The Legend Of The Midnight EOOW

I just got back today from taking my daughter back to college, which means I drove through the part of Idaho I lived in when I was stationed at the Naval Reactors Facility at what is now known as the Idaho National Laboratory. As I was driving down I-15 between Blackfoot and Pocatello, and wondering how many times I'd ridden down that road before, I started thinking about my experiences at "The Site". Specifically, I started thinking about The Midnight EOOW.

The Midnight EOOW wasn't just one person -- it was a good portion of the officer students that were going through "prototype" training in Idaho. What made Idaho different from the other prototype sites was the distance you had to travel to get back to where you were living -- unless you lived in Blackfoot (which no one did) it was at least 75 minutes on the bus each way. On top of the 12 hour days that students did, students were frequently expected to put in extra time -- the dreaded "plus fours". When you did that, it didn't make sense to ride the bus home, so they provided a bunkroom for students to sleep in. There was a separate bunkroom for officers; someone not familiar with the Nuclear Navy might think this was just because officers are always supposed to sleep in quarters away from enlisted men -- the "9 man" bunkroom on LA-class boats is proof that this isn't a requirement. The real reason they provided a separate officer bunkroom was so the enlisted guys wouldn't laugh at The Midnight EOOW.

What made someone a "Midnight EOOW"? Well, as the officer students started standing watch in Maneuvering, it was a pretty intense learning experience. You had to stand some number of training watches prior to a "Final Evaluated Watch", which was a make-or-break casualty period in which the student was evaluated by a board of two instructors and a Naval Reactors guy. The process was so intense that the young Ensigns would literally spend each night dreaming of standing watch in Maneuvering. Those with a tendency to talk in their sleep would start screaming out orders in the bunkroom, much to the amusement (and annoyance) of everyone else in there. These were the Midnight EOOWs -- some say that, as you're driving down the highway past the now decommissioned NRF, you can still hear their cries on a cold, windless night: "Very Well, Electrical Operator!"