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Recruiting For A "Nuke"
by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler Fraser - April 1, 2014

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MILLINGTON, TN – Recruiting a sailor for today's Navy is no regular job. Finding qualified men and women can be challenging - especially when seeking individuals for the Navy's nuclear power field, one of the most prestigious in the fleet.

“Working as a ‘nuke' will always have you thinking.” said Master Chief Machinist Mate Rodney Chronister, enlisted nuclear programs manager at Navy Recruiting Command (NRC). “If you are looking for a challenge, becoming a nuke is excellent.”

A “nuke” is a term used to describe any job in the Navy that has specifications in the nuclear field. Nukes make up both the enlisted and officer force.

Navy Recruiting District Dallas recruiters, Electrician's Mate 1st Class Daniel Day (left) and Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Quinnon Thomas, talk to local teachers about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) during the Metroplex Mini-CAST Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching on February 1, 2014. The Metroplex Mini-CAST is a one day conference that gives science teachers all over the Dallas/Fort Worth area an opportunity to network and learn from each other about the latest innovations in teaching science and share the best teaching practices. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Vargas)
Electrician's Mate 1st Class Daniel Day, the nuclear programs coordinator at Navy Recruiting District Dallas, talks to local teachers about the Navy's nuclear propulsion program and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) during the Metroplex Mini-CAST Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching. The Metroplex Mini-CAST is a one day conference that gives science teachers all over the Dallas/Fort Worth area an opportunity to network and learn from each other about the latest innovations in teaching science and share the best teaching practices. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Vargas)

Enlisted nuke jobs include electronic technicians (ET), electrician's mates (EM) and machinist's mates (MM). Sailors with these qualifications and ratings are employed on board nuclear-powered ships to maintain the control subsystems, the machinery and the piping in nuclear reactors. Some nuclear MMs receive additional specialization in health, physics and maintaining reactor chemistry.

In order to become a nuke in the enlisted field, applicants must show a proficiency in mathematics and science earning high scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) in categories of arithmetic reasoning, mathematics knowledge, electronics information and general science.

If these qualifications are met, the potential nuke still has a great deal of training ahead. To be a nuke requires attending a series of often time lengthy schools. Depending on the program, schools may run anywhere from three to six months and may include more than one during the training pipeline before reporting to a first duty station in the fleet.

After completing recruit training, enlisted nukes attend Nuclear Field (NF) “A” School in Charleston, S.C., which is the first in a series of schools which provides the insight into the career field including the necessary skills to succeed in this line of work.

“Nuke school is very demanding,” said Chronister. “It not only teaches you the skills needed for your job but skills like responsibility and time management.”

Following NF “A” Scool is a six-month nuclear power school (NPS) also located in Charleston, S.C. NPS provides a comprehensive understanding of a pressurized-water naval nuclear power plant.

After NPS is completed, students will attend nuclear prototype training either in Charleston or Ballston Spa, N.Y. This six-month phase of training is focused on applying the skills students have learned on a real operating nuclear propulsion plant.

For select MMs the path will lead to even more training at the engineering laboratory technician school or nuclear welder's school.

This significant training prepares nukes for their highly responsible and challenging fleet assignments and comes with benefits for those who re-enlist up to six figures.

Individuals who are commissioned as an officer in the nuclear program routinely join the Navy with one or two degrees under their belt, but their education and training does not stop there.

Taking charge of a nuclear reactor or a vessel powered by nuclear power is not a task asked of many 20-somethings. After a few years of training in the Navy, however, a young officer may very well be called on to do just that.

There are four specialized nuclear officer career paths which include submarine officer, surface warfare officer, naval reactors engineer and naval nuclear power school instructor.

Submarine officers oversee the specialized personnel, departments and missions of Navy attack, ballistic missile and guided missile submarines. Surface warfare officers oversee propulsion systems and personnel aboard nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. Naval reactors engineers are technical experts responsible for researching, designing and maintaining naval nuclear reactors across the fleet. Naval nuclear power school instructors are some of the select few who learn and then teach the fundamentals of nuclear propulsion.

For those interested in becoming a nuclear officer, individuals must be a graduate or student of an accredited college or university in the United States or in a United States territory pursuing a BA, BS or MS (preferably majoring in mathematics, engineering, physics, chemistry or other technical areas) and have completed or be enrolled in a college curriculum that includes a minimum of one year each of calculus-based physics and mathematics through integral calculus.

Upon graduation from college, those interested in going the submarine officer route must complete Officer Candidate School (OCS), a 12-week course in Newport, R.I. After OCS, submarine officers must also complete NPS, Nuclear Prototype Training, and a 12-week submarine officer basic course in New London, Conn.

“Becoming a nuclear officer provides a much broader range of skills than a first job right out of college would,” said Lt. Benjamin Smith, nuclear programs officer and submarine officer at NRC. “A lot is expected at a young age.”

Surface warfare officers also attend OCS but must complete one sea tour before attending NPS and nuclear prototype training.

To become a naval reactors engineer, the first step is to attend Officer Development School (ODS), a five-week course in Newport, R.I. After ODS, officers must complete preliminary training at the Naval reactors headquarters in Washington, D.C. This is followed by approximately two weeks at nuclear prototype training. The next step involves naval reactors training, a six-month process of earning a postgraduate-level education in nuclear engineering through the Bettis Reactor Engineering School at the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory in Pittsburgh. After naval reactors training, naval reactors engineers are then assigned a nuclear engineer position with the group responsible for managing all technical aspects of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.

To become a Naval Nuclear Power School instructor, officers must complete ODS and NPS.

Once all the required training is completed, there are benefits both enlisted and officer nukes receive.

“One of the biggest benefits is having confidence in stressful situations,” said Smith. “You learn to make intelligent decisions with limited amounts of information.”

Chronister said the accreditation of nuke schools counting toward college degrees is a huge benefit of becoming a nuke.

“When I finished nuke school, I had over 50 college credits,” said Chronister. “Many college degree plans also will link up with the Navy nuke program.”

Another benefit to becoming a nuke is the advancement rate. Nukes have a higher advancement rate than many other rates in the Navy and enlisted nukes are advanced to Petty Officer Third Class (E-4) upon graduation from NF “A” School.

Advancement for nukes is very fast,” said Chronister. “I was able to make master chief in 17 years.”

With the continued increase in nuclear power and its benefits, sailors who have trained and worked in this line of work in the Navy are able to easily transfer their skills to the civilian side.

“I have seen a lot of nuclear officers go onto successful civilian careers after the Navy,” said Smith. “The nuclear program is excellent for learning interpersonal skills, time management and leadership.”

Today's Navy has 283 ships and approximately 323,000 sailors. Manning the fleet with top notch nukes will take our Navy into the next century. Navy recruiters are always interested in reaching individuals for these programs, and seek applicants with superb academic skills and moral character.

For more information about Navy Recruiting, visit

By U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler Fraser
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2014

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