Engaged

This is a staged reenactment, but it happened pretty much just like this. How romantic!

Well, it’s been a pretty long time since I updated this, largely because I’ve been having a great time spending my days with Carissa. On September 21, I took her to Pearlz and proposed. It was simple, but pretty romantic. I was so nervous that I was pounding beers and I even ate two dinners. Yep, might as well go big! One of the other guests there even picked up our tab, which was pretty nice. Overall, it was a good day.

Since then, Carissa is living at our new house in Ladson, SC. It’s been really enjoyable, especially now that I’ve got all my furniture from Texas and we’re not sleeping (or living) on air mattresses as the only furniture in the house. Besides Carissa, I’m living with Lim, Ngo, and Ryals. We’re a pretty good mixture of people for one house (though no one puts the clean dishes away except us).

Next door to us our other Navy buddies, Reff, his wife, Berg, Haynes, and now a guy called Hollander and his girl have moved in — making our house a central hub for people to come over and hang out. Not a bad set up at all.

This is our 2,600 sq. ft. house. Not bad! We’ve finally made it!

So, back in South Carolina, I’m on prefill (another hold division) waiting to class up for Prototype where I will pretend operate a nuclear plant. It’s scary to think I may be on hold for a couple of months longer — I already forgot basically every single thing I’ve learned. I crammed it all before, so it didn’t stick with me long term. The good news is that I officially have what I consider to be the easiest job in the Navy: I drive the 44 passenger bus in a big circle from a parking lot to Prototype from 4 AM to 7 AM. This has given me so much free time with Carissa, which is great. She’s trying to get a job so that’s probably about to change. I guess I’ll just use the free time to sleep or use Reddit. Not sure.

It’s weird to think of me as a “grown up”. The Navy itself treats most of its lower ranking Sailors as children, and we tend to live up to this hype for the most part. But, I’m finally settling down and thinking about my future. I have a career, a house, and a beautiful girl. I guess everything does work out. We’re waiting until around June for the actual marriage, but I don’t want anything too big. I’d rather spend it on a really, really awesome honeymoon. We’ll see how that works out!

Otherwise it’s been nice being back in Charleston. The city isn’t all bad, especially up in the Summerville area where we’re close to. Right now my life is actually more laid back than in Kings Bay — but that’s just for a couple more months!

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Kings Bay

Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base. Our subs are so advanced they operate underground.

Update: This is my most viewed post by several thousand, so let me add some clarifying detail since I assume you are reading this because you just got orders here (lucky!). So here’s a better heads up: the traffic in the morning can be really frustrating; cops sit around waiting to pull people over too, since they know you’re running late. They generally don’t like the Navy guys here; don’t get drunk and drive. The food is great: try Sharkbites (in St. Mary’s), which was my favorite place to go. It’s a bar and they have crab cake burger and lobster mac and cheese. Intense. Aunt B’s has the best buffet style country cooking anywhere that I’ve found in the South. You gotta try it. There’s a tiny bar on you way into St. Mary’s that gets a lot of skanky girls and drunk military dudes, but it’s a good time in general. You’re also really close to two cool beaches — the first is Fernandina beach, which is right across the Florida Georgia line. The second is on Cumberland island, which you can take a ferry from St. Mary’s (military has a free state park pass), and then hike through a little forest, abandoned mansion ruins with wild horses, and end up on a pristine white-sand beach with hardly a soul in sight. If you want a bigger city experience, you can head to Jacksonville, Florida, which is just under an hour to get to. There’s plenty to do and see, especially in terms of night life. But, if you have a family, or just like animals, their zoo is one of the best I’ve seen anywhere.

 

The Original Post: Well, I’ve been at Kings Bay for a few weeks and everything has been going well. As I was told, Kings Bay is exceptionally laid back and much easier on my heart and soul than NNPTC was. Although I miss the city of Charleston, Kings Bay is, overall, a much better dynamic. It’s hard to say where to start because literally every aspect of this place is better than where I was.

The galley, for one, is delicious. No longer am I trying to find excuses to avoid the galley, but rather I like eating there. That’s kind of strange to say when you think about Navy galleys, but this one just does it right. It’s even pirate themed. And the fish is actually good. My mind is blown! The rooms are excellent, and we get a “Petty Officer suite” to ourselves. No roommate and we can have alcohol in the rooms and even have guests over. For once my mattress is comfortable to sleep on.

The Trident Training Facility. I work here!

The main difference is that the people here are laid back and won’t get in your face over the tiniest thing. As long as you do your job, you’ll be okay. No one is getting masted right and left, and I actually feel like I’m halfway in the Navy, even though I’m working at the TTF, the Trident Training Facility (the nuclear missiles that will start and end WWIII on a whim).  The schedule is okay (no longer having 18 hour days…) and I work as the supply Petty Officer with a retired Chief. Which means I just mess around on the computer and track packages and supply numbers. Not so bad at all!

