Born in the projects of Harlem to immigrant parents, I studied drafting and electronics at a Catholic technical high school and completed an Associates of Applied Science degree in biomedical electronics. After watching a John Wayne submarine movie, I was inspired by a Navy recruiting commercial for nuclear power.
I immediately contacted a Navy recruiter and scored high on the ASVAB. I had the required scores for entering the nuclear power program, and insisted on being assigned to nuclear submarines. I enlisted as an electronics technician with the goal of obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree and becoming an Officer. My career path began as a reactor operator, but when I later received an ROTC scholarship, I majored in computer science and was commissioned as an Officer.
As a qualified submarine officer, you have to know about all aspects of submarine operations and systems that include Command and Control, Weapons, Engineering system and how to operate them all in both wartime and peacetime. This is not an easy feat when you are talking about an 18,000 ton vessel that is two football fields long and five stories high. You also need to be able to troubleshoot, plan, and make quick, vital decisions under highly stressful conditions.
Some of the patrols have you out at sea for months at a time without ever surfacing. As a submarine officer, you are responsible for the safety and security of the people you work with. Our missions involved strategic deterrence by patrolling the seas and remaining undetected from other submarines or surface ships. We were expected to search for other submarines, pursue them when necessary, and launch missiles or torpedoes during combat operations.
The most vivid memory of my career was when I received my “Dolphins.” This distinction carries a great deal of respect and indicates you are qualified in submarines. I have many memories of my missions and adventures. However, they are classified, and I am not able to disclose them.