Article and photos by Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Lawing, USN
USS Maryland (SSBN-738)(G) Sailors welcomed aboard more than two dozen guests June 6 and 7 to see what duty is like on a ballistic missile submarine. Unlike the usual distinguished visitors submarine crews host, these guests were Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) Midshipmen, finishing their freshman year at various colleges across the country. During their junior year of college, these Midshipmen will have to decide if they want to follow a career path in the Navy as surface warfare officers (SWO), aviators, or submarine officers; they will also have the option to become officers in the Marine Corps. Underway experiences, such as this one, will help the college students decide what course they will pursue.
Maryland Sailors were eager to impress the Midshipmen and sway their decision to the subsurface career path. This was evident in all the events planned for the Midshipmen from the moment they came onboard to the moment the very tired Midshipmen boarded tugboats, via a mid-ocean transfer, for their ride home.
The Midshipmen were welcomed by the commanding officer, Cmdr. Scott Rauch, and then shown to their berthing areas. After a quick breakfast, they headed out in small groups to observe a fire drill. Marveling at the teamwork, the Midshipmen saw how quickly the crewmembers took charge of the situation and had everything under control.
Once the drill was complete, the Midshipmen were taken to most of the spaces on Maryland by members of the crew. During this time, technical experts were stationed at various points to answer any questions for the Midshipmen.
After learning the inner-workings of the submarine, Cmdr. Rauch invited his guests topside and authorized a swim call and steel beach picnic.
Although the crew tried to convince the Midshipmen this was a regular occurrence onboard, the Midshipmen knew this was a luxury and enjoyed the sun and good food for a couple of hours in the afternoon.
Near the end of the first day, the call was given to submerge. The Midshipmen had some dinner as the crew prepared the submarine to dive. After dinner, the Midshipmen were called to the control room to watch high-speed operations and large angles. Already prepared by the crew, the Midshipmen leaned with the submarine’s gravity for some “angles and dangles.”
When the excitement of the operations was over, it was time for pizza and a movie. The Midshipmen assisted making the pizza for midnight rations (“mid rats”). They were given free reign, and some slept, some ate with the crew, and some continued to explore the submarine.
Maryland surfaced in the middle of the night, and the college freshmen who stayed awake could observe the clear night sky from the bridge. By 5 a.m., everyone was up again and ready for breakfast. Maryland junior officers stood by to answer any final questions and make one final pitch for the undersea career path. Exhausted from all the activities, the Midshipmen boarded tug boats in order to make it back to land. Satisfied with the evolution, the Maryland crew waved goodbye.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Lawing is a Missile Technician and ship’s photographer aboard USS Maryland (SSBN-738)(G).