The Academy Insider Your Guide to The United States Naval Academy

#014 - Andrea Howard '15 - Submarine Junior Officer and Marshall Scholar

October 22, 2019 GRANT VERMEER / ANDREA HOWARD '15 Season 1 Episode 14
The Academy Insider Your Guide to The United States Naval Academy
#014 - Andrea Howard '15 - Submarine Junior Officer and Marshall Scholar
Show Notes Transcript

I'm joined by Andrea Howard who is a class of 15 graduate from the United States Naval Academy and currently serves as a submarine officer. Andrea was an Arabic and Political Science major at the academy. 

She is a Marshall Scholar and pursued graduate education directly after graduation.  She earned a MSc in Global Governance and Diplomacy from Oxford and a MA in Science and Security from Kings College London.

In this episode, we discuss all about being a submarine officer all the way from her decision of how she knew she wanted to become a submarine officer through her graduate education program, her time in Charleston, the nuclear training pipeline, and then actually reporting to her submarine to talk about being an operational submarine officer. 

It's a super fun episode. We provide a ton of insight and factual information into the process of becoming and being a submarine junior officer. We even touch on the topic of the relatively new experience for the Navy of a female officer on a submarine.

You will be impressed by Andrea and really like her.  She is smart, thoughtful and does a great job in this episode of providing a lot of information on the life of a junior officer on a submarine and the process to get there.

Be sure to review and subscribe to The Academy Insider with Grant Vermeer podcast on Apple Podcasts or where you listen to podcasts.

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Links Mentioned in the Show

Andrea's Book Recommendation: Anthem by Ayn Rand 

The mission of Academy Insider is to guide, serve, and support Midshipmen, future Midshipmen, and their families.

Grant Vermeer your host is the person who started it all. He is the founder of Academy Insider and the host of The Academy Insider podcast and the USNA Property Network Podcast. He was a recruited athlete which brought him to Annapolis where he was a four year member of the varsity basketball team. He was a cyber operations major and commissioned into the Cryptologic Warfare Community. He was stationed at Fort Meade and supported the Subsurface Direct Support mission.

He separated from the Navy in 2023 and now owns The Vermeer Group, a boutique residential real estate company that specializes in serving the United States Naval Academy community PCSing to California & Texas.

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Speaker 1:

This is your host Grant Vermeer Naval Academy class of 2017 and I'm your Academy insider. It's my goal to be your guide through the Naval Academy experience by sharing my stories and providing you insight information into the life of a Midshipman.

Speaker 2:

[inaudible]

Speaker 1:

Academy insider is in no way officially affiliated with the United States Naval Academy. All of the content on Academy insider is my own and does not reflect the views of the United States Naval Academy, the United States Navy, nor the department of defense. Hey everyone and welcome to the Academy insider podcast. Today I'm joined by a friend of mine and honestly one of the most impressive people that you'll probably ever meet. Andrea Howard, who is a class of 15 graduate from the United States Naval Academy. In this episode, we discussed all about being a submarine officer all the way from her decision of how she knew she wanted to become a submarine officer through her graduate education program to her time in Charleston through the summery nuclear training pipeline, and then actually reporting to her submarine to talk about being an operational submarine officer. It's a super fun episode. We provide a ton of insight and factual information into the process of becoming an actually being a submarine junior officer. It's a super fun episode and we'll even touch on the topic of being a female officer and a woman on a submarine. She provides a ton of great insight and perspective and I think you all will really, really enjoy this episode. All right, well, Hey Andrea, thank you so much for coming on the Academy insider podcast. Really appreciate it.

Speaker 3:

Thank you for having me. I'm such a big fan of you and the efforts that you've made did galvanize the alumni community and current midshipman community and the best community of all the families.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. Thank you for that. But before we get started today, talking about submarines, can you tell us a little bit about yourself as a midshipman, your company, your major, what you did at the Academy, so a little background about you as a midshipman, but also a little background about you as a person and where you're from and how you got to the

Speaker 3:

absolutely. So I was a Midshipman in the great class of 2015 HOOYAH, in a member of three 19, which was a powerhouse color company, I must say in my second half my time at the Academy. While there I double majored in Arabic and political science and I'm from a town right outside of Atlanta, Georgia called Norcross. I left straight from high school to pursue the holistic leadership model that the Academy promoted and to get a little bit of that non traditional college experience.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. And, and how'd you find out about the Academy? Like how'd you know? It was even a thing

Speaker 3:

I found out via two of my brother's friends who got recruited to do Naval Academy swimming and I pursued the Naval Academy summer seminar experience, got incredibly intimidated after that, continued to have this feeling in the back of my mind that that was the place that I needed to go and the challenge that I needed to accept. And I'm so glad that I went there in the end.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. And as a, uh, as a political science and Arabic major double major, that is not necessarily the, I would say the common major choices for people who end up becoming submariners. So how did you get interested in summer reading? How did you know that you wanted to be a submariner and kind of what influenced you to choose summaries as your services?

Speaker 3:

Segree I was definitely a late bloomer to service selection. I applied for the Academy intending to do aeronautical engineering and to become an aviator and obviously did the opposite of that. I did a humanities major and went underneath the water instead of up into the sky. And I've heard that sin, I think it was the little Raptors head honcho at the time, strongly question me as to the merits of me being a submariner and the employer and justification, I gave him the same thing that I'll give to you is that I wanted to work with some of the indisputably hardest working and smartest sailors in the Navy. And so even though it is the highly technical field and you're working with some of the most complex machinery and vessels on the planet, ultimately the process by which you've learned nuclear power and the process by which you run a submarine is social at heart. And I knew that I would bust my own butt to work with these incredible sailors and apparently that was good enough for the Admiral. It's worked for me so far.

