Nuke School Stories

Got to thinking about how Nuclear Power School was ran back when I went through in the mid-80s, and thought it'd be interesting to see how it's changed over the years. This post will focus on my memories of the Enlisted side (I was single then, so I have more interesting stories from that time) but feel free to put in your inputs on the Officer experience as well.

I got to Orlando in May 1984, right before we classed up. Back then, all Nukes went to boot camp and "A" School in Great Lakes, and I had my "stash" duty there while all my friends went down for their useless "wait to class up" make-work jobs in Orlando. My friends had hooked up with a group of women from the Recruit Training Command, so I got assigned a girlfriend from the least desirable member of that group. She was a Company Commander at the RTC (an AZ2, if I remember right), and was just finishing up with a company. We went out on the town on the night her girls had their Pass-in-Review, and they kept sending champagne over to our table. I had told my friends where the girl recruits were going to be that night, so they had easy pickings. They appreciated it a lot. The CC never let me come over to her house; she said it was because her three roommates (also CCs) were militant lesbians, and she had to "pretend" to be one in order to live there. (She estimated that about half of the women in the Navy who were past their first enlistment in the mid-80s were lesbians.) We stopped dating after a month or so, and I later heard that she was being discharged for homosexuality. I ran into later, and she said one of her recruits had accused her of coming on to her (which she denied) and said she wasn't fighting the charge because they were giving her an Honorable Discharge, and she was going to be forced out for medical reasons anyway. She ended up marrying another guy from my Nuke School class (8406).

When I got to Orlando and went to Cocoa Beach, that was the first time I'd ever seen an ocean. I think there are a surprisingly large number of Sailors who never saw the sea before they joined the Navy.

They had stopped the Carter experiment with female Nukes by the time I got there, but they still had some female Nukes running around on shore duty. There was one who everyone had to see for some sort of radiological screening, and everyone -- I mean everyone -- talked about how big of a bitch she was. When I saw her, sure enough, she was a bitch for no reason at all. I thought about how sad it must be to go through life being such a jerk.

Back then, Enlisted Nuke School was divided into 14 sections -- 3 for ETs, 4 for EMs, and 7 for MMs. They assigned you to a section based on your Nuclear Field Qualification Test (which I think is now called the Navy Advanced Placement Test) score, so the highest scoring ETs were in Section 14, MMs in Section 13, EMs in 12. Sections 1 and 2, as I remember, were for the lowest-scoring MMs, and those sections frequently merged about halfway through due to attrition. Back then, they did most of the attrition (I think it was about 1/3) in Nuke School, which meant the guys who failed out ended up having a hard time moving into a new rate, since they were already a PO3 (or, frequently, an ETSN/EMFN/MMFN, because they tended to mast guys in conjunction with disenrollment). By the time I got back for Officer NPS (8904), I'm pretty sure they had instituted the Nuke Field "A" School in Orlando, and they did most of the attrition there, before the students start Nuke School proper.

They tended to give less homework and mandatory study time to the guys in the higher-numbered sections, so my group of Section 14 geeks tended to have a lot of time to be stupid. We hung out at a bar called "O'Brothers" about a mile off base on the main drag (I think it was Colonial). They had a 2-for-1 Happy Hour from 5-7 every night, and we'd order 3 or 4 extra drinks just before it ended. (That six months marks the drunkest period of my life.) They had a Breathalyzer in the bar, and we used to let whoever blew highest drive back to base. It was a different time back then; I'm glad we, as a society, have gotten smarter about that.

If you're interested in what Nuke School is like now, you can get an "official" version from this video that's a few years old:

What good Nuke School stories do you guys have? And would anyone who's been there more recently like to share how it's different now?

Bell-ringer 1251 10 Oct: From the comments, here's a new blog by an Ensign currently at Nuke School.