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How I Learned About Life - Serving On a Nuclear Submarine

How I Learned About Life - Serving On a Nuclear Submarine

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How I Learned About Life - Serving On a Nuclear Submarine

130 pagine
2 ore
Feb 6, 2020


This is the third book in a series. A light hearted look about my interactions with people and life in general during my formative days in the navy. This episode is centered on my time aboard a nuclear submarine, where in certain ways, a very specific type of people were assigned. This was a part of my coming of age where I learned some of the basics of life and living that you don’t learn at home or in high school.
Feb 6, 2020

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How I Learned About Life - Serving On a Nuclear Submarine - Edward D Olsen

How I Learned About Life - Serving On a Nuclear Submarine

How I learned About Life,

Serving on a Nuclear Submarine


Edward D Olsen

Copyright © 2020   Edward D Olsen

ISBN  978-1-67812-262-1


This book is the third in a series about how I learned some of the most important lessons in life. For me many of those lessons were learned during my time in the navy.  This part of the story is about things I learned at my first real navy job as a crew member of a nuclear submarine.  I was twenty years old when I got there after nearly two years of training in different schools, so I started this navy journey within a year after high school when I didn’t know a lot about people.  Although the technical things I learned in the schools were certainly valuable later in life, perhaps more valuable were the things I learned about people.  There are very different kinds of people in this world.  Here’s a little bit about some of them and how I began to learn how different we all really are.

Orders to my First Ship

After graduating from the hands on part of my nuclear power training in Idaho it was time to report to my first operational command.  It was time to put to use the eighteen months of schooling the navy put me through.  It was time to go to work now… that I knew how to go to work.  As I mentioned before in the previous book of this series, I had put in a request to be assigned to a submarine in the pacific somewhere.  When the orders came through it was the USS Henry Clay, SSBN 625.  The first part of this name was of course just that, the common name.  My ship was named after a guy named Henry Clay.  I think he was a senator around Abraham Lincoln’s time.  Not sure what famous thing he did to merit getting a ship named after him.  But it didn’t matter to me because I really never gave much thought to who this guy was until I’d been off the ship for quite a while when I ran across his name in some history book I was reading.  The second part of the name, the SSBN, part was the kind of ship it was.  SSBN meant it was a Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine.  These were also nicknamed, Boomers.  The ship carried sixteen nuclear tipped missiles that could be launched from somewhere out in the vast ocean should the need arise.  The somewhere, part was the whole purpose of this ship.

It was a missile launching platform that could hit targets a couple of thousand miles away.  Now if you were the guy who didn’t want to get hit by one of these missiles, the biggest problem you had in preventing that was figuring out where they would be launched from.  Once they were launched it was game over for you.  Once in the air, you couldn’t stop one of these or call it back or anything.  So if you couldn’t prevent the launch in the first place and you’d have to know where the ship was to do that, you couldn’t stop this totally self contained, self guided weapon.

The accuracy was incredible as well as the fire power.  Each one of these missiles had much more bang than either of the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan during World War II.  These would make a big crater somewhere if they were ever launched.  Big enough to erase large cities the size of New York or Moscow.  Needless to say, there was unimaginable firepower in just one of these missiles and we had sixteen of ‘em.

Our job was to sneak around somewhere in the ocean, undetected, so if called upon …..Armageddon would happen.  Of course the way we saw it, if we were ever called upon…Armageddon would have already started.

The 625, part was just the hull number.  Nothing special about it.  I suppose they had an index somewhere in the shipbuilding bureaucracy to pull hull numbers from, so our submarine was just the next number on the list at the time.

When my full set of orders arrived there was a section that told me how to get to my newly assigned duty station.  Most of the guys got a plane ticket on some commercial airline along with their orders.  But not me.  I was going to be stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii but for some reason I didn’t get a plane ticket.  Instead I was supposed to report to Travis Air Force Base in California where I would be assigned a seat on a MAC flight.  Now that didn’t sound too bad.  MAC stood for Military Airlift Command and a MAC flight was a sort of airline for cargo and supplies the air force operated.  On these flights there were usually a few seats for passengers that were filled by military people who happened to be going to the same destination the plane was going to.  It was called space available.

The Young Hitch Hikers

My friend Ron was also going to Pearl Harbor just like me but to a different boat, a fast attack submarine as they were called.  These are more like what you think of when you think of a submarine in a war movie.  But unlike me he got a commercial plane ticket with his orders.  Who knows why that happened but it did.  He was planning to ship his car out there so he offered to give me a ride to Travis before he dropped his car off somewhere near San Francisco to get it on a boat to Hawaii.  But before he dropped his car off we decided to drive south to the Los Angeles area and spend a little time hitting Knots Berry Farm, Disneyland and Universal studios.  That was all kind of fun and we enjoyed the little side trip.  But on the way out there something happened that turned out to be one of those things that stays with you.

While driving somewhere near the Utah Nevada border there were a couple of guys hitchhiking along the road out in the middle of nowhere.  All around us was just dry desert and being the middle of the night, of course completely dark out.  These guys, just a couple of young boys looked to be about thirteen or fourteen as they came into view, illuminated by our headlights.  We saw them standing on the side of the road facing our direction with their thumbs out, obviously hoping for a ride.  To me this looked like nothing but trouble just waiting for someone to come along.  But Ron had a sense about these kind of things so he stopped the car just after we were a little past them and waited for them as they came a runnin’ to get in.  I still didn’t think this was such a good idea to pick these two kids up but I didn’t say anything negative to Ron about it.  Just before we passed them I did say something about what in the world were two kids doing out here in the middle of nowhere with nothing but the clothes on their back?  Maybe that’s why he stopped.  It turned out I was correct about that assessment when they got in the car.  Just the clothes they had on was all they had with them.

They looked nice, the clothes I mean, not fancy but not worn out either.  Just a clean pair of jeans and a button up flannel shirt on each of them.  As they jumped in the back seat, expressing thanks for us stopping, Ron asked them where they were headed.  I don’t remember where they said they were going but their destination was not out of our way so off we went.

They were quite talkative as we drove along the dark, mostly deserted highway.  From the back seat they told us of their plans to get a job in a restaurant washing dishes or perhaps a job doing something else of the same caliber.  I remember thinking they were so young that no one would hire them, legitimately anyway.  But I kept that to myself as I listened to them talk, voices filled with obvious optimism about their plans for the future.  They didn’t seem to be bad kids.  But they did seem to be running away from something.  Running away and looking for a better life out here on the road somehow.

Well we arrived at their destination in an hour or so and wished them luck as they got out of the car under the lights of an all night gas station in town.  Watching them walk away I couldn’t help thinking a lot of bad things could be waiting for them.  They were too young and naive to be out on their own like they were but I hoped they would do alright for themselves as time went on.  I wondered how a young kid gets into a situation like the one these two kids were in.  How does that happen?  I was also thinking some perverts or bad guys could have just as easily picked them up instead of us.  So in a way we had done a good deed for these two kids, not in just giving them a ride, but us giving them a ride instead some other creeps that could have come along the same highway that night.

What I learned from this was that life sometime hands out bad deals to some people, apparently through no fault of their own.  But the optimism and determination these two boys had with just about everything stacked against them was inspiring in some ways.  They were going to make it with virtually nothing to back them up.  And I’ll bet they did make it.  For me, now there was no excuse not to make it in life.  I’d already had a much better hand dealt to me than they did.

We took our side trip to L.A. then Ron and

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