Speaker 1:

That's awesome. And did you, were you one of the people who early selected submarines or did you select in your first year?

Speaker 3:

I did early select at the time that I was applying the female midshipman still we're required to early select and I think a couple people may have been able to bleed over into the fall, but the majority of us were expected to apply in the spring. And especially being a humanities major where my fate would have been even more or less secure in the fall, I was required to interview in the spring.

Speaker 1:

Okay, good to know. And so again, kind of, we talked about obviously when the Admiral tells you you should seriously consider some reading, you know that that's a big one. But were there any uh, like summer trainings or things like did your time on[inaudible] going on a submarine, did those things influence you to, to kind of let you know, Hey, maybe being on a submarine will be all right?

Speaker 3:

Yes, they did approach them. It was the solidifying experience for me. And it was less about the time that I actually spent on a submarine. I rode the Louisiana for 48 hours. So that really wasn't a sufficient time to be like, this is the path for me for the next five years or so. But what really was the turning point for me was the way that submariners talked about their community versus some of the other communities. So I know in going through the various weeks approach, Ahmed, some of the other officers focused on the amount of time had off of work and the ability to lateral transfer from one community[inaudible] or just how cool it was to do their job. But the funding and time allotted to do that job were a little bit tenuous at the time that I was going through approach from ed, which is right in the heart of sequence ration in 2013 and then in direct contrast there are the submariners who had a really raw honesty about the difficulties of being in this community, but how fulfilling it was to do that job. Yeah, I'm the type of person for better or for worse, that gets attracted to the hardest thing and I knew at that point that I wanted to just prove that I had the grit to be a submariner.

Speaker 1:

Sweet. That's really cool and super awesome. So I mean, being on the submarine for a long period of time is not easy. Did it ever cross your mind like, Hmm, how am I going to be able to spend 90 days underwater completely out of communication with everyone else? And how did you wrap that aspects around in your mind?

Speaker 3:

I'm going to turn it back to you and flip it because I think it is the exact same flavor of question as how could you possibly go to the Academy? How could you possibly do plead summer? And the straightforward answer is that everybody around you is doing it, are standing on the shoulders of giants who've gone before you, and if they can pave the way and much more difficult circumstances than you are experiencing, and who am I to complain about not being able to make it. And the reality is that the submarine culture too is just so close knit and has such great comradery that I knew I, I personally would be able to handle it because I'd be surrounded by some of these fabulous sailors in officers that I've previously mentioned.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. That's a good answer. Yeah. So at the Academy, for those of you don't know, we have company officers and we have senior enlisted leaders, people who kind of lead you as you're time during a midshipman. Did you have anyone, either senior enlisted leader or an officer or maybe someone who was a teacher on the staff that was a mentor for you in regards to wanting to be, become a submariner and kind of lead you and talk to you about that whole process?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I really didn't actually encounter a ton of submariners as well. I was on the yard being that I was a humanities major and a lot of instructors were doing more technical coursework, but I did have a really good, or my dynamics teacher who was a senior submariner on the yard and he was the quintessential quirky, fun submariner. So dispensing his vibes, I could tell that he was some day I could definitely work with in a professional capacity. And then I was really fortunate. My instructor for the geo practicum force was a phenomenal guy and actually just messaged me this week too. We were catching up, but he's an engineer now out of Groton, but a wonderful guy. And again, just somebody who is very straightforward, professional, obviously intelligent and interacting with those people just reinforced the impression that I had from[inaudible] and made me more willing and eager to be a submariner.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. And you mentioned that he was your practicum teacher in your second semester of your first year. Can you tell the audience a little bit about what the practicum class is and then what you guys specifically learned in the submarine practicum course?

Speaker 3:

So the practicum course is designed to expose second semester Firsties to second semester seniors too, a little bit of the culture that they were about to enter as well as to give them a leg up on some of the other commissioning sources in regards to what course material you might see at your flavor of basic officer course. So for the submarine version of that, there's not a whole lot of unclassified material, but we did go over the watch structure of certain conditions of the submarine and we talked about how some Marines are assigned waters and how they transit from place to place. And the biggest takeaway that I had was the culture piece. And by that I mean we started delving into, so the history of submarines and specifically talk about the eight medal of honor winners that are in the community. And that was what really resounded with me is that the pride that I had started to get a sense of and really started to take shape at that early phase for me.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. And then so you finish your practicum course, you're getting ready to graduate and now you didn't take a normal path right after graduation. Can you tell everyone a little bit about kind of what your path was right after you graduated?

Speaker 3:

I was really fortunate. I got to partake in the immediate graduate education program and I know the rules are always shifting and changing that at the time that I was a midshipman, they allowed approximately 20 of us to pursue two years of graduate education after we commissioned. So for me, I was a winner of what's called the Marshall scholarship and it's a nationwide scholarship that is funded by the foreign and Commonwealth office of the United Kingdom, which is their equivalent of the state department. And under that I was able to select two different universities to attend in the UK for one year each and entertained two different masters. So I did an MSC and global governance and diplomacy at the university of Oxford. And then I also completed in may in science insecurity from Kings college London. And two major takeaways that I have from that experience was the privilege really of taking a strategic viewpoint at the role of America's military in the world before entering in at the tactical level and getting a little bit of tunnel vision as a junior officer and having the honor of in a small fashion, but nonetheless a real fashion diplomatically representing the United States Navy to foreign military foreign civil servants or in the future government officials and breaking bread with them and particularly thinking with them about some of the world's most existential issues.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. And so how did you actually go to get accepted to be a part of that[inaudible] program? Kind of what's the process? When did you begin to apply, um, and what do you like need to, what are the criteria you have to meet in order to be allowed to kind of have that immediate graduate education program be allowed for you?

