My Navy career began while I was in college at The University of Michigan studying engineering. With no money for tuition following my sophomore year, a family that was in no position to contribute financially, and a deep aversion to loans and debt, I was fortunate enough to be selected into the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate (NUPOC) Program for my last two years of college. While in this program I received monthly payments that were more than enough to cover my tuition, room and board, and buy my first car.
Immediately following graduation with my bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering and after three months at Office Candidate School where I earned my commission as an ensign, I entered the "nuclear pipeline" which included six months of nuclear power school in Orlando; six months at an operational reactor in Balston Spa, New York; and three months at Submarine Office Basic Course (SOBC) in Groton, Connecticut. After all of that, and following five years on a ballistic missile submarine and another two years as an officer recruiter back at my alma mater, I was a lieutenant with a spouse and two kids at a crossroads in my life in deciding whether to make a career of the Navy of enter the civilian workforce.
In the end, and in what was one of the most difficult decisions of my life, we decided to end our Navy adventure and begin another somewhere else. So with that decision, I resigned my commission and started looking for work outside of the military.
For me, my civilian employment dream was to work for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, a relatively small government agency whose mission is to provide federal oversight of the 100 or so commercial nuclear reactors in the United States, ensuring that they are operated in a manner which protects the health and safety of the public and the environment. Having operated reactors while in the Navy this was, on face value, a perfect fit.
I was fortunate to discover that the NRC was hiring, and after applying for a vacancy was interviewed for a position at one of the NRC's regional offices just outside of Chicago and within driving distance of where my wife and I grew up in Michigan.
I can count as one of the best moments of my life the phone call I received that offered me the position that I had interviewed for; which was only possible because of what I had accomplished through the training and experience gained while serving in the U.S. Navy.
That was almost 25 years ago. The kids are grown and out on their own and my wife and I both plan to retire in a few short years. As I look back on our years together, I can without hesitation say that my decision to join the U.S. Navy at the age of 20 and to start a second career with the NRC about nine years after that were two of the best I have ever made and can think of nothing else that I would rather have done.
God Bless America!