Matt Carberry (kingpin248) wrote,
Matt Carberry

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I wish I had more hands, so I could give SECNAV four thumbs down!

On my first day of relative freedom following the six years of self-imposed indentured servitude, the Navy swore in a new Secretary. I had only a passing familiarity with him until this evening, when I watched his appearance on The Daily Show. He's an affable gentleman, and was rightfully fulsome in his praise of the Navy-Marine Corps team. Among the prominent subjects in the interview was the consideration of allowing women to serve on submarines. It's been known for a couple of weeks that the Secretary, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (a Navy admiral), and the Chief of Naval Operations all support this initiative, and are "moving out aggressively" on it. Let's leave aside for the moment that question, and look instead at some of the statements made by SECNAV on Jon Stewart's set.

Stewart: Will it take long?
Mabus: It'll take a little while because you gotta interview gotta be nuclear trained to be on a submarine.
This is patently wrong. Two-thirds of the crew of every fast-attack submarine (and a larger percentage on ballistic missile subs) does NOT get nuclear training. They are briefed on radiation safety; they carry dosimetry to measure how much radiation they get; they learn the basics of how the power plant works as part of qualification in submarines. But they most certainly do not get the same in-depth immersion in things nuclear as members of engineering department. Ask a coner about cross-section for neutron absorption, and you'll get either a blank stare or a blistering rebuke. Now, all officers except one* are nuclear trained, and the women-on-subs will be initially limited to officers on the Ohio-class. But nowhere is this said or implied in this interview. Actually, Mabus would have needed to add only one word to make this quote totally accurate. He should have said " gotta be nuclear trained to be valuable on a submarine."

Stewart: What's nuclear training? How would a fellow get nuclear trained? Is that like...getting a merit badge?
Mabus: It's the same takes a little longer, a little more dangerous to do it.
Really? Has the training pipeline changed that much in the five years since I went through it? Let me think of some of the dangers I faced during my time training in the nuclear ways. There was the alligator that lives in the pond next to Rickover Center at NNPTC, or perhaps playing tackle football with many others in my class (which would have been more dangerous if fewer had played, because then my broken collarbone probably would have led to mast). You might also count the damage to my brain simply from residence in the Lowcountry of South Carolina for such an extended period of time. But that's really about it. And while the qualification portion of becoming a nuke is only similar in form to getting a merit badge (that is to say, you get a bunch of stuff signed off), there is one similarity between the Boy Scouts of America and the United States Navy: questionable (read: poor) taste in uniforms. But let's continue on to the most absurd line...

Stewart: So, it's a merit badge that could cause genetic mutations inside your body. All right.
Mabus: Right.
Stewart: That seems reasonable.
No, no, NO! Crap like that makes it sound as if we operate a fleet full of ships like K-19: The Widowmaker. That could not be further from the truth. The Navy's internal limits on annual and quarterly exposure are a small fraction of those in the Federal regulations. Most members of the nuclear Navy get less exposure over their careers than a civilian can legally obtain in a single year. Dosimetry is worn whenever there's significant radiation - and if it's not, that person has to track everywhere they'd been so exposure can be estimated. Trust me - I wouldn't wish a dose investigation on anybody. You'll suffer more irradiation laying on the beach on a sunny day than in the engine room of a nuclear submarine. There's an old adage that nukes have a propensity to produce female offspring, but that has no basis in fact. I understand that Jon Stewart is just making a joke, but for SECNAV to let the remark pass without comment is to allow the public to believe that our boat captains are acting like Harrison Ford, and that's simply hogwash.

All told, the Secretary could have done better. I am also happy to report, for the benefit of those who watch the full interview, that in the 21st century Navy, we do not as a matter of course inquire about each other's venereal diseases - and absolutely not as a standard greeting. As far as the whole women-on-submarines question, the one that has generated over two hundred comments at TSSBP? We do not reach that issue here; that's for another post entirely...

* The Supply Officer is not nuclear trained. He is, however, a staff corps officer, and thus not eligible to command. All regular line officers aboard go through the nuclear training pipeline.
Tags: insanity, nauseating detail, navy hate, nuclear power

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