Otherwise, I’ve hit the beach with Carissa once and been to downtown St Mary’s (the town close by). There’s still a lot to do so I’ll make sure to do it. I still haven’t been to Jacksonville, and it’s only a short drive from here. What I have been doing is hitting the gym — hard. Hoping to get fit like I was pre-Navy, but we’ll see. I’m definitely drinking more beer than usual here, but it’s hard not to when everyone is going out nearly every night.

I guess, most importantly, I’m happy for the first time since I’ve been in the Navy. Being here is not torture and waking up and enjoying my job is amazing. When you want to go to work, it’s a magical thing. Sadly, now I never want to leave this beautiful place!

Grad Hold

Here’s 1201-8 in our whites looking like BAMFs.

Right now, I’m in a magical place called Grad Hold, which is basically a period where I wait for a spot for Prototype to open up where I do 6-9 months of final nuclear training before I hit the fleet. Due to complications with the training reactors, there’s a pretty huge delay time, up to 6 or 7 months for machinist’s mates like myself. This is actually awesome because it gives us time to do pretty much nothing, and it’s amazing. Most of the time we get out early and we can do whatever, which is nice. Finally I’ve had more time for the gym!

So, anyway, right after graduation on the 25th, my family came up and we spent the long Memorial Day weekend on the beach at Isle of Palms, and pretty much did every touristy thing possible. I made sure to get my fill of everything free that I could! It’s nice not having to pay for all the expensive meals that I love to eat. They liked seeing the ocean and seeing Charleston, and the weather, for once, was nice. They were completely skeptical of all the places I took them until they actually got there; I’ve been doing my best to scope out Charleston and the good places to eat for about a year now — Pearlz downtown has the best tuna burger, Sesame Burger is the best place I’ve ever eaten in my life (they have a peanut butter and a banana burger!), and Huck’s Low Country on Isle of Palms is the best fried oysters on this planet, period.

Me and Dad in downtown Charleston seeing the sights

I can tell they were proud of me graduating from this school, and I myself am more proud than the four years I spent in college — mainly just because it was such an awful bitch to get through. I didn’t take leave since they came up here, but I’m certainly missing Texas and that feeling of being home though; nothing will ever replace it in my heart. And I miss the barbeque! What is up with this pulled pork mess they love so much in this part of the country?

After that, Carissa came up and I was able to show her some more of Charleston. We did one of those romantic carriage tour things (aw) and drank heavily at one of my favorite pubs, Molly Darcys. Then, that weekend, me, Burns, Wager, Kass, Werner, Wagner, Barker, and other people I’m probably forgetting headed to Myrtle Beach. I had always wanted to go, but never made it, so I’m glad I finally did. We had a big suite overlooking the ocean and did a fair bit of partying. We did a casino cruise boat tour which I wasn’t too excited about after my last big winnings, but I ended up being a craps mastermind and winning a fair bit — enough to pay for the whole trip and a little more. On top of that, we had just got our 15 grand sign on bonuses (of which we see about 4 grand up front after taxes and being split over our contract). So, all in all, a good time.

Moving sand in the rain. Much like a Navy SEAL, only the exact opposite.

Other than that, I’ve been chilling. Did a BBQ at McNaughton’s house and had homemade chicken fried steak at Buetow’s house (courtesy of his lovely wife). Good to have a little homemade food mixed into the crap I’ve otherwise been eating. For the most part, we just sweep up and clean the base for a couple hours, but we were lectured about the importance of our job (actually the Senior Chief compared it to storming the beaches of Normandy, but that’s really a poor comparison…). The result is that we’ve been doing massive amounts of time sink activities, such as moving sand from one wet pit to another wet pit. Oh well, at least it’s something.

But, all this is fine because on Wednesday we’ve been given orders to go to TAD (temporary assigned duty, I assume?) to King’s Bay, Georgia, about 4 hours south of here. It’s awesome because it’s not here and I won’t be surrounded by us for a while. As well, it’s going to pay 60 extra dollars a day. Awesome. The plan is to work there for 4 months, but now we’ve been told 2 months. Who knows. I like to think that until something is happening to me, I won’t believe anything at all. We’ll see where it goes!

9 More Days (Again!)

My graduating class, 1201-8, minus the ones we’ve lost. Check out my sweet mustache (on the far left).

Well, it seems like only yesterday and I was graduating Nuclear Field A School, NFAS, and here I am about to graduate Nuclear Power School (assuming I pass the comprehensive exam in two weeks), arguably one of the hardest schools that the military has to offer. I can’t really even explain why this place is hard because it’s something that you would have to live through to really understand. It’s not just the material, the amount of it, and the speed at which you learn it, but the entire experience is meant to kick your ass from the day you get there to the day you graduate. Unfortunately, we’ve lost a few along the way due to different reasons, and probably a few still after the comp exam takes place.

