Graduation and Leave

Finally, it’s over! After 6 months of the most intense academic challenge of my life, graduation finally arrived. It’s an awesome feeling to be done, and I’m incredible grateful for the gifts He gave me that allowed me to get through the program so successfully.

If graduation was good, the leave I was able to take afterwards was even better. First my mom flew down and we spent some time being tourists in Charleston together. It was great to share the experience with her and such a blessing to just have some time for the two of us to spend together. I then had the opportunity to go home for 2 weeks and spent one of those as a counselor for a camp sponsored by my home church in PA for 5th-7th graders in the Pocono Mountains. It was an amazing week and so incredible to see the Lord working in the hearts of the campers, counselors, and especially my own throughout my time there. The fellowship I was able to share with some of my friends from home was also pretty special. Other highlights from the trip home included visiting NYC and getting a tour of the Google office there from my older brother, going to an “Of Monsters and Men” concert with my younger brother and his girlfriend, spending some time with my grandfather who just turned 96 (and taking a pictures of the two of us in uniform – his from the 40’s), just enjoying being home with the family, and also appreciating the garden at home and some fresh vegetables from it! I also had a chance to ride my younger brothers new bicycle which rode like a fighter jet compared to the bike I’m used to (my Dad’s ~40 yr old Schwinn), as well as to drive one of my Dad’s friend’s Nissan 350 Z. That was quite a thrill as well. And, to top it all off, I was able to make a pit stop in Raleigh, NC, on my way back down from leave to visit my cousin who just started her new job with Fidelity there after graduating from UNH this year. It was great to see her and spend some time catching up on everything that has been going on in our lives.

Now I’m back in Charleston and things here have also been exciting. I had the chance to spend some time downtown going to a couple restaurants that were undoubtedly just a sampling of all the amazing places to eat that help make Charleston such a tourist mecca. I also had some fun going to a Riverdogs game (the local minor league baseball team), shooting pool with some friends, and also hitting up the beach and flying my trick kite – couldn’t have asked for better weather or wind the day we went.

The temporary duty I’ve been given for my time on hold here until around the end of September has also been pretty great. I’m working with the Fitness Enhancement Program (FEP), helping out with the sailors who are given extra PT because they don’t meet the physical fitness standards. It’s tough still having to report at 0530 every morning, but a great way to start the day with some PT of my own. I’m also hoping to complete some classes towards my masters degree through a distance learning program run by Old Dominion University (ODU) that I get credit towards because of the NPS and Prototype training I’m going through. I’m hoping to stay productive, but also have some fun during this time before I have to report for Submarine Officer Basic School (SOBC) in Groton, CT, in mid-October.

Adventures and Exams

The past few months have been a blur. So many hours of studying, but also some pretty fun times. And only three more exams until graduation! I can’t wait.

Things have been interesting both in and out of school. The classes have gotten more hands-on and thus more engaging and applicable to what we’ll be doing one day running the nuclear power plants on submarines. At one point we all needed to be tested for internal sources of radiation as a baseline before we go to the nuclear prototype plants. I found out my body naturally emits 0.86nCi of radation (very normal, haha).

Out in the real world, I’ve had a few fun adventures with my classmates. I went to see The Avengers in 3D and it was pretty incredible – not to be eclipsed by the opportunity to drive  my classmates brand new 2012 Mustang on the way home. What an fun vehicle to drive. Things in the tiny house have been good, the AC unit is keeping things cool inside despite the “controlled burning” that recently swept through the woods not 100 feet away. I went running in woods one day surrounded by green undergrowth and the next day it was smoldering ash-strewn desolation. Quite a surprise, but I suppose a necessity to keep the threat of a larger fire at bay.

Another thing I’ve really been enjoying recently is reading a number of different books. I discovered how easy it is the use the free Navy Knowledge Online (NKO) e-library to read them via Kindle. It’s a pretty awesome service. I started with Girl With the Dragoon Tattoo and am currently working on The Game of Thrones series. Both provide a great escape from the classroom, and it’s motivating being able to look forward to the next chapter at the end of each long day of studying.

Knowledge, Integrity, Excellence

“Knowledge, Integrity, Excellence.” It’s a pretty legit motto for the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command (NNPTC). We had a brief today and they stressed the importance of integrity and how it has helped maintain the trust of the public in the Navy’s nuclear program. All it would take is one ‘Three Mile Island’ type incident and that faith could be shattered, so maintaining a perfect safety record is paramount. We had our second exam today, and it went really well. Our section had the highest average between the three that make up our class – which was cool. The guys that make up our section are pretty legit – they work hard but are also really funny and hilarious when they joke around. A lot of witty humor. I just hope the guys on my sub are this awesome.

One of the best parts of today was biking onto base. I woke up at 0415 so I could get in by 0500 and cram before the test at 0700 (filling the short-term memory banks right before the exams seems to be a common and beneficial strategy). It was a cool, damp morning and felt like the same type of morning I’d wake up to back in college to go to crew practice. It was just cold enough to have a nip in the air, and it was so damp there was dew dripping off the tiny house roof, and you could see fog wisping through the air and collecting in low areas like drainage ditches on the side of the road. It was kind of ominous, like the eve of a battle, and also reminded me of crew practice in the morning when I had an exam later that day. Good times.