Hey Reddit,

Figured i'd jump on and answer some questions about my job and see what misconceptions there are out there. I am a Navy Electronics Technician (Nuclear Power) Senior Chief Petty Officer. I have served on 3 different classes of submarines in my 18 1/2 years of active duty. I am a Navy Nuke, so any questions about the recruiting process as I remember it and those schools are fair game as well. I've been stationed in Georgia, South Carolina, Idaho, Washington, and Hawaii, and have visited Japan, Guam, Diego Garcia, the Seychelles, and Singapore.

Outside of the Navy I'm a cybersecurity enthusiast and a bit of a political junkie, looking to make my mark in politics for Washington State once I retire from the Navy.

Here's a picture of us at the North Pole with our British compatriots!

Comments: 335 • Responses: 79  • Date: 

largenincharge6923 karma

Is your jam dive buddy blonde or brunette?

Actual_Tom39 karma

I thought I said I wasn't discussing classified information.

UdderSuckage15 karma

Which sub class is your favorite and why is it the Seawolf?

Actual_Tom15 karma

Seawolf class is very modern, and is a very robust submarine. Also, as we like to say, the fastest, quietest, deepest diving, most heavily armed submarine in the nation's arsenal.

TheNaziSpacePope4 karma

How do you feel about it being no faster, deeper diving, or heavily armed than its Russian counterparts?..or there being only three of them.

Actual_Tom3 karma

I feel like we need more. As for the comparison to their Russian counterparts, I’d say that’s not entirely accurate.

Ilyias0337 karma

how often does a Red October reference slip out?

Actual_Tom10 karma

Not often enough.

reaper17211 karma

What about Down Periscope?

Actual_Tom5 karma

Sometimes. We loves those movies, but tend to watch a lot of stuff. Last time I was underway we watched all of Letterkenny.

EuropeanWannabe176 karma

Can a nuclear rod have a meltdown, like Fukushima or Chernobyl? If so, do they train you for what to do if it does?

Actual_Tom16 karma

The chances of a reactor plant meltdown are extremely miniscule due to the design differences between reactor plants like ours and plants like Chernobyl and Fukushima. But yes, it could possibly happen. The Navy's Nuclear Power Program prides itself on over 50 years of safe reactor operation, and it's through our rigorous training program that we've achieved that.

ETR3SS6 karma

Don't forget about the sacrifices of the souls of nubs made to Lord Rickover.

Actual_Tom4 karma

All souls get sacrificed to our fearless leader.

EuropeanWannabe175 karma

50 years is pretty impressive. Thanks for your service, by the way!

Actual_Tom4 karma

Thank you!

olddoc12 karma

That's a wonderful safety record. The navy must have some great land-based reactor support to keep you going.

Actual_Tom7 karma

Not really. I mean, we have people on shore to help accomplish some of the maintenance (a very small part), and we have the designers to answer technical questions when we can't figure them out, and then the squadron staff the submarine in question belongs to provides some form of mentoring and guidance. That's the role I am currently filling.

danieltigerx5 karma

How long did it take you to adjust to the pressure down there? Also thank you for your service.

Actual_Tom9 karma

Great question, and thanks for asking. There is no pressure really to adjust to, honestly. The submarine's hull allows us to maintain normal atmospheric pressure inside. This will vary slightly less than and slightly above atmospheric pressure as we use air and bring more onboard into our air storage banks, but it's not like scuba diving or any big adjustments like that.

danieltigerx5 karma

Okay that's pretty cool. I'm not sure why but I compared it to flying. You said air storage banks...does that mean you have air delivered while you're at dock or while submerged and in action?

Actual_Tom3 karma

We have air compressors on board that compress air into storage flasks. We can then bleed some of that air out into our people spaces while underwater. Most times we will bring in air when we are surfaced, or when we're near the surface.

Pasngas425 karma

What was the biggest news story you missed while being deployed?