Speaker 3:

At the time that I was a midshipman, they almost came and found you. So at the end of, I want to say premier, some of the professors who run this UKI S P program and that stands for United Kingdom international scholars program, selects the approximately 80 midshipman who are academically excelling in their class and put them into small group seminars for their youngster year. Over the course of which we start talking about various philosophical sources and current affairs books together. And this sixth place during the lunch period, either once or twice a week and at the end of that year, the group is further broken down into approximately 20 students who they then endorsed to apply for these different scholarship programs both domestically and internationally. And for me that was one of the unexpected joys of being in the Chipman. I never debated that I would would be considered for any of these types of scholarships and to have the individual attention and individualized support given me to apply for this and to do some really deep self reflection at the point that I was in my young twenties was really one of the most powerful things of being a midshipman for me. And I think that is one of the most unique aspects that we have as an academic institution is the ability of a program like that to pick out students and to develop them so strongly over the course of a couple of years.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And that[inaudible] if it wasn't, it wasn't obvious already by your answers to how impressive you are. I mean, that's like way cool, but all right, so you get two master's degrees, you finish up your school in there, and then you get congratulated with even more schooling. So could you now talk us into what is next after finishing your adjunct time?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I brought it on myself. I'm 27 and I'm still in school. It's still continuous learning since kindergarten. Yes. The best way to characterize the nuclear power pipeline is by the quote that is on a little placard right before you exit the nuclear prototype command in Charleston. It says in this school the smartest work as hard as those struggle to pass. And I'd walk by that every day and feel a little bit salty because it is as valid as true statement as you can have about the nuclear pipeline. So when I returned, I engaged in what was to be approximately a year and a half of training before even reporting to my submarine. So the nominal breakdown is that students complete six months of coursework in the classroom at the nuclear power training command in Charleston. Then they divvy us up into smaller groups and we complete six months of training at the nuclear prototype commands. One being of involved in spotty York and the other remaining in Charleston. I was in the group that remained in Charleston and then after that most students, as long as there is no backup in the pipeline at the very end of their time will go to, it's called the submarine officer basic course in Groton, Connecticut. And that lasts about two months and exposes us to the fundamentals of ship handling for submarines and contact management.

Speaker 1:

And how do they decide who goes to New York and who stays in Charleston for prototype? Is that just a random decision? Do you have any input or preference that you can select for that or is it just kind of randomly like

Speaker 3:

you're going there and you're going there? The command tried to take into account preferences and especially if they were pressing needs of people, be it family considerations or any sort of emergency or special circumstance. But for, and for the most part I think people got the selections that they desire, but there were a small handful of people that, at least in my particular year that were forced up to New York, but I've heard it go the other way as well. Sometimes there's over a surge of people who want to get in New York and ended up having to stay in Charleston as well. But like I said, they tried to be pretty considerate about roommates. They did allow a few people switch as well who were the one place? I see Heather, um, as long as the people had a similar technical score. So and by that I mean if you had a similar grade point average in the first command, then that could reflect that you guys are effectively interchangeable, at least in the eyes of the nuclear power point is fairly numbers.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. And so did you enjoy your time in Charleston or is it your life so consumed by school that you don't really have time to appreciate

Speaker 3:

being in Charleston? The time in Charleston I would say is a choose your own adventure novel in the fact that it is pretty individualized to how well you can naturally pick up this material and then how much effort you also want to put into it to compliment your own natural abilities. For me it was a kind of a steep learning curve trying to get back into the technical swing of things. So I probably spent more time than the average person actually studying for these different trainings phases. But I really liked Charleston too. It was nice for me to be close home to Atlanta. It's to reconnect with people there. And then also just to explore a new city though too in Charleston is incredibly charming. I was a big proponent of folly beach and lived over in West Ashley area and spent my weekends down running and swimming and folly beach and uh, yeah, I would definitely recommend that people spend as much time outside while they're there. It's just an absolutely beautiful place.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. And so a lot of, I would say a lot, probably the majority of your coursework is not unclassified. So how do you balance like not being able to bring your work home? Did you actually appreciate that aspect or was it like you wish you would have been able to study wow. Like hanging out at night and kinda just getting ready to go to sleep?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I would say that grad school actually gave me some bad habits that I had to break when I got there. PowerSchool because I've started living the good life of study bed and getting in a comfy, cozy library and then you switched that to being in uniform and setting underneath fluorescent lights would be fine. But it was definitely a kind of a culture shock to me cause I was always, even at the Academy, much more of a private study here. I loved, you know, sitting to music and going to a quiet place. So having to study in communal spaces, not under my previously expected levels of comfort was a bit of a culture shock. But like you said, the relative merits of that though is that when you leave that institution you are completely free. And while I didn't appreciate that as much during the pipeline now actually being on the submarine, it is incredibly nice to have that work life separation of going home and completely being able to disengage from whatever coursework it is that you're studying or technical material. So I actually really have grown to appreciate that aspect of it. And it's one of the nicer parts I think of actually working in submarines.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. And so you mentioned that you're actually at a submarine now, an officer on the USS Ohio, which is an SSG N. can you just tell us? So kind of when people select surface warfare, while they're still a midshipman and they have ships election night and they find out what ship they're going to, it's a little bit different for separate ins. Can you talk to us a little bit about how you actually find out what submarine you're going to and at what point I pipeline that happens?

