The summer prior to my senior year (summer of 1991) I enlisted in the Navy via their D.E.P. much to my friends’ and family’s dismay. I have goals in life and in order to reach them I knew that I had to go into the military. My grades in high school were poor and I needed to better prepare myself for life and college. I needed to learn more discipline and who to study.
The Navy experience gave me everything that I wanted to reach my goals.
I enlisted into the Naval Nuclear Power Program as an Electronics Technician/ Reactor Operator. I have never studied so much in my entire life.
The first school, Nuclear Field “A” School (NFAS – Orlando, Florida), concentrated on electronics theory and repair specializing in radar. It was a 2 year Electronics Technician school condensed into 6 months of hell. I studied an average of 65 hours per week to pass.
The second school was Naval Nuclear Power School (NPS – Orlando, Florida) which has been rated as the second hardest school in the nation, second only to M.I.T. in schools with a technology based curriculum (at least that is what we were told). They effectively crammed an associates degree in Nuclear Engineering into 6 months of schooling. Power School had the Light Side for the first half and then we moved over to the Dark Side. Power School taught me nuclear physics, reactor theory, fluid flow, thermal dynamics and chemistry. I studied an average of 75 hours per week to survive, barely survive.
The last school was Prototype (Charleston, South Carolina). It was a 6 month lab. We did shift work on a sub which was moored to a pier. The sub was gutted except for the components required for reactor operation. We spent 6 months learning how to do our various jobs. We had to qualify several jobs; from Reactor Operator and Throttleman, to Electrical Operator and Phone Talker.
The entire process of going through all 3 of the schools is referred to as going through the Pipeline”. All of the tests were essay tests. My head hurts just thinking about it. To qualify each of our jobs, referred to as watches, we had to pass an oral board. The board members consisted of senior civilian trainers and senior Naval Officers and Enlisted personnel, usually totaling 4 – 5 people. Qualifying was high stress and high pressure. the attrition rate for the pipeline is 50% from start to finish and I made it through it. =)
The greatest thing I learned from all of this is how to learn. I learned how to study and what works well for me to learn something and this served me well through my following college years.