Thursday, March 1, 2012

Machinist Mate to Assistant Reactor Officer

By Cmdr. George Floyd
 I'm the Assistant Reactor Officer. For the most part my job is a lot of administration, everything from ensuring qualifications are recorded, making sure boards are scheduled, and ensuring junior officers meet their timelines for their professional nuclear engineering examination. I also serve as the senior supervisor for the watch in the propulsion plant spaces to make sure that safety and the watch standing principles are followed.  I interact with all of the different agencies that oversee naval nuclear power to make sure they get all of the documentation that they need.  I make sure  that we are running our program according to the various instructions that govern how naval nuclear power is supposed to be run and it's well documented.

Naval nuclear power is technically demanding and technically challenging in a lot of regards. Unfortunately, what I think happens is,  a lot of young minorities shy away from the math and science fields for whatever reason; maybe they don't feel they'll do well or they're not encouraged to pursue those avenues. The sky is the limit. I would love to see a program developed that prepares our young minority students and women as well, to do well and maybe consider naval nuclear power as a profession and as a career.
I'm originally from Orange, Tx. a town that literally borders Texas and Louisiana. Growing up, I wouldn't call us poor but we weren't wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. My parents by no means lavished us with gifts. If we got one gift on our birthday and one at Christmas we considered ourselves fortunate. I am the eighth of nine children, so I had to share everything. But we did have an abundance of love and guidance -- the things that you really need, but as a child don't really value. I had a mother and a father who both loved me and were involved in my academic performance in school and making sure I was focused.
My parents really put a strong emphasis on education. I wanted to play every sport (basketball, baseball, football and track) but my mom was adamant,  if I wanted to play sports I had to do well in school -- there was no compromising.
Both my mother and father, despite growing up in the South under Jim Crow laws (segregation laws) attended college. My parents are both what you call "Depression era children." They were born prior to the Great Depression and I think the fact that they had experienced that instilled in them a very, very strong work ethic and an importance of not only working hard but also having strong faith and valuing what you have.
Although both my mom and dad were afforded opportunities to go to college, neither finished but they made sure that every last one of us attended college.
I had originally wanted to study biology and go to medical school, but when I enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of Texas in Austin in 1985, I kind of lost interest in Biology along the way, so after four years, I dropped out and enlisted in the Navy as a nuclear machinist's mate. That's where I got my first taste in engineering and really enjoyed it, so when I was awarded an ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corp.) scholarship to go back to college, I decided to pursue a degree in electrical engineering and have enjoyed it ever since.
For an ROTC scholarship, you're technically discharged from active duty and enter the reserves. I was actually a reservist while I was finishing my bachelor's degree at the ROTC program in Texas. I did military professional traing one day a week and midshipman training over the summer, I'm sure it's not much different now.
Upon the day I graduated college I earned my bachelor's degree and my commissioning as an officer. Having that degree and receiving it with both my parents in the audience was extremely rewarding and very gratifying. Although all of my brothers and sisters did attend college, I was the first to graduate.
Going from prior enlisted to an ensign meant expectations were pretty high when I got to my first ship. I was expected to know how to be an officer, a division officer, and how to help run a ship. My very first job as an ensign was as the Communications Security Officer on board an old destroyer. Right away, I would say, I had really high expectations and I was given a lot of responsibility and authority. For me I got more than I wanted or even expected out of becoming an officer. When I was a junior enlisted Sailor, while I did complete all of my qualifications and accomplished a lot, the level of responsibility and expectations weren't nearly as high of me as when I became an ensign.
My education has helped me to advance to my current rank as commander and it's afforded me all of the different benefits that go along with being a naval officer. I've been able to play a key role in helping lead multi-billion dollar warships, like USS Nimitz, and travel around the world interacting with people from different cultures. I've been to every continent with the exception of Africa, and I've been to those continents multiple times. For me the one moment that will stand out in my mind is actually going to Iceland, somewhere I read about as a small child and had seen on a map, but never in my life did I imagine that I'd actually go there. I even met my wife while I was on assignment out of Yukoska, Japan.
I couldn't put a pricetag on the education that I have been given as a result of the Navy. For what it's meant for me, what it's enabled me to do, the doors that it's opened, and I think the doors that it will continue to open in the future.
Whether your desire is to serve in the military for 30 years and become the next MCPON (Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy) or whether it's just to do your first enlistment and go on, you owe it to yourself, your parents, your military predeccesors -- those who served before us, to take advantage of getting an education. The cost of college is so astronomical. Many students who can easily qualify to get into some of our better schools can't go because they just can't afford the tuition. To have a young person serve our country for four or five years, get out and not take advantage of the Montgomery G.I. Bill is almost a crime. The money is there. The opportunity is there.

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