Actual_Tom23 karma

Wow, what a great question -

To be honest, i'm not sure! I was in Boot Camp for 9/11/2001, and didn't understand what had really happened until after. I didn't see the footage until after I was out, about a month later.
My dad passed away while I was on one deployment. My uncle another. My son was born during one. The biggest things to adjust to are the things that affect you directly - the loss of a loved one, the road construction project that finishes while you're gone, the business that closes.
The new stories always happen. The conflicts in Syria from 2012-2013 were probably the biggest new stories that happened while I was deployed.

Trevallion3 karma

Hah! I got out ages ago, but I started power school the month before 9/11. I bet we were at NNPTC at the same time.

Actual_Tom3 karma

Definitely were then.

MidiKaey5 karma

What’s the longest you’ve been on a sub at one time?

Actual_Tom19 karma

Well, that really depends on your meaning. I spent over 90 days completely submerged before, without surfacing. In 2018, I spent 323 days away from my homeport. Some of those days were in foreign countries, some were under the polar ice, and some were doing missions vital to our national security.

MidiKaey3 karma


Damn. What was the hardest adjustment for that?

Actual_Tom15 karma

Honestly, the biggest thing ahead of time is to make sure you have stuff to occupy your mind during the free time you have. The 100+ other people you're going to be with are your family and your life for that amount of time. You have to place your life in their hands and vice versa. I read a lot to pass the time, I did a lot of work with my guys, teaching them, and I took up writing for a hobby for a while.
You're very isolated, sometimes not even getting to send emails off the submarine back home, so it really is just you and your crew against the ocean.

MidiKaey9 karma

So this lockdown going on right now is easy like a Sunday morning in summer for you.

Do you find it difficult to adjust when you come back?

Actual_Tom16 karma

It's always a huge adjustment coming home. Families that have learned how to do everything without you, things in your home being in different places, kids being older, stuff that has happened in the news.. yeah. It's a big adjustment every time, especially after the longer deployments.

This lockdown is a little different, as now, in addition to doing as much of my job from home as I can, I'm also home-schooling my three kids. So it's different, but the social aspects do, in a lot of ways, feel like I'm back on a submarine.

MidiKaey5 karma

I guess I never thought about what it feels like to come back and see how everything runs independently without you.

I’m sure your family and friends are so happy to see you and have you around when you come home, but does it make you feel...out of place?

Actual_Tom10 karma

Absolutely it does. For quite a while. Just things like not knowing what kids are doing in school now, or where certain kitchen utensils go, for the first week you definitely can feel like a stranger in your own home.

MidiKaey2 karma

Is there anything that would make the transition easier when you returned?

Sorry I keep bombarding you with questions.

Actual_Tom9 karma

Just to be treated like everything is normal, really. We caution our sailors to try and take a step back - the wives have learned how to function without us and have been doing it for a while now, so we need to slowly re-integrate ourselves. Being treated normally is the biggest thing. Also, understanding there's a lot we do that we can't talk about, so not asking us questions we can't answer helps as well.

VicMustoWallPaperMan5 karma

Active Army here, always been fascinated by submarines; what kind of exercise facilities are on a submarine? Any pull up bars? Free weights? Treadmill?

Actual_Tom5 karma

What he said.

VicMustoWallPaperMan3 karma

Ever read Blind Man’s Bluff?

Actual_Tom5 karma

Multiple times.

El_Pizz4 karma

Hello thanks for your service and doing this. Did you ever hear/see any ocean wildlife down there? Any whales/dolphins or a giant kraken? Maybe a talking clownfish looking for their son?

Actual_Tom9 karma

We definitely hear ocean wildlife in sonar all the time, but there's no windows on submarines, so no actual seeing them!

monkeywelder4 karma

Can you hook me up with a case of red bug juice and a submarine sweater XXL?

Actual_Tom2 karma

Your best bet for a submarine sweater is eBay. As far as the bug juice, nowadays it's just crystal light. That's easy to get.

monkeywelder1 karma

Ok on the sweaters. Are they still available at Submart?

Actual_Tom1 karma

No, they're not. They're remaking them for order through the supply system but haven't been manufactured yet.