Speaker 3:

Yes, I'll call it the mystery lists. So towards the end of prototype, we were required to send in a sheet of preferences to the detailer in a couple of months later. A hard copy list got posted with our assignments actually physically in prototype, which is a little bit frustrating because you don't have your phones with you, you know, call mom that call all your partner calls and call your best friend and tell them where you're going. So you're kind of stuck inside for the tech hours. Like all Trump, making sure that your buddies here in the pipeline when you immediately get to see where they're headed too. And for the female officers, the for now are still a little bit constraints. So there are certain sports that hosts fast attack platforms that we can not serve on yet. And so a lot of it is just determined by needs of the Navy. So I, I personally requested an operational boat that would be doing operations in the Western Pacific theater. And I was really fortunate that my kind of underlying, maybe not necessarily specific, but my underlying desire to be on the West coast and to do Pacific oriented missions was met. So I was incredibly satisfied and most of the people actually, at least for my particular year were really happy. That's awesome.

Speaker 1:

Sweet. And so can you talk also a little bit, when we talked about you use the term fast tax, like fast boats or SSGs, can you talk to us a little bit about what an SSG N is and what their operational impact is? Yeah. So you were saying that you're like, Hey, I want an operational boat. I wanted to be out here. So what's an SSG and what's their mission? Kind of at a high level, what do our SSG NS do in the summary and fleet?

Speaker 3:

Okay. So the breakdown of the three types of boats to set in general level are fast attacks, which are the smallest boats, only the newest versions of those, the Virginia class open to women right now, but to a lot of Intel collection type missions. And that's kind of their, their niche that they fill. So the small boats, the fast tax, the second group are the what are called boomers, their ballistic missile submarines and they specifically fill the role of nuclear deterrent. So they carry the nuclear tip missiles that in the event of some outbreak of nuclear war, they could respond in kind with a nuclear attack because they are secret and they are effectively invulnerable. And then the hybrid weird stepchild of that are the default DNS. So they are for converted ballistic missile submarines that are now guided missile submarines. So they have the benefit that they're as big and massive as these, these huge SS BSNs. And they actually are the same class of ship as the SSBNs and Xero, the Ohio class. But they are big enough for holding approximately 120 conventional tip tomahawks to fulfill a strike mission. And then they also have this really interesting component where we can do operations with special forces and actually carry approximately 16 Navy seals on board and covertly deploy them to different areas of the world.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's like pretty cool. Um, so how was that adjusting from going from a whole ton of school, roughly almost three and a half years from the time of your graduate school all the way through basically graduating to the submarine training pipeline? Is that correct? How do you go from that to then checking on board a submarine and being the brand new J O on a summary and how was that transition and how was checking on board?

Speaker 3:

I kind of, the process a little bit is I was really lucky in that two of the senior JS on board were my classmates from the Academy and I knew them decently well at school. So I had, you know, this, these predisposed people who were, I had already socially vetted me to the worldview.

Speaker 1:

She's cool. She's cool. She's cool.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, exactly. So, um, in that regard I was really lucky and it wasn't like I was this brand new person. I already had this, these established connections. So again, just speaks to the merit of the institution from which we graduated in the fact that there's this mafia wherever you go and you're always going to have that community of support. But I was still a new person to all of the enlisted sailors and chiefs and so we started out and in the ship yard for the first approximately six and a half months that I was on board and we were supposed to leave about a month after I arrived. And I kept getting extended by different technical complications we were having on board at the time. The shipyard was not exactly the most fun place to be. Um, it's a lot of long hours and paperwork from the officer's side to do work controls and ensure that the maintenance and repairs that are being completed on the ship are being completed in a satisfactory manner. But what that afforded me though is actually a really great opportunity. VA get a, what I'll call a technical intimacy with the engine room, which is where you kind of live as a new geo on board and you are required to finish your engineering qualifications within your first six months on board. And I was able to do that and about five pretty easily without any massive periods of sprinting because we had so much time to explore the engine room and to get familiar with some of the personnel who were doing these maintenance. So for me, the big tagline that I have in regards to learning and qualifying and a submarine is that it's a social approach to a highly technical topic because we get our qualifications via what's called checkouts. And they're just oral interviews that you do with the technical experts on whatever piece of equipment or system that you are currently studying. And so you spend a lot of time getting to know some of the savviest people on the crew via these checkouts. And, and so when you first show up, it's pretty important that you prep for these checkouts accordingly because you want to make a good first impression. But even if you're, your technical knowledge isn't super high as with any community, the best tool that you have in your pocket is just to be genuinely enthusiastic about these systems that your sailors own and to show that you want to, to know as much about their, their systems as possible because it gives them value and fulfillment to see your interest.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. And when you were going through that qual process and your learning about the engineering spaces and doing all that, were you also assigned a billet to, or was your job when you checked on the, you just qualify, you learned the engineering plan and you do all of that.