Much like in A School, this six months has been a complete blur. It’s hard to even remember starting the school, let alone what I was doing last week. The amount of stuff we’ve crammed into our heads has been ridiculous and after this I feel like I never want to slam my head full of random information ever again. But, in 6-9 months, I will be working on a live nuclear reactor plant training to go to sea. I’m ready to just do a deployment… but 6-9 months of doing nothing sounds amazing. Speaking of which, there’s a pretty decent chance I could get TAD (temporary assigned duty) to Norfolk, VA or King’s Bay, Georgia. Nothing is decided, but we were told today that if no one voluntarily selects it, every single Sailor will be up being “voluntold” to go. Exciting. Who knows what I’ll actually get. I just want it to be easy, to be honest.

Besides work, I spent this past weekend in Savannah, GA, for the first time since, well, the last update here in March. I got to spend time with Carissa and we hit up a ton of festivals (well, two), and the beach, and in general just relaxed. Nice to get out of Charleston, that’s for sure. The Navy means something there whereas here we just have our awesome Nuke reputation to contend with.

I’m starting to get a little stir crazy at work. I suppose we all are. We’re at each others’ throats one minute and friends the next. It really depends on the mood of the class. Our section leader Buetow just had a baby this morning. He and his wife are going to make awesome parents. Pretty hectic time to come along, but hopefully he’ll have a long graduation hold before having to go away.

May 25th can’t come soon enough. 9 more days of actual work and we’re finished with this place. Or rather, Admiral Rickover is finished with us.

Savannah

This is how Savannah looks when it’s NOT raining.

This weekend I finally managed to tear myself away from work, if only just for a little while. I was fortunate enough to have nearly all my work done on Friday due to a (strangely) open schedule. Right after work, I met up with Kessler and McNaughty for burgers and beer at Sesame Burger, one of my new favorite places to go. Trying to make it a Friday tradition since now every time I go to Breck’s it’s packed full of nukes. Guess I shouldn’t have spread the word. I’ll try to keep this place and Hanahan’s Bar (five dollar pitchers) down the street a secret.

Anyway, Saturday morning I left for Savannah, Georgia. It’s just a short two hour drive south, but it ended up taking me forever because of the downpour. I was actually surprised how much rain could come down. Everyone was driving like the amazing South Carolina drivers they are, which is to say, awful. But, I made it and met up with Carissa for lunch right next to the ocean. I actually didn’t realize there was an ocean around because of the rain. When we were eating, we could hear the sirens going off for a tornado warning, but one never came. Too bad, it would be a good photo op.

Either way, I got to meet her family and hang out with her for a while, which was nice. Good to be away from Charleston for a while and see something new, even if it’s in the rain. I was surprised at the sheer amount of hipster kids in the town (until I learned that they have a big art college, SCAD). You just have got to love that ironic hipster ‘stache that everyone is rocking. Of course, tomorrow starts comp ‘stache, so I’ll be rocking something nasty until May 25th, when we graduate. Actually, I have an interview for OCS tomorrow, finally, so there’s a good chance I’ll shave that to not look really gross for the commander I end up talking to. It brings back some memories of A School where I looked like a pedophile rapist for a few weeks.

Carissa and I at a plantation tour in early December. Check out this really interesting marsh.

Anyway, back to Savannah. I had dinner with Carissa and her family at a place called The Green Truck which serves fancy hipster burgers. Not as good as Sesame Burger, but still one of the better options. The next morning we did brunch at a place called Tortuga’s. When I asked Carissa if we were going to the “turtle place” she thought I was crazy — I guess the Spanish isn’t as obvious to someone from Ohio. After that though, I had to drive back. I was surprised how beautiful the country side was now that it wasn’t raining, but I hated the fact that I was going back to NNPTC. I really would have liked to stayed for a week!

Tomorrow is just another week, although somewhat easy since one of our exams was pushed to Friday to make room for our “E-5 Second Class” promotion exam. The Navy makes us take it, even though there’s no way we’ll be promoted. I think I’ve seen one Second Class walking around here as a student, and he had been on Medical Hold for nearly two years. Definitely trying to make it out of here as fast as possible. In fact, tomorrow marks the start of the second half of Power School; just a second ago it was 1/3 (marked by getting a new schedule card). I’m still hanging in there, doing good on some exams and worse on others — generally better at the raw memorization courses than the applied mathematics. Part of how my mind works, I guess.

Time for bed I guess. This place is pretty much a time machine. It’ll be May before I know it. I hope.