DeadMoonKing3 karma

So, I'm kind of curious why someone would choose to do their service on a submarine as it seems like it takes a whole lot of mental fortitude to do.
Are there some pay benefits? Easier to go up in rank? Just want a challenge?
I'm sure people's reasons vary, but what are some of the common ones?

Actual_Tom8 karma

For me, I volunteered for it right away, before I really knew what it was like.

That being said, as a Navy Nuke, your options are submarines or aircraft carriers. I love how tight-knit the crew on a submarine is. You'll never see that on a carrier. They have 5,000 people.We have 150. I knew everyone, and depended on all of them. That being said, you do get a little more pay, but there's a lot more sacrifice. We do cooler stuff though, too. And in general, yes, easier to go up in rank too.

DeadMoonKing1 karma

Interesting. Thank you very much for your detailed reply!

Actual_Tom2 karma


DeadlyDancingDuck3 karma

What do you do in your free time in the sub? What do you have access to?

Actual_Tom5 karma

We bring our laptops and phones (obviously no internet, so download what you want ahead of time). As submarines, cribbage is a big tradition. Our recreation committee normally has purchased a couple Playstations and a library of games for the crew to play on. Normally everyone brings a hard drive with TV shows, movies, and other media (games, books, etc) for people to share and enjoy. A lot of people work out.

For me on one deployment, it was an hour on an elliptical every single day while I watched a TV show. I watched 4 seasons of Game of Thrones during that deployment. During my last one I watched a few TV shows, beginning to end.
Oh - and lots of music videos.

nsfwdreamer3 karma

Is there no internet because of the security risk, or are you just underwater too much?

Actual_Tom7 karma

There is no internet because we are too far underwater.

nsfwdreamer1 karma

Thank you! I really enjoyed your IAmA.

Actual_Tom3 karma

Thanks! I enjoyed it as well!

TheQuickSilver0993 karma

Hey Senior Cheif!

I'm an ET student in prototype right now, and I was wondering: is there anything I can do right now to increase my chances of getting on the Carter?


Actual_Tom9 karma

You would need to reach out to the special projects detailer right now and ask if you can volunteer. Send me a message if you want their contact info. Carter is volunteer only, and we always need people in the squadron. You would have to be able to qualify for a TS/SCI clearance. Send me your information and I can reach out to him too.

duttish2 karma

What's special about the Carter?

Actual_Tom1 karma

Google it. I can’t really talk about the Carter.

monkeywelder3 karma

Are all submarines nuclear?

Actual_Tom11 karma

All US Navy manned submarines are nuclear-powered. Not all submarines are nuclear.

Owlstorm2 karma

What kind of excercise is popular onbard?

Actual_Tom5 karma

There's typically one treadmill, an exercise bike or two, an elliptical. Some submarines have a rowing machine (which I loved), and a versa-climber (which I did NOT love). Then an assortment of resistance bands and free weights. Just think of whatever exercises you can do in a space the size of a typical bathroom. No room to jump around or really spread out.

VicMustoWallPaperMan2 karma

lol; so no deadlifting?

Actual_Tom2 karma

Yeah, not so much.

lookingrightone2 karma

[question] how does it feels when submarine goes underneath and comes out of water ?

Actual_Tom5 karma

lookingrightone, it really depends on the angle at which we do. Most times it's very gradual. It also depends on the weather on the surface. There are times the submarine is surfaced and is rocking back and forth quite a bit. There are times where it's smooth sailing. But when we come out of the water quickly, called an emergency surfacing, that feels a bit like a roller coaster ride where you feel it in your stomach as you near the top.

SpiderSchwein2 karma

Which movie/show set onboard a sub do people think is the best and/or the most accurate?

Actual_Tom18 karma

Accurate in what way? For the attitudes of the people on board, definitely Down Periscope.

Zomg_A_Chicken2 karma

Have you seen the episode of The Simpsons where Homer joins the Navy?

Actual_Tom6 karma

I have yes.

Zomg_A_Chicken2 karma

Is it nuclear or nucular?