Speaker 3:

So submarines have the specific requirement that their junior officers before going to their final nuclear interview in DC at these junior officers do a year of time as a division officer in engineering department. And so there's five billets for that. And when I showed up, because my wardroom is fairly junior, all five of those billets were filled. So I was still given a division. I was the sonar officer, which some people will tell you is a fake job for me that actually our center for things weren't actually working effectively. So I had some pretty uh, upfront exposure to writing casualty reports, which I think are you guys also haven't and or sorry, I think the surface community also has, and I got actually a really good kind of pre-education for writing message traffic that goes out to big Navy. And then a couple months in I switched and I became the reactor controls assistant and that was just in time for us to start doing, bringing the reactor back to criticality for the first time in a couple of years. So there was a lot of paperwork to be done for that as well because anytime that the reactors started up, we have to ensure that all of the reactor protection systems and affiliated systems that support the protection systems are all working properly. And so that was kind of a tough, a tough thing to get the division back into. And then while we were underway this past month transiting to Pearl Harbor, I got switched over to become the damage control assistant, which is a really broad hat for all the auxiliary systems onboard to include the diesel engine and the high pressure air systems hydraulic systems. So that's been an already a pretty big challenging growing experience for me because it's definitely a more wholesome look at the boat and how all of this systems work in the integrate together rather than just focusing on the reactor and reactor protection.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And so how was that experience and kind of what was your role as a division offer both as the sonar row and then the DCA? What's your role as the division officer and how was it building a relationship with the chief and the LPO of both those divisions?

Speaker 3:

As it's true for many of these communities, that chief is the technical expert. And so a big challenge I think for a lot of junior officers is that you have to really approach your chief with humility because the reality is that you know a lot less about whatever systems that is parts of now. And then you have to build trust though. And so for me, the biggest thing that I, that I tried to do in working with my chief was to manage some of the personnel issues that we were having and to take some of that burden off of the chief, but then to deport trust. And for the submarine community, a lot of what the division officers do is paperwork oriented. And so to be the signatory and a lot the paperwork that was coming through me, I really established, especially for reactor division, establish a good working relationship where I let the chief know kind of what I would look at specifically in order to alleviate some of the burdens that he was having. And so, and there were times that I would catch mistakes and are times he would catch some of my mistakes too. But it was just really approaching the chief with humility. I'm trying to learn as much about the systems as possible and ultimately building that trust and finding a good battle for them to orchestrate the machine that is running an engineering vision on a summary.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. And so when you made that switch from sonar row to then the DCA, you also switched department heads. At that point you kind of went from[inaudible] department to engineering department. Can you tell the audience a little bit about the department and just overall organizational structure on a submarine and how that all breaks down?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Submarines have a much smaller wardroom than um, some of our counterparts in the Navy. So we have approximately about 10 to 12 junior officers who are running various division and that requires a lot of the junior officers to also wear various division health officer hats. So people very frequently hold multiple visits at a single time. And then on the summary, and there are three department heads, as you said, there's a weapons officer and an engineer and there's also a navigator and then they report directly to the executive officer who is responsible for the training and discipline of the crew. And then the commanding officer is the mission oriented liaison to the higher ups and ensures that the overall safety of the ship and the completion of whatever mission that we are assigned. The Ohio is really unique actually in that we have one of the first female engineers on board. She was a class of 11 grad from the Naval Academy and it's been really wonderful working with her because she has had a different experience in submarines and that she was the first person to help integrate the Georgia as well. And you can see some of, I would say her, her leadership style and sometimes her reservation based off the upbringing that she had, but she's an incredible trailblazer and who's definitely set the tones for it to be a more inclusive working environment for the junior enlisted females that we now have on board. She's just rock star. I love working for her. This is my pitch. If she hears this to[inaudible]

Speaker 1:

I like it. We'll make sure we'll make sure to tag and we'll get, we'll get them set paths too are absolutely. And that is something I absolutely want to talk about a little bit more, uh, as we move on in the episode. Um, but I do want to talk a little bit about, you mentioned that you were, you kind of went out to see a little bit ago. How was it going out to see, how has that transition from being in the yards to being out to sea and kinda what was your life like as a junior officer underway? Qualifying on a summary.

Speaker 3:

