In the two weeks immediately following my previous entry, I stood a lot of watch. Starting up, shutting down, and drills, drills, and more drills. Student casualty training is oh so much fun. I did very well on the watchstanding.
The third weekend of April was another four-day, and I again went home to Long Island. On my way down, I happened to stop by Ryan's video store, and he was free, so we went to Applebee's. This was the first time I had ever consumed alcohol in his presence - and he, being an extremely strict teetotaler, was appalled. But that didn't stop us from watching Ocean's Twelve together. I went out the next two nights, but it was the same old story - I came up empty-handed. Opportunities were present, but when the time came, I couldn't make the right move. A lot of work had to be done on the van before departure on Monday afternoon, but it was worth it.
The next week saw some more watchstanding and getting ready for the prototype comp, the 100% exam. I took that just over two weeks ago, and easily passed. The focus then shifted to the final few things remaining to qualify - since, by this time, by final oral board had been scheduled. And wouldn't you know it, it happened to be slated for 0800 on 1 May. Qualifying on my 24th birthday, I thought to myself, would be sweet. As such, I busted my butt to get the last several things done. And on the morning of my birthday, I was ready. After a few nerves at first, I quickly settled down and got comfortable with the board members. And at about 0950, I was recalled to the board room and told I got a 3.21 - which, to my knowledge, is still the top board score in the plant. I was the eighth student from my class in the S8G plant to complete the qualification process, and second reactor operator. Last week I got to attend the proficiency phase maintenance course, which was a bunch of lectures, a couple of labs, and a lot of early departures from work.
Throughout the past couple of weeks, my classmates have been getting their orders - or at least, being told where they're headed as Class 0405 prepares to join the various carriers and submarines of the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets (or for a select few, the staff of NPTU Ballston Spa). When the twenty-third week of prototype opened and I did not have orders in hand, I was curious, and began inquiring on several fronts. Only twenty-four hours later, I had my answer. Next month, I will report to USS Hartford (SSN 768), homeported in Groton, Connecticut. Most people who are assigned to Groton shudder at the thought; one classmate headed for USS Connecticut (SSN 22) called it "the armpit of the world." But since it's pretty close to home for me, I'm not bummed about it at all. Hartford is a 688i (improved Los Angeles-class) attack submarine; it's one of the newer submarines in the fleet, having been commissioned in 1994. I'm a little nervous, but mainly excited about this; it's going to be comletely different from anything I've ever done before.
No plans yet for the month of leave, except maybe going to Fleet Week in New York around Memorial Day.