Actual_Tom3 karma


Rokwind2 karma

how deep have you personally gone? And while at that depth what interesting things happened? For instance, as an example, I took a bag of potato chips down with me on a scuba dive, at 66feet it had crumpled a bit and at 99 feet it crumpled even more. it was a kinda cool, i even tried this in reverse by taking a bag of chips into high altitude.

thank you for serving

Actual_Tom4 karma

I can't really discuss the depths we've operated at, but the pressure inside the submarine doesn't change - see my atmosphere answer above. You may be able to google for some answers. We did put some styrofoam cups in a torpedo tube and exposed it to sea pressure. They get very small. And thanks!

AskAboutMyCoffee2 karma

Describe your reward from the other sailors when you received your dolphins?

Actual_Tom2 karma

A congratulations and a hearty-handshake, along with the pride from knowing they trusted me with their lives while beneath the waves.

IvanaTinkle2 karma

(sorry to jump in again - no more tacking?)

Actual_Tom1 karma


brocktacular2 karma

Are you able to tell us what classes of sub you've served on? Thanks for this AMA!

Actual_Tom3 karma

Absolutely! I've served on Los Angeles Class, Ohio Class (Guided Missile, not Ballistic Missile), and Seawolf Class. I've also operated the reactor of a James Madison class former ballistic missile submarine.

NoHopeOnlyDeath2 karma

You’re a molecule of seawater. How would you light my rack light?

(Sorry, senior....couldn’t resist)

Actual_Tom4 karma

Yeah, not posting exam material on here. ;)

alexefi2 karma

hello.Thanks for doing this ama. As tall person being on WW2 era subs(in museums) i did see how small they are. Are modern nuclear subs also cheap with overhead space, and tall people dont usually serve on subs?

Actual_Tom2 karma

Occasionally we see the really tall people, but yes, still cramped in the overhead. Not like the WW2 subs though.

Zowwiewowwie2 karma

Would you believe that we have 26 mutual friends on a different social media platform?

Actual_Tom3 karma

I would absolutely believe that. Submarine force is a small community.

didnotbuyWinRar2 karma

6 and out EMN(SS) here, I just have one question for you.

Would you rather fight 10 duck sized horses, or a horse sized duck?

Actual_Tom2 karma

10 duck sized horses, of course.

tx_creek1 karma

Does a hurricane have any effect on a submarine under water?
Is there a limit on how many times a submarine operator can dive?

Actual_Tom1 karma

If we are close enough to the surface, yes. Typically we'll avoid significantly bad weather, but it just depends.

No limits on how many times we can dive.

lookingrightone1 karma

[question] have you ever been in red alert situation like threaten or war while you are underneath??

Actual_Tom3 karma

Yes. Not outright war, but yes.

GGJallDAY1 karma

Is it true part of your shift on duty is spent looking at the farthest point away possible on the ship to prevent nearsightedness?

Actual_Tom3 karma

Nope. There are plenty of places where you can see some distance away.

makingkevinbacon1 karma

Is there some way to help deal with the cramped spaces or is that somewhat of a prerequisite for being assigned to a duty? Do naval members have a say in the ship/craft they're deployed on?

Actual_Tom4 karma

Depending on the class of submarine, some are more cramped than others. It's somewhat of a prerequisite for volunteering for submarine service, understanding that you could be in those cramped environments. Our beds are very small.

We don't have much of a say in what ship we deploy on. There's a process where a list is shown to us of what we are eligible for and we list them in order of our preferences, and then the personnel manager, known as a detailer, picks the one that he needs us to go to.

drewm9161 karma

One of my coworkers told me former NBA player David Robinson (7'1") served on a submarine. My very limited research makes it sound like he actually spent his service on a submarine base...big difference. Do you happen to know one way or another?

And as others have said, thanks for your service!

Actual_Tom1 karma

If he only did two years, did not serve on submarines. The training alone for officers is 15 months.

DrHugh1 karma

Why is the goat locker called that? How much room is in there for how many people, compared to the regular crew quarters?

