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.
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.
So, it’s been 7 weeks since I last updated before I started Prototype. I finally finished the off crew period. Essentially, for the first 7 weeks of the pipeline you’re stuck in a classroom getting lectures all the time and trying to memorize a bunch of random facts and schematics about every system on the boat. The process starts off with you studying your material in a handbook and then trying to take a ridiculously hard computer test that you’ll fail the first time. Then, two hours later, you can retake it and pass. Then you have to track down a qualified staff member and do a verbal “check out” to get everything signed off in your books. There’s more to it than that of course, but it’s really boring and even thinking about it makes me depressed. It really is a pretty awful experience (and I’m leading the class in points right now!). Being a Nuke is almost ridiculous at times.
For the next however many weeks (in theory 20 weeks), I’ll be actually spending most of my day on the submarine and doing actual work, on top of getting more “check outs” and some time in the classroom. It’s rotating shifts of 12 hour days for 7 days and about 2 days off after that. No more weekends! I hope I’ll actually be able to see Carissa a little, but it’s going to be pretty hard. Oh well, that’s the Navy for you.
If you’re wondering if I’ve done anything at all since being at Prototype, I haven’t. There’s just no time. I get home from work and then go to sleep, and then on the weekends we usually grill out and drink. Doing nothing becomes one of the best experiences in your life when all you do is work.
The only real news is that I got a tattoo. I had been planning on one for a long time and I’ve debated actually getting on for the last few weeks. Last Sunday I went to a few shops and found an amazingly talented artist (Josh at Artistic Ink). He’s a traveling artist and he really did hook me up. It took about 6 hours just for the lines; and in two weeks, I’ll get the color. Can’t wait to see how it looks!