By U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communications Specialist Bill Steele, Navy Office of Community Outreach Public Affairs
PEARL HARBOR – A 2006 Northern Valley in Almena High School graduate and Logan, Kansas native is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard one of the world’s most advanced nuclear-powered fast attack submarines, USS Cheyenne.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Aubrey Thompson is a fire control technician serving aboard the Pearl Harbor-based submarine, one of 40 Los Angeles-class submarines making it the backbone of the submarine force.
A Navy fire control technician is responsible for ensuring the sub avoids colliding with other contacts and tracking other submarines and surface ships.
“It’s very interactive, you have to be keenly aware of your surroundings,” said Thompson.
With a crew of 130, this submarine is 360 feet long and weighs approximately 6,900 tons. A nuclear-powered propulsion system helps push the submarine through the water at more than 25 mph.
Attack submarines are designed to hunt down and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships; strike targets ashore with cruise missiles; carry and deliver Navy SEALs; carry out intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions; and engage in mine warfare. Their primary tactical advantage is stealth, operating undetected under the sea for long periods of time.
“Submarine sailors never cease to amaze me with their ability to complete complex missions in the world’s most challenging environments,” said Rear Adm. Fritz Roegge, Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. “Continued U.S. undersea superiority is not possible without their dedication, expertise and professionalism.”
According to Navy officials, because of the demanding environment aboard submarines, personnel are accepted only after rigorous testing and observation. Submariners are some of the most highly trained and skilled people in the Navy. The training is highly technical and each crew has to be able to operate, maintain, and repair every system or piece of equipment on board. Regardless of their specialty, everyone also has to learn how everything on the ship works and how to respond in emergencies to become “qualified in submarines” and earn the right to wear the coveted gold or silver dolphins on their uniform.
“You go out for long stretches of time and you get to know guys really well, so the camaderie is strong. You learn to love it,” Thompson said.
Challenging submarine living conditions actually build strong fellowship among the elite crew, Navy officials explained. The crews are highly motivated, and quickly adapt to changing conditions. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches, and drills.
“For me it boils down to making my family proud and serving my country,” Thompson said.