By Kai Austin
Earlier this semester, Kai spoke with rising junior Alex Kessler to learn more about the decision he made the summer before his sophomore year to commit to the United States Navy.
Which Naval Program did you choose? I chose the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program (NUPOC), which is a delayed entry program and not an ROTC program. I enlisted in July of 2013 and am currently being paid as an active duty soldier. Unlike, ROTC, which is scholarship based, the NUPOC program pays me directly and I put this money toward my education at Olin.
Since you are considered active duty, can you be called up in the event of a war/conflict? Technically yes, though I don't have any skills or training yet. So it's likely that I'd be more valuable finishing school first. However, my enlistment period is 8 years, even though my program is only 7 years long. For the last year I would be on inactive reserve. If an emergency were to happen during that year, it is entirely possible I would be called back.
What commitments to the Navy do you have during the school year? During my time at Olin, I must maintain appropriate levels of physical fitness and pass a physical readiness test every six months. I must also maintain a GPA of 3.0 and not get into any legal or financial trouble.
When does the Navy accept applications for this program? Candidates may apply between their sophomore and junior year of college. The application process generally takes 2.5 - 4 months.
Did you always want to go into the military? Yes. The thought of a military career has always appealed to me and I have known since the 9th grade that it was something I wanted to pursue as a career.
Why did you choose the Navy? I was looking into various military service programs and found that the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program offered lots of opportunities for leadership and their commitment and bonuses to engineers, especially nuclear engineers, made it a very attractive option for me.
What do you mean by "opportunities for leadership"? There will be 150-200 people in the submarine program, yet only 14 will be officers. So, I will have an immediate position of authority and will be responsible for a group of enlisted sailors.
What do you do during the summer? The Navy encourages NUPOC candidates to continue doing whatever they would be doing during the summer - jobs, internships, etc. I, personally, am going home this summer and am looking forward to it!
Are you taking classes at Olin to prepare you for the Navy? My major at Olin is Engineering with a concentration in Systems. I am mostly doing electrical and mechanical design but I will probably take Transport and Thermo, so that I have a better understanding of those areas before starting Nuclear School.
What does Nuclear School entail? Three weeks after I graduate from Olin, I will go to Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI. This part of the program will last about 3 months, and then I'll go to Nuclear School in Charleston, SC. There I will take classes in Nuclear Physics, Transport etc. The first level of classes will teach me how the nuclear reactor works in theory. The next level is Power School where I will learn about the specific reactors used by the Navy.
How long is your enlistment period in the Navy after Olin? I have five years of commitment. One year of training, two years of submarine duty (which is broken into 6 months aboard, and 6 months on shore), and two years of *shore* duty. That is, two years in an administrative role somewhere. After those 5 years, my options are wide open. I could decide to leave the Navy, I could stick with submarines, or I could try to transition to some other part of the navy. That decision will largely depend on my family situation at that point in my life.
Any closing comments? I am super excited that I decided to join the Navy and the best part is my job search is already done! Now I can focus on my time at Olin and not worry about the future.
The Navy remains one of the top employers for Olin alumni. Lieutenant Fabian Ortiz is the new recruiter assigned to Olin, and he'll be on campus regularly in the coming year. Feel free to email him at email@example.com with any questions about the NUPOC program or the Navy in general, or to set up time to chat.