Navy Days

I am starting this blog to talk about my Navy career and all the fun and not so fun times.

I joined the Navy in 1993 at the end of the Gulf War as a means to go to college.  While looking at jobs in the Navy, 'Sonar Technician' came up as my first match.  I was hooked,  I wanted it!  There was one catch, it was a submarine position.  What could be more interesting than submarines?

I entered boot camp at Great Lakes, Illinois in October, just before it got VERY COLD.  After 8 weeks of "fun" times, I graduated and headed to Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut for submarine school, fire fighting school, sonar school and acoustic analysis school.

After graduating from the various schools, I had a choice of where I was to be stationed.  What could be better than Hawaii?  Little did I know, I chose special projects boat USS Cavalla SSN 684, the worst boat on the water front.  Luckily, within about four months of me being stationed on the Cavalla we had a command change.  With that came great things!  We went from being the worst boat to the best boat on the waterfront within a year.  That was my first realization that one man can make a difference!

Click to enlarge.  USS Cavalla SSN 684     Click to enlarge.  This is a 688 Los Angeles class submarine cutaway.  This is the closest cutaway to a 637 Sturgeon class sub I could find..

With that command change, and the fact that we were a special projects boat, came the choicest boat runs a sailor could ask for.  We visited many countries, played war games with many Navies, did special ops with the Navy Seals, even went to the north pole.  I was even there the first time the Russian Navy set foot on US soil as our guests!

The first jobs a new sailor does when they get to their boat are quals, clean, and help the cooks.  Quals, or qualification, are the Navy's way of doing OJT (on the job training).  They have a ton of them and you get them all at the same time.  Sleep?  Sleep isn't issued to you in boot camp, thus the Navy doesn't let you have any (just a little joke, but not really).

Submarine quals are one of the most difficult quals I had to do.  When doing sub quals, you must learn every system on the boat, how to operate them, and how they interact.  Normally the Navy allows one year to finish this.  Our captain allowed 10 months. 

When I found out we were going to the arctic, I challenged myself to get my fish (dolphins, otherwise known as fish, are submarine warfare insignia) on the North Pole.  Submariners receive their fish when they finish and pass their submarine quals.

Click to enlarge.  Under ice view from periscope

I managed to meet my goal by completing my sub quals in six months.  This is an extremely difficult thing to do as I stated earlier, this normally takes a year to complete plus I still had other quals I was working on, and don't forget about the normal day to day job I must complete.

During my Navy career I managed to work my way from an E-1 (Seaman Recruit) to an E-4 (Third Class Petty Officer) making my final title STS3(SS) Sopher.  In layman's that's Sonar Technician Submarines Third Class Petty Officer Submersible Ship Sopher.

Sonar (Sound Navigation and Ranging) is the underwater version of an air traffic controller.  It was our job to locate, track, and determine what we were tracking all from listening to the various sounds in the ocean.  Sound difficult?  It is!  Its truly amazing what Sonar-men can do nowadays.  Its equally amazing what other countries can't do.  We truly are the greatest Navy in the world.

Sonar sounds: Engine, Ice, Pump, Shrimp, Whale, Warship.

Countries/Places I visited: Canada, Hong Kong (Before it reverted back to China), Japan, Australia, Korea, and the Arctic.

I have received the Order of Magellan for circumnavigation of the globe, the Golden Shellback for crossing the equator at the International Date Line, and the Blue Nose for crossing the Arctic Circle.

Ribbons & Medals I received:  Navy Expeditionary Medal, Navy Battle E, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (two times), National Defense Service Medal, Arctic Service Ribbon, Enlisted Submarine Warfare Insignia, Navy Good Conduct Medal and Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon (two times).

And the all important:  Honorable Discharge

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