Seeing the Light

Me with Carissa. Not in a uniform and drinking beer. The best kind of day.
Me with Carissa. Not in a uniform and drinking beer. The best kind of day.

Well, it’s been a couple months, although it doesn’t really feel like it. Time flies when you’re not really asleep or awake, and you end up drifting through the days on rotating shift work feeling like every day is Wednesday. The “on crew” phase of prototype has been considerably harder and more frustrating. Most of my time has still been begging people for “check outs” on casualty procedures. I’d say that unlike college where the more you learn, the more interested in subjects you become, in prototype it’s completely the opposite.

I’ve been fighting through to the end and right now I’m about 80% complete in my qualifications. I’ve remained the top mechanic on my crew and managed to keep myself in the positive through some tough weeks, but it’s starting become more about getting signatures than about the amount of points you’re trying to make a day. (Every check out is assigned a point value, and you are required to make a certain amount of points a day, called a “delta”, the symbol denoting change.) It’s a pretty miserable experience but finally I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Theoretically, our graduation date is in June or early July, but we’ll see if that’s reasonable. At the moment, we have to switch boats due to limitations, which will complicate most things down the road. I’m currently “steam limited”, or in other words, I have to have the reactor at power to finish my assignments on the boat. So, until then, I am stuck in a no talking study area for 8.5-12 hours a day trying to get the last of my check outs completed. Then I take my final comprehensive test, and then stand watches, and then take my final oral board. All of these things are terrifying. If there ever was a job that makes me feel absolutely stupid every day, it’s nuclear power.

About 2/3 completed. It's looking amazing!
About 2/3 completed. It’s looking amazing!

All that said, I do get some time off here and there. On one of our “t-weeks” (short for training week, I believe), I was able to go to Savannah with Carissa and have a few good nights. Since then, however, I usually just want to sleep and not be in a uniform for a while. Also, I spent another 9 hours getting my tattoo worked on. It’s not complete yet, but it’s getting there.

Hopefully I’ll be in the light soon.

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.


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.