So as I mentioned, the yards were a pretty frustrating place for the crew because they were chomping at the bit to get, to see and for some of the particular rates they needed to go to see, to finish their qualifications. And so we've kind of had what I would call a Kuala Palooza and we were underway in the fact that so many of us were, were doing, you know, operational things on a critical reactor and, um, you know, actually standing watch up forward doing contact management and standing off. So the deck on the Ohio rather than some of the boats that other junior officers hadn't had written for qualifications. Um, and yeah, it was just a tremendous time because a lot of the enlisted crew got there, got their fish, their dolphin qualifications and became submarine qualified. But we did see trials twice. Uh, the first time we had some complications I'd go back in and do some repairs. But the second time was just phenomenal because you know, you're doing things that test step then at certain angles and speed that even our captain who's been in for 26 years that he had never done before. So that was a, a really neat experience to be doing that. And then we ultimately translated to Pearl Harbor and um, which, you know, is a beautiful port to experience, but for qualifications on our way to answer your main point, um, it's definitely a challenge because I would say there are three things that junior officers have to juggle and that's time management. And then while being stressed for time, maintaining good rapport with the crew for qualifications so they're not letting your personal stress bleed over into your interactions with the crew, still still maintaining a nice working relationship with them. And then the third piece is, and also dealing with what our XO has has deemed the radical candor of the wardroom and getting pretty constant and honest feedback from your peers about your performance in ways that you doing better, especially for some of the people who fell a little bit behind in their qualifications during the shipyard period. So it's juggling those three things and then understanding that the qualification process is a, like you said, it's a two to three year long process and it's pretty easy to get burnt out because the do engineering qualifications in the first six months you're on board, then you start moving up forward or in some cases can integrate at the same time, but you have to do basic officer qualifications which allow you to rig certain components for dive after we just to verify the integrity of some systems as we go to deeper depths. Um, you also expected to do qualify Periscope operator, which sounds pretty simple, but we have pretty sophisticated Periscope on board and there are very specific routines and litanies that you have to utilize when you're on the scope. Then you're also expected to qualify contact manager both on the surface and submerged, which right. We're not, we don't drive with windows a lot of the time. And by that I mean we don't do that at all. Um, so being able to maintain with the samples that we have a threeD picture of what types of vessels are around the submarine and then ultimately your last qualification is also the deck b oth on the surface and submerge, the being a person who's not only giving the c ounting commands for the ship, but to also understand that the orders and permissions that you're giving out don't conflict in that as people are doing certain evolutions a nd maintenance items on the boat, that the boat is still ultimately in a safe position. And that if there are any restrictions that you fully understand what those restrictions are and how to get out of those restrictions in the event of a casualty. U m, so it's a, it's a tough one. C ombat. And s o a lot of hours of standing under instruction watches instead of balance that with, with you already standing watch to support, especially when y ou're a more junior junior officer when you're standing, you know, eight hours of, of watches engineer o fficer watch back A F and then you're expected to come forward a nd y ou're off watch time and do those u nder instructions. It becomes, it becomes really difficult. And like I said, then you're balancing that time management piece with good relationship with the crew and a good relationship with t he b oardroom.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, absolutely. And so, um, as a result of my job, I've kind of seen a lot of different, um, communities in the Navy. Uh, but I'll tell you right now that no one has more pride in their warfare insignia, uh, than an enlisted sailor with his or her fish and an officer with their dolphins. And so, and I think it just speaks to how thorough and difficult that qualification process is and all the things that you guys have to go through. Uh, and so more power to you cause that that's difficult and what you guys do is super awesome. So, um, thank you for taking the time to explain that. Um, and also you mentioned, uh, one of the final qualifications as being a service officer, the deck. Uh, do you mind talking a little bit about what being a surface officer the decades, cause I thought I thought submarines were just underwater and the guys are just all they under the water now

Speaker 3:

I call that one the Jio retention plan that your time on the surface as a junior officer. So submarines have to operate on the surface when they are pulling into port, um, when they're operating in specific conditions of shallower waters. And like I said, ultimately when they're coming into do a morning or when they're going underway as well and, and before they've reached whatever dive point is a lot of them to then go under the water being a surface off. So that is just an incredible experience. If you're standing at at night kind of a little bit further away from land, you get to just see the massive amounts of stars and a lot of times there's a bioluminescence in the water. It's lighting it up and fun colors around you. Um, and you get to sharpen those rules of the road skills as you try to identify the weird lights that are off in the distance and make sure that there's sufficient maneuverability and time for your submarine to get out of the way of some of these vessels in the day time. It's also incredible. Um, and I, I just had the fortune of pulling us into Pearl Harbor when we finished our transit from Bremerton, Washington and to drive past some of the sites that, you know, Mark the historic day of December 7th and to ultimately, you know, get the morning lines going over. It was just a true pleasure. And my captain kind of tricked me at the end because it was the last thing I was waiting to do before I qualified service officer that can, you know, we, the ship is no longer in her way. We could get the lines turnover for Mauritius and he says, Ms. Howard report, while you're not qualified serve sells today where I, uh, I needed to do this practical factor I needed to do my morning. And he's like, that's not the right answer. He's like, there's only one right answer to this question. I'm like, Oh, sorry, I really, I really don't know. Like we can do a board for this board in the next few days. And he goes, this how report new qualifies you your watch stations on the center. Well you do sorry. And he's like, so I haven't qualified you yet. So Ms. Howard report, why you're not qualified surfs off today. I was like, well, sir, you haven't qualified me. And he's like this aggregate of the deck and the con. So I got spot qualified, which was really nice. And then our Commodore was actually riding us for his last underway. And so he gave me a coin on his way down and said, thanks for the ride in. Um, but I was, I mean an incredibly special moment in place for our Navy. And so yeah, being able to drive on the surface is an incredible experience. And you know, having spent a little bit of time on the water growing up, it's definitely a challenge to drive a boat that's 560 feet long that operates on nuclear power and it's pretty slow on the surface into get that thing to maneuver properly in the right place. Import is a great challenge and a whole lot of fun.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. That's a really cool story. Congratulations by the way. Um, but my next question was going to be what's the best part about being a submariner in the fleet? I feel like that's a pretty solid moment. Uh, but would you have a different answer to, um, kind of what the best part about being a submarine officer is kind of in an, in an operational sense.

Speaker 3:

I'll keep harping on the same point, but it is 100 the comradery and the sailors themselves, they just have such pride like you, like you, I'm highlighted in their work and they have such a willingness to teach into work with people who I feel like are smarter than me and, and sometimes work harder than need to be in their presence and to learn lessons from them is just such a privilege and our community is so strong because of them.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. All right. I do want to take the time now to kind of talk about, um, a subject that we brought up a little bit earlier and that's the question I want to ask is have you faced any obstacles or have there been any challenges for you? Specific you being a woman on board, a submarine with the integration of submarines kinda being still a relatively new thing. Um, I'm really happy to hear that you're engineer on board, uh, is woman. I think that's awesome and I'm really glad that she's been a great mentor for you and kind of trailblazing the way. Uh, but I do want to pass it over to you, um, to see it. Just kind of talk about, uh, some of the unique challenges or aspects there might be for being a female officer or a female sailor on board.

