NUPOCs underway on USS Florida (SSBN-728)
It's another beautiful summer morning in
San Diego, and seven college students are preparing to get underway in USS
Florida (SSBN-728) for an exciting day of submarining. Anyone
serving on a submarine recently has probably seen these groups of
wide-eyed college students onboard, shepherded around by several
recruiters, and you may have wondered, "Who are these people? Why are
they here?" Well, as a result of their superior academic achievements
in various engineering and scientific disciplines, these students have
qualified as prospective applicants for the Nuclear Propulsion Officer
Candidate (NUPOC) program, and they're onboard to check us out.
Quite simply, the NUPOC program draws from the best and brightest of our
engineering and science schools, pays students handsomely for committing
to five years in the nuclear Navy, and then sends them through Officer
Candidate School (OCS) into the nuclear pipeline to join their peers from
the Naval Academy and Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC).
The program was established initially to recruit talented individuals with
a strong technical background to man the Navy's rapidly growing Nuclear
Propulsion Program, while providing them with the financial means to
complete their studies in preparation for entering the nuclear Navy's
demanding training pipeline. Over the years, the NUPOC program has
provided approximately one third of the officers manning the Navy's
nuclear-powered ships - over 3,000 since 1986. Without these men and
women, and drawing only on traditional commissioning sources, the Navy
would not have been able to man many nuclear billets aboard surface ships
Most corporations recruit engineers and scientists with "plant
visits," and the nuclear Navy is no different. Especially since
nuclear propulsion officers are committed to the service for five years
after commissioning, it is important that these candidates know what to
expect in the submarine environment before reporting to their first boat.
In addition, the ship visit may be a strong motivator for applicants who
fear the drudgery that some civilian engineering jobs entail.
The lieutenants who accompany the students are Nuclear Trained Officers (NTOs)
assigned to Navy Recruiting Command (NRC). The ten NTOs nationwide are
post-JO sea-duty submarine and nuclear-trained surface warfare officers
who recruit specifically for the NUPOC, Naval Reactors Engineer, and
Nuclear Power School Instructor programs. They are responsible for
planning applicant trips, preparing candidates
for Naval Reactors interviews, and liaison with NRC headquarters.
provided nearly one third of nuclear-trained officers in FY 00.
The NUPOC program provides numerous
benefits to successful applicants. Upon accession, the applicant receives
a $12,000 bonus - $10,000 on signing, and an additional $2,000 on
completion of nuclear training - and is enlisted into the Navy as an
active-duty E-6 in the Naval Reserve. As such, he or she is now entitled
to full active-duty pay and benefits and will accrue time in service and
leave time while completing school, for up to two and one-half years. The
member's only responsibilities until graduation are to meet monthly with
his or her recruiter, pass the Navy Physical Readiness Test every six
months, maintain satisfactory grades, and graduate on time.
Thanks to increased numbers of NTOs, support from the fleet, and greater
emphasis within the NRC, the NUPOC program has succeeded in reaching its
submarine and surface warfare officer recruiting goals in the face of one
of the strongest economies and toughest recruiting environments in recent
memory. This will result directly in improved quality of life for all
future submarine junior officers, as the personnel shortages of the past
The program is vital to the future of the Submarine Force. It provides a
substantial portion of the officers entering the nuclear training pipeline
and supports the fleet by providing quality replacements for junior
officers on sea duty. At the same time, the Recruiting Command's NTOs need
the Fleet's continuing support to provide prospective NUPOCs a good look
at what their Navy career would be like. Any of those wide-eyed,
awe-struck students you've seen touring a submarine or surface ship could
be the next O'Kane, Morton, or Ramage!
If you are a Nuclear-Trained junior officer interested in being a Regional
NTO or NRD Officer Recruiter, contact your detailer.
LT Shugart is an NTO
assigned to Navy Recruiting Region West, Oakland, California.