Actual_Tom2 karma

The term goat locker takes its origins from wooden ship sailing times, when goats were kept aboard ship. ... The quarters for the goat were traditionally in the Chief Petty Officer mess, which inherited the moniker "goat locker".

Depends on the submarine class, but my favorite had 12 beds, or racks, inside, plus a single bathroom (one shower, one toilet, two sinks), and a small lounge area. Not all Chiefs sleep in the Chief's Mess (normally about 15 Chiefs on board)

FlyingDarkKC1 karma

In your bio, you list Idaho. What's in Idaho for a nuclear officer in the US Navy?

Actual_Tom1 karma

ROTC Unit at the University of Idaho. There’s also a Navy base in northern Idaho for acoustic testing of Navy ships and submarines. Like models of them. Google it, the place is awesome.

PatrickGaumond1 karma

Have you ever played any submarine sims? If so which one did you think captured the operation of a sub the best? ( in terms of maneuvering it, physics of sonar, simulating how target acquistion works, etc)

Actual_Tom3 karma

I haven’t found one very accurate to present day, but for World War 2 submarines, Silent Service for the NES is extremely accurate.

TheNaziSpacePope1 karma

Not sure if this is quite the right question for you, but how significant are generational advances in submarines?

With tanks for example there is little functional difference between a T-72B and a T-90A, but with fighters there is an absolutely massive difference between an F-15 and F-22, and with rifles again there is no real difference between even an M16A1 and M4A1.

Actual_Tom1 karma

In the nuclear power plant, the advances are certainly slow. This makes it easy though for someone who serves on one type to come serve on another. That said, they do make small improvements. In our tactical systems, the improvements are vast.

browster1 karma

Which do submariners consider the best submarine movie, Das Boot; Hunt for Red October; or Crimson Tide, and why?

Actual_Tom12 karma

If we have to keep it to those three, Hunt for Red October probably for the realism. Das Boot is awesome, just very long. Crimson Tide is just so far out to lunch that most of us really don't care for it.

browster2 karma

Thanks. If you want to mention another, please go ahead. Those were the only three I could think of off the top of my head.

Actual_Tom10 karma

I'm rather fond of Down Periscope. It's a comedy, but totally jives with the personality of many of us.

Frostgen1 karma

Do you need perfect 20/20 vision to be a navy submariner?

Actual_Tom2 karma

Nope, just correctable! Glasses work fine.

wet-paint1 karma

What does it smell like down there?

Actual_Tom3 karma

Not good. The chemicals we used to maintain the atmosphere definitely leave a smell. You get used to it, until you step foot outside. Then you really notice it.

shaikshahir661 karma

Has the submarine ever been attacked by whales, shark or anything other animal?

Actual_Tom2 karma

Polar bear when surfaced through the ice. Sometimes a shark tries to take a bite. That’s about it.

ImTheGodOfAdvice1 karma

Has there ever been a “holy shit this might be bad” moment where alarms went off and something was wrong? I have a fear of drowning so I’d be far more scared to be on a sub than even in space, so thank you for what you do. And are there days off where you don’t do anything? I hear it’s a lot of alternating day and night between the crew.

Actual_Tom5 karma

Yes, a few times we've had some things go bad. That's why we train so extensively. The crew snapped into action and did their jobs. There are no days off out to sea. 8 hours of standing watch, 8 hours of off time to do qualifications, maintenance, training, etc., and 8 hours to sleep.

somedaypilot2 karma

When did they switch to 8s instead of 6s?

Actual_Tom3 karma

Sleep study came out in 2013 or so suggesting it. Didn’t take long before it was mandated for fatigue.

GGJallDAY1 karma

Ever get closterphobic? How do you handle it?

Actual_Tom3 karma

Nope. If we did, we wouldn't be able to serve on submarines medically.

GGJallDAY1 karma

Where can I get one of those awesome double neck knit sweaters sailors always have?

Actual_Tom2 karma

eBay. Or maybe an Army/Navy Surplus store.