Speaker 3:

So personally I wouldn't say that I've had any challenges but there is a reality that there's some interactions that have a different spin them because I'm a female officer. So by that I mean that some of the conversations are a little bit tempered when I'm around some of the male fillers and you know, they kind of play this tip toe game of, of learning what your boundaries are. But as I'm, one of the officers on the opposite crew wrote in a proceedings article Lieutenant Kotlikoff, she mentioned that you also then as a female officer have a really unique position where you can set the tone and standard of professionalism on board. And that's like a very unique role in easy role for us to sell this based off kind of the trepidation that people have around us to begin with. But it's a really nice place to actually come from because it adds some varieties with the interactions that the wardroom has with the crew and you have an ability as a, as a female officer to step up and set that culture and set that tone. However, the, the bigger culture centers that I would give a lot of credit to are the junior enlisted sailors on board of the female variety. So we are the third boat, the Ohio to integrate these junior enlisted sailors both in engineering and then also a board of four though as well in some of the, the non non-nuclear crush, the non-nuclear AIDS. Um, we brought over sailors from the surface community who are at the first class petty officer level who can bring some of their technical expertise from there as well and have been integrating that to the crew and can also serve as mentors for the more junior, junior enlisted. Um, the nice thing is that the crew now has rotated mostly to personnel who went through qualifications with these female sailors. And because they've been together for so long and and went through those trials together, there's this really great and strong cohesion and a higher level ultimately of professionalism because it has changed the conversations and the culture of what the sailors discuss just socially and then both on watch as well. And then what I've really enjoyed too is that I, I consider myself to be part of the lady mafia onboard the seriously, the, the female sailors because we've, we've had some of these different experiences together. They feel really comfortable coming female officers and it's a unique window for me into the pulse of the heartbeat of the crew to have these sailors that are really trusting and talk to me about things that they might not necessarily say to my male counterparts just based off of cared experiences. So overall, you know, there've been issues with the Florida and some of the other boats in regards to female integration. I think the Ohio is really setting the standard for what a successful integration can look like. And we're really fortunate that we have both hard-charging female sailors, but then I also gave a ton of credit to our male sailors who have really been been supporting them in their qualifications and making sure that they feel comfortable to, it's a two way street and it's a Testament to the whole crew, not just to the ladies on board.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely and thank you so much for sharing that. I really appreciate it and thank you for being as high performing and hard charging as you are and continuing to set the standard. I mean that hasn't changed since I've known you at the Academy and so I really appreciate what you're doing and I really appreciate you taking the time to come talk about all of this and share all these stories. But I do have a couple more questions for you before we get you out of here. And the first is that the real question that everyone wants to know about a submarine officer. Are you any good at cribbage?

Speaker 3:

I am. Okay. A curve. I'm pretty bad at Caribbean but I never felt privileged prior to getting to submarine. But one day the captain did try me before leaving the wardroom after meal and told me that I had to play cribbage with him in the XO. And I think I got a stroke of beginner's luck because any reward out of that. So I'll have to do that once we report back for all crew training period. But

Speaker 1:

uh, that's awesome. And then do you have any specific things you'd like to bring with you for underways that you have? Any snacks, candies, little items that you specifically like to bring with you on underways?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so you're only allowed to eat hard candies in the engine room. So hard candies galore is the way to go for underway and set rot. Quite a number of Werther's and jolly ranchers, which makes me sound like an old person, but what I personally needed to get through. And then, um, submarines have more relaxed uniform standards underway, which is another great benefit of being part of the force. And you're allowed to wear seekers and you can wear underweight t-shirts. So people have all sorts of crazy patterns and colors going on. A lot of the guys were wearing Hawaiian shirts as we got closer to Pearl Harbor. That was fine. But I personally rocked and purple Nike's and that was my, my go to, cause I was always cold on board as well. It's freezing depending on where you are. We headed North before heading, heading South too. So while we were in up kind of near Alaska, I was super chili, so I definitely bundled up on way and Rockman D but

Speaker 1:

we also got to wear ponytails underway and the guy's got to grow their underway beards. That's a, a submarine pastimes that you had some gnarly looking facial hair going on for a lot of the guys. Yeah, some dirty, dirty, dirty mustaches and beards. I can't imagine that the dirty stash and Hawaiian shirt combo, that's not good.

Speaker 3:

Pretty glorious. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Okay. Uh, all right, well thank you so much. And uh, so whatever I bring forward Shipman on the podcast. I do have a lightning round of questions. So are you ready for these?

Speaker 3:

I'm ready for it.

Speaker 1:

All right, let's do it. Uh, first question is, what is your favorite spot on the yard?

Speaker 3:

Triton light a hundred percent. It's just a nice secluded spot to get away. Especially at the end of the run. Just have some downtime. Sit up by the pretty water. Yeah. Total fan.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. All right. Second question. You know, submarine food is notoriously pretty decent amongst the fleet, so we're going to talk about food now. The second is, what's your favorite meal from King hall?

Speaker 3:

Definitely above check. Affixing auto. But I'm going to date myself here. Pre sequestrations of kicks cream 2013 something different or better. It was higher quality. Higher quality meat. Crispier so fuck chicks. I'm a dope.

