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Why Did I Choose to do NUPOC and Submarines?

How I found the NUPOC Program in an effort to marry my engineering education with a thirst for adventure.

Keegan Leary
Keegan Leary

When I joined the Navy, I did so in an effort to match my electrical engineering studies with a job that satisfies a thirst for adventure I had in my 20's.  I didn't want to always live thinking "I could have done that" and I was working a pretty boring internship in semiconductor design at the time which led me to explore career opportunies outside of what was popular for electrical engineering undergrads at the time.

In college, I was very involved in UCLA's outdoor adventure club, worked two jobs for fun and beer money, and was also in a fraternity.  I checked out the Army ROTC program but quickly realized that morning workouts and weekend drill were not high on my priority list.  I investigated a Tank Officer program offered by the Marine Corps but didn't quite feel that the Marine Corps was the right match for me.  If the move Fury was already out by then, maybe events would have turned out differently, just look at the hair on Brad Pitt.

On top of all that, I have family history with the military.  My grandfather, most notably, was a Navy pilot in WWII and the Korean War.  He started in air-sea rescue flying a sea plane and eventually found himself in helicopters.   I remember as a kid always being fascinated by his stories of life in the Navy, and of the plaques and pictures decorating his home office.  My father was an Air Force dentist and took advantage of the Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP), which paid for 100% of his dental school.  In exchange, he drilled teeth of Airmen stationed in England for 3 years and then was free to open his own practice back in my hometown of Menlo Park, CA.

While I was subjected to military stories growing up, I was not well versed on what the Navy did.  I didn't know what Officer vs. Enlisted was.  I didn't know that the Navy had positions in Engineering, Law, and Medicine.  I never really connected that my dad ACTUALLY was a dentist in the Air Force.  My grandfather died the year before I started considering my military options and my dad's experience as a dentist was very different from the program's that I was looking at.

That's plenty to say that I was pretty much starting from a knowledge bank of zero.

What got me was the NVIP trip.  Unique to the NUPOC program, the Navy will send prospective applicants to San Diego, CA (for west coast schools) or King's Bay, GA (east coast schools) to tour an active surface ship and submarine.  Due to availability, my trip was to Bremerton, WA where the Navy ballistic nuclear submarine (SSBN) base is located.  This was just fine as my best friend's parents lived there so I figured it could be an opportune vists.

Here's a funny email to my recruiter I dug up when reflecting on my own recruitment process (email dated Nov 30, 2009).

Hey <redacted>,

I filled out the application for commission.  Have a look at it.  I
did not fill out the employment section as I was hoping we could
attach a copy of my resume?  I feel like I have filled that
information out 100 times now.  Please look over my personal
statement.  Is there anything specifically that the Navy is looking
for in an application for commission?

My NASIS is just about done.  Still resolving some addresses and
middle names.  The program is quite finicky.  anything else I need to
do?  I have all my test scores and some other paper work here for
you.  We can meet before I leave for Winter Break.  Not this week but
the next.  My finals are done WED DEC 9 and I will be here until that
Friday.  So i was thinking that thursday would be nice.

What is the situation with the Seattle trip?  My goal would be to go
and check out the submarine and spend some time with the officers,
then go visit some family up there.  Can I bring a pair of skis on the
flight?  Will it be a military or commercial flight?

I have been doing a bit of research and have narrowed my hopes to Fast
Attack Subs.  Are my chances good?  What are they recruiting like
right now?

I was also curious of some on-shore job examples you would know of.  
You mentioned that a lot of folks tend to do some on-shore duty when
their sea tours are up.  Can you offer up maybe 5 examples of jobs I
can expect there?  Or places to work?  You mentioned that one can
choose based on location or job activity.  I am still curious about
this aspect of the Navy.

Thanks for the help - hope your holidays are joyful,
Keegan Leary

Can't believe I asked to bring some skis 🤣.  But hey, powder snow would have been worth it.

Back on topic.  I stepped aboard the submarine and was immediately entranced by the screens, pipes, and controls that were seemingly everywhere.  Nuclear submarines are true engineering marvels.  Shoutout to Admiral Rickover for making it all happen.  I asked a lot of questions of the sailors on board.  Stuff like:

"What is your biggest regret?"

"Why did you join?"

"What's the coolest thing you've done in the Navy?"

I got a lot of good answers, and a lot of sour ones.  I distictly remember one officer telling me that he was bummed he missed a lot of his friend's weddings.  this response surprised me a little.  As a 20 year old kid, I hadn't really considered the prospect of my friends getting married.  5 years was feeling like a heavy commitment, yet here I am more than 10 years later very happy with my decision and all the places that the Navy has taken me.

That tour cemented my decision to join NUPOC and go for submarines.  I came home and told my parents about my choice.  I also told my friends, and made them promise not to get married for the next 5 years or so.  I'm a natural at risk mitigation.  (Note: I haven't had to miss a signifcant wedding during my time in the Navy).

My recrutiment process took about 4-5 months.  My MEPS visit was November 18 2009 and I passed my DC interview in March 2010.

Deployment reception 2015
Navy

Keegan Leary

10 years in the Navy as a Nuclear Submarine Officer. Soon to be be Naval Reservist. Fitness, Books, Cooking, and Coding.