DroolingSlothCarpet1 karma

What's one job on the boat that's not yours but you wish was? And, why?

Actual_Tom3 karma

Honestly, I'd love to have been a submarine officer. To be more involved in the tactical aspects of the submarine vice keeping the engineering plant running I think would be really cool.

Timthemedic1 karma

What made you volunteer for that as opposed to something else? Did you consider other branches, or did you know exactly what you wanted to do?

Actual_Tom4 karma

My dad was Navy. I wanted to do that. Honestly though, the job field wasn’t what I originally picked. They swayed me with money.

[deleted]1 karma

Do you think there guys on patrol right now that have no idea about Corona virus or what's going on in the news today?

Actual_Tom1 karma

Not anymore. It’s been going on too long. At least for coronavirus.

[deleted]2 karma

Do you think some people found out about Corona virus upon their return home? Would be a shock to come home to.

Actual_Tom1 karma

Absolutely they did, and absolutely it was. They didn’t understand the real impact until they were home.

[deleted]2 karma

One last question, do you work on a boomer or fast attack sub? I'm a merchant sailor (engineer) and I get my own cabin, couldn't even fathom sharing a bunk with someone like on a fast attack sub.

Actual_Tom1 karma

I’m not on any now. But I was on a fast attack sub.

live_undead861 karma

How many people are operating in a submarine and what are their jobs? In movies like Das Boot, I always wondered why there are so many people and what they are all doing? Thank you!

Actual_Tom2 karma

Sure. There are Yeoman, who handle our administrative paperwork. Sonar Technicians, who listen to what's out there. Fire Control Technicians, who plot solutions to contacts (other ships and submarines). Navigation ETs, who handle electronics navigation equipment and plot the position of the ship, Radiomen, handle communications, ITs, who handle the shipboard Local Area Network, the different engineering rates (Mechanics, Electricians, and Electronics Technicians) who keep the engineering equipment (nuclear reactor, steam systems, water production systems, air conditioning, etc.) all functioning. Then there are the logistic specialists who handle our ordering of food and parts, and our culinary specialists who handle cooking our food. Additionally, there are torpedomen who handle the torpedos and small arms aboard. There may be other specialists brought on for different mission sets. All told, there are normally around 150 people onboard.

blue-and-gold103 karma

Man, doc is always forgot about.

Actual_Tom1 karma

I knew I’d forget one or two. Doc is the best!

live_undead861 karma

Wow, thanks for that extensive answer. Really helps understanding how things work onboard

Actual_Tom1 karma

Absolutely! Each division of people isn't too big (Electricians and Mechanics are about 15 each), but we all have jobs to do!

RandomLeavings1 karma

I heard US Navy personnel who serve on submarines prefer to be called subMARiner rather than SUBmariner. Is this a common sentiment?

Actual_Tom2 karma

Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of back and forth here but this is generally true.

Actual_Tom1 karma

Well, that really depends on where you stand. You’re welcome to view my thoughts at

vulcandeathwatch1 karma

Can I get a charge?

Actual_Tom1 karma

Not sure what you’re asking here.

vulcandeathwatch1 karma


Actual_Tom1 karma

Oh. Now I get the context. That’s not really submarining, that’s navy. And sure, but not here.

1320Fastback1 karma

How many Pings do you need?

Actual_Tom4 karma

Why, a single ping, of course.

Ameisen1 karma

Do you actually use 360 controllers to control things?

Actual_Tom3 karma

The latest class, the Virginia-class, does indeed use a 360 controller to control one of its photonics masts.

Ameisen3 karma

When will you upgrade to an Xbox One Elite controller? Just imagine how much better you'll be against other gamepad-equipped submarines!

Actual_Tom1 karma

Great question. That’s not my area of expertise so I couldn’t tell you!

FlyingDarkKC1 karma

Given the unique conditions that Submariners work in, is a psychological evaluation conducted to assess mental health fitness?

Actual_Tom1 karma

Yes, we undergo a special health screening to determine our validity for submarines.