Speaker 1:

Don't throw that out of my face. I never got those. I was the first year I'd knew nothing different. I thought. I thought they were pretty good. Uh, all right. Uh, next question is who or what, um, was the biggest influence to your leadership style, uh, in the fleet that you can trace back to the Naval Academy?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. So I might have a little bit of an unconventional answer for this one. But for me it was actually my civilian professors. And so I'm just listing some of them off like Steven Roggie and Doug Wheeler from political science and has he broached from Arabic department, Ernie Tucker and John Limbert from the history department because they were people who recognize of the grind that I was doing in their classes and they owed me out, supported me, and really focused on my individual development and therefore facilitated my ability to go to graduate school. And had I not gone to the Naval Academy and had their direct support, I don't think that I would've ever pursued that opportunity. And so that notion of finding people who are working hard, giving them affirmation, supporting them in further development, that is something that has always stuck with me in that I will always try and pay forward to my sailors as they're doing the same for me.

Speaker 1:

Who, yeah. Uh, yeah. That's awesome. And it's also, uh, I appreciate you bringing that up because now I think it's something I've really talked about on the show was that at the Naval Academy there are both civilian and military professors. Uh, so you have permanent civilian staff, you have permanent military per staff. We call it PMP is permanent military professors. And then you also have, uh, junior officers who are literally just like rotating on a three year tour and come teach as well. So there's a large mixture of both civilian and military instructors, permanent and non-permanent. Uh, but that's really awesome that you had a civilian instructors that really made that big of an impact on you. That's super special. Um, all right. So I have to imagine, I don't know this for fact, that you're probably a pretty big reader with just how intelligent you are. I was wondering if you could share with us a couple of your favorite books or just literally singularly your favorite book.

Speaker 3:

Well, I've been, I've been reading a lot of reactor manuals as taking your life, but um, before my senior year I re-read Anthem by iron Rand. And that really wasn't just an impactful read for me because it focuses on individual power in critical thinking and how you can find that sense of individual worth from a community. Right. The Academy is so intensely focused on team building and I think sometimes that can breed over into a uniformity of thought. And so Anthem for me was just something that reaffirmed your ability to critically think within our structure that is as powerful as military in a find yourself worth.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. All right. Uh, two questions left. First, what is your greatest memory from your four years at the Naval Academy?

Speaker 3:

So I didn't mention this yet on the show and it would, I'd be remiss not to, but I would the DMV queen and I, I love DMV. I got to travel all over the place with them. We went to Ireland and my youngster year for the Navy Notre Dame game and we marched in parades like Mardi Gras and new Orleans and Gasparilla in Florida. We did Patriots day parade every year in Boston. So I love that. But it was so, so special to be core commander for the Centennial year for DMV. And then I just love doing football more times because we did a kind of special presentation at the very beginning of March on that year. And I'm not sure if they've continued doing it. I don't, I don't think that they do, but, um, that was just so special and I just remember like my mom coming to, you know, football games and like crying in the crowd because I was like your grandfather who was loved to have seen this and you know, that was just a really special recognition I think of like the hard work that I'd put into that organization to get to this group of people that I love so much and in a, in a special type performance, highlighting the history as well of, of that organization was incredibly special and it's something I'll always cherish.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. Way. Cool. Um, all right, final question. What advice would you give someone? So a large majority of our audience as well as perspective Mitchem and high school students that want to learn more, uh, in their families. What advice would you give someone kind of who's a candidate or who's interested in the Naval Academy about what they should consider when trying to decide whether or not the Naval Academy is the place for them.

Speaker 3:

I'll beat the same drum that I'm sure many before me have. And that you, you must focus on the holistic picture of who you are as a person, which means that good grades are not enough and being athletic is not enough. Um, kind of in the words of John wooden, you know, sports don't build character. They reveal it in everything that you do at your high school level should reflect that notion that the activities that you're doing should reflect a wholesome picture of your character. And that means that you're striving hard academically and that you are doing athletic things so that you're also engaging in the community and giving back to the, to the people that have supported you in your development. Because it really does take a village. So think about who you are as a person and what narrative you can fill in regards to yes. Self-promoting to get a spot on the team that is the Naval Academy. But ultimately you need to prove to the admissions officers how are you uniquely suited to give back to the Navy and to make it a better and stronger institution.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. Well, here's the thing. I'm a huge fan of anyone who will quote John wooden and Andrea, I am a huge fan of yours. I just want to say thank you so much for taking the time to come on to Academy, etc. And share your stories and your experiences, insight information regarding the summary community and your time at the Naval Academy. So thank you so much for taking the time to join us.

Speaker 3:

Well thank you. I'm a huge fan of yours as well and keep fighting the good fight Academy insider is a great project and I'm so proud of you for starting it and for bringing more people into this community that is the Naval Academy family.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. And for everyone listening out there, uh, thank you for taking the time to listen to the episode and I hope you'll have a great day. Thank you all for listening to the podcast and I hope you're able to learn a little bit about the process of becoming and actually being a submarine junior. Officer. Please leave me a review on iTunes and be sure to subscribe to the Academy and Saturday podcast. If you want to learn more about the United States Naval Academy, make sure to go check out my webpage, www.academy and[inaudible] dot com where I have tons of content providing you an inside perspective into the midstream and experience. All links discussed in the show are listed in the show notes, so if you want to check out Anthem Andrea's recommended book, make sure to check out the show notes and we'll provide a link to a copy of that. I'm grant Vermeer, the Academy insider. Thank you so much for letting me be your guide to the United States Naval Academy.