

The weather on morning of my arrival was a bit windy when I arrived so I took my Navy issued Pea coat along. It is the ONLY item of clothing left from my original sea bag which was issued to me during my first days in boot camp. The balance of my clothes including the dungarees and all went into a dumpster and soon as I walked through the Makalapa gate at Pearl Harbor for the last time.

As I crossed the checkpoint one of the staff asked if I had ever been in the Navy. Once I confirmed I had served he happened to be an ex nuke which surprised me at first. Later I thought, “I am at a nuclear power facility, where the hell else would you find ex nukes?”

Finally, he asked me if I might be interested in getting a job at Diablo Canyon. The situation was slightly awkward since I boss happened to be standing right next to me.  Once we went into the facility and made our measurements we returned back through the various security checkpoints to where we started. After we started the long drive back to the San Francisco Bay area I thought,” what would I do in a nuclear plant 12 years after my EAOS date and after having entered the dark side of technical sales and marketing?” What would the possibility be of standing some watch as RO after getting qualified?

Then reality kicked back in, since I had temporally forgotten I had been there and done that already thank you very much……

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