Sunday, February 20, 2011


I've got several posts in the works, but nothing has kept my interest long enough to complete.  A recent blog about someone hiring a Navy Nuke started me thinking about my time in (and not in a good way).  Up until a few years ago, I was also in the Navy as an Electrician on a nuclear submarine.  I did my minimum required 6 years, then got out.  IMO, anyone who does more than 8 is a fool. 

I did a search and found this: Navy Increases Bonuses for Nuke Sailors"
the re-enlistment bonus for a four-year contract has increased from $59,600 to $63,000, he said.
That's good right?  No, not really.  The problem (for the Navy) is that it does a really good job of teaching young men a skillset, work ethic, and providing plenty of experience using that skillset (read: overworked).  They're also payed fairly decently, a 20 yo E-4 straight out of high-school with 2 years of Navy schooling, with sea/sub/proficiency pays and food and housing pay on top of his normal salary will be making at least $40k/yr.  Probably better.  After a few more years and one or two promotions the pay gets a lot better, and the grunt work isn't quite so bad.  All else being equal, good pay for an ok job. 

What's my point in all this?   It's not the job of being a nuke that's bad, it's being a nuke in a boat full of coners that's bad.  A coner is any submariner who's not a nuke, they work in the cone, nukes work in the back.  While they get along for the most part, no matter where you go, there's always an undercurrent, a subtle tension.  Selection criteria for nukes is much more stringent, they must test high enough not only on the ASVAB, but also must pass an advanced placement test.  After that they must go through almost 2 years of rigorous schooling, with high dropout rates.  Also many of the Coners are nuke dropouts.  Coners all have exceptionally cushy jobs (except for A-Gangers, they work hard, I've got a lot of respect for them) while receiving about the same pay.  All this tends to foster an atmosphere where nukes believe they are better/smarter than coners, and coners hold nukes in contempt for it.  We'd never never talk about it openly to their face, but behind closed doors if one of them had done something recently to offend us, all bets were off. 

"But Hermit, that doesn't sound so bad", you say?  If that were the extent of it, it would still be manageable.  In fact, I got along with most of them quite well, I hung out with a few of them as much as some of my other nuke friends.  Petty differences in things like intelligence or class or what have you don't bother me much, as long as I get along with them well.  It's not really the coners, it's the coner chiefs.  Well, all chiefs really, but mainly the coner ones.  You see, there are about 16 Chief Petty Officers on the boat, and only 4 of them are nukes.  Between day to day stuff, to when it comes time for advancement, the coner chiefs are always trying to screw over the nukes.  For every slight a coner ever recieved from a nuke, real or imagined, they've no power to do anything as a mere petty officer.  But once they've made chief, they now hold the power.  They might not be your direct supervisor, but there's still plenty of ways for them to make your life miserable.

"Hermit, you sound bitter", you say?  No, it might sound like that, but I'm just stating how things are.  I did my time, got my experience, and GTFO.  I did my best to excel and have fun, and collected some good paychecks along the way.  Towards the end of my term, I briefly entertained the idea of reenlisting.  Back then it was about $48K for 4 more years, and then $65k for a second reenlistment.  That's some serious money, and it was easy to turn down.  It would have only been worth it if I could have gone directly to shore duty.  My detailer (the guy who doles out jobs) wouldn't get me a new job unless I spent another year at sea.  On a Trident, that would have meant only one more run, 3 months out, then a cushy job putting in a few easy hours a day for the next 3 years.  Still not worth it.

Apparently I'm not the only one either.  Else why would the bonuses have gone up by so much since then (inflation can only account for so much).  This isn't just a nuke phenomenom, although it's felt hardest there, and I have more first hand experience with it there.  It's Navy wide at least, that more and more people are opting out.  Albeit for varying reasons, but mostly due to unnecessarily politically charged working environment.  

*Posting as-is, I may update later*

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