Enlisted Navy

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Enlisted Me


Enlisted Navy Experience

ET A-School


So, I enlisted in the Navy.  I went through boot camp in Great Lakes, IL.  For those wondering, boot camp really isn't that bad.  Sure, it's a bit physically challenging, and the RDC's (Recruit Division Commanders) yell at you a bit, but if you just stick to the program, you'll make it out.  After 8 weeks of boot camp, I went to Electronics Technician (ET) A-School in Orlando, FL.  At that time, if you weren't able to make it as a nuclear ET, you would be dropped from the nuclear program and become a conventional ET, whose main duty was to work on radar systems.  So, A-School consisted of learning about the AN/SPS-67(V) surface radar set.  As complex as that was, it took 6 months to go through A-School.  For Electricans Mates (EMs), school was 4 months, and for Machinist Mates (MMs), school was 3 months.  So being an ET was a pretty good deal because you were at a shore command for at least 2 months longer than any other rate.







Enlisted Power School



After A-School, then came power school.  Again, at that time, nuclear power school was in Orlando, FL.  It has since moved to Charleston, SC.  At power school, you get taught the basics of nuclear power.  That is to say, the theory behind operation of a nuclear reactor.  This includes understanding how nuclear power is created in the reactor, along with how all the subsystems work, and how reactor safety is maintained.  So you get a fairly detailed knowledge of fluid systems, steam systems, mechanical turbines, electrical motors, and electronic protection systems.   Power school can be difficult.  It's a lot of material that you're required to know, and not much time to learn it (6 months).  However, the Navy only lets the "cream of the crop" enroll in the nuclear program, so if you're failing, it's probably due to lack of trying.







The next step in the process is Prototype.  A prototype is a land-based nuclear power plant that students go to in order to learn how to operate a nuclear power plant.  There used to be three sites: one in Idaho, one in New York, and one in Charleston.  The Idaho site closed down, so currently there are only 2.   After power school, I went to the prototype in Ballston Spa, NY.  There are 2 different plants in Ballston Spa: MARF and S8G.  I happened to go to the MARF plant.   Prototype is a lot different from power school, which was a Monday-Friday, 7am-4pm, cram knowledge into your head job.  At prototype, you work on a rotating shiftwork schedule.  There are 4 shifts: Dayshift (8am-4pm), Swingshift (4pm-12am), Midshift (12am-8am), and T-week (7am-3pm).  Dayshift, swingshift, and midshift are 7-day shifts, with varying days off in between shifts.  T-week is a four-day shift, in which the staff does all their training to make sure they are proficient in their operation of the plant.  Your job as a student at prototype is to qualify a watchstation.  For ET's, the watchstation is Reactor Operator (RO), for EM's you qualify Electrical Operator (EO) and Throttleman (TH), and MM's qualify one of the mechanic watstations: Engine Room Upper Level (ERUL), Lower Level (ERLL), Feed Station (FS), or Reactor Mechanic (RXM).  To qualify, you are first handed a qual card when you get to prototype.  The qual card is about seven hundred pages.  The first few hundred pages detail the knowledge requirements of the checkouts.  The rest of the pages consist of all the checkouts you need to get, with an average of about 6 checkouts per page.  To get a checkout, you study the material that it covers, and then you go to a staff member and he asks you questions, to make sure you have enough knowledge about the topic.  If you do, he signs the block on the page.  If not, he gives you things to study ("look-ups"), and you come back after you've upgraded your knowledge.  Besides knowledge topics, there are also operational topics.  Obviously, in order to qualify a watchstation, you need to stand watch there.  Some of the checkouts are watches, and others are operations done while on watch.