CHICAGO (NNS) -- Navy representatives assigned to nuclear ballistic missile submarine USS Louisiana (SSBN 743) out of Bangor, Wash., visited with Chicago area high school students and veterans during a two-day outreach event in Chicago, June 2-3.
Cmdr. Joseph Turk, USS Louisiana commanding officer, and Fire Control Technician 3rd Class Larry Rogers, also of USS Louisiana, came to Chicago as part of the Navy's diversity outreach efforts.
While in Chicago, Turk and Rogers visited with students at Northside College Preparatory High School and Navy Junior ROTC cadets at Chicago's Hyman G. Rickover Naval Academy. They also met with American Legion Post 43 and Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873 veterans.
"Overall, I was highly impressed with what these young people are learning outside the classroom," said Turk. "The students at Northside and Rickover are offered high quality opportunities to lead and serve in their respective communities. These students take charge and are extremely engaged in these community activities. They are learning life skills; not just book skills."
Turk said he was born and raised in Wisconsin, away from any significant Navy influence.
"I always wanted to come back to the Midwest and talk with youth about the best job in the world," he said.
Turk spoke to Northside College Prep chemistry students about his educational background and what he does on a day-to-day basis.
"I majored in chemistry when I was in college," he said. "In my line of work I use my chemistry background every day. We use chemistry in the propulsion plant, back in the nuclear reactor. I do a lot of work with electrical engineering. On the biology side, when someone is medically ill, I'm the person responsible for releasing any narcotics for treatment."
Turk, who has been in the Navy since 1991, told students about his service aboard four different submarines.
"I've visited ports all over the world; in the Mediterranean, up in the Western Pacific, Hong Kong and Singapore," Turk said. "From my little hometown in Wisconsin, a town of 50,000, I've been all over the world and seen a lot of great things. I have to have the greatest job in the world, and my children think I do as well. The fact my children think I have a cool job makes doing the job a lot more easy and fun."
Rogers provided an account of his decision to join the Navy during his third year of college to cadets at Rickover Naval Academy.
"I've been in the Navy for about two years," said Rogers. "I'm from Colorado Springs, Colo. When I was in high school I had no plans to join the military. I attended college to play football, but the major I had chosen wasn't what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My decision to join the military was the most spontaneous decision I've ever made.
"I visited with all of the Armed Forces recruiters at the local recruiting station and asked questions about job opportunities. For me, none of the services, with the exception of the Navy, offered a challenging and exciting adventure. But what really put the Navy ahead of the other services was the uniform. The Navy has the coolest uniform. So here I am, I love my job, and there is nothing better than being a Sailor," said Rogers.
He also stressed the importance of continuing one's education, especially studying math and science.
"In the Navy, a great deal of emphasis is placed upon technical competence," said Rogers. "The high-tech work environment and the complex nature of our missions demand it. Continuing your education and studying the hard sciences will prepare you for the opportunities and rewards the Navy has to offer."
Barry Rodgers, Principal of Northside College Preparatory High School, also shared his thoughts on the visit.
"It is my hope that the students were able to gain some insight into what skill sets are needed to be the commanding officer of a high tech nuclear powered submarine and the sacrifice our service men and women make to protect our country," said Rodgers.
"Additionally, I hope Cmdr. Turk saw how Northside College Prep not only prepares our students academically, but that we are looking ahead and preparing them for leadership positions in their communities, city, state and nation," said Rodgers.
Northside College Preparatory High School juniors Alex Tran and Tyler Sauter, were part of the listening audience for Turk and Rogers.
"We were excited when we saw them walk past the library," said Tran. "We wanted to talk with both of them about their experience in the submarine fleet, daily life aboard the USS Louisiana and some weapons capabilities."
Both young men said they have plans to apply for the U.S. Naval Academy in the fall and have aspirations of becoming naval officers in the submarine force.
Speaking to veterans at the American Legion Post 43 and Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873, Turk and Rogers highlighted the importance of veterans groups and the valuable support they provide to the men and women on active duty.
Turk responded to questions ranging from how long submarines can stay out on deployment, use of torpedoes, deck guns, retention rates, to women now being able to serve aboard submarines.
"If you've been following the news, the first women will be coming on board select boats this fall," said Turk. "They will be working on board four boats in the fleet. We are a group of highly trained professionals. We've discussed it and trained on welcoming and integrating women into our profession. I would say that the submarine force is more than ready."
According to Turk, the trip to Chicago had a special importance to him.
"I wanted to show these young people that someone from the Midwest can join the Navy and enjoy a career in the submarine force," said Turk. "I hope it opened their eyes to opportunities the Navy afforded me, and that these same opportunities are available to them."
Diversity outreach is the Navy's effort to bring youth from various backgrounds, a broad range of life experiences, and a common commitment to serve their country into the ranks of its leadership and management team by way of the U.S. Naval Academy and the Naval ROTC scholarship program.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach is the Navy's attempt to foster the development and expansion of our nation's technical workforce. The outreach effort exposes children and youth to service members who obtained a STEM degree and demonstrates what career opportunities in STEM can provide.
STEM education is an important focus for the Navy, because it produces knowledge and innovation in the technical areas of weaponry, logistical support, communications and intelligence, and medicine, which gives technical pre-eminence to naval forces, and contributes to its robust scientific and engineering workforce.
For more news from Chief of Naval Personnel - Diversity Directorate, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnp-diversity/.