Videos: Today's Military

    Charting New Waters in the Navy(04:18)

    Ridley Shetler, a Navy Nuclear Power Officer Candidate (NUPOC), talks about her passion for nuclear power and why she chose the Navy versus a civilian career. Shetler entered the NUPOC program and will be one of the first woman officers to serve on a submarine. Through this program, Shetler received money for college using the Navy's education assistance program, which can provide up to full tuition for service members.

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Ridley Shelter: I'm excited to have my family so excited for me. My mom, you know walks around, any time she sees anybody with Navy paraphernalia, she stops them and she says oh, were you on a submarine? My daughter's going to be on a submarine. And it's just a proud feeling.

I'm Ridley Shetler, and I'm a nuclear engineering student in the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate program. I chose to pursue nuclear engineering originally because I wanted to be a radiologist. I wanted to deal with isotopes, and so that's how I got into the major, and then I fell in love with the power side.

I learned about the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate program, or the NUPOC program, from when I went into the recruiter's office one day, just to find out a little more information about the programs that were offered. And you know, he started telling me about what steps you take to get into the program. The more and more I learned about it, the more I fell in love with the program.

I chose the Navy nuclear engineering over the civilian sector of engineering for a couple of reasons. In the civilian sector, your job's going to be more specified at one particular thing that has to do with the reactor. Where in the Navy, there are so few of you working on a reactor that you're going to get experience in all aspects of what it takes to maintain it. And on top of that, the Navy trains you so that they can put you in charge, and give you responsibilities. And it's such a high responsibility that it's not something you're going to be able to experience starting off in the civilian sector.

If I ever decide to leave the Navy, they will have given me the training I need to succeed anywhere in the civilian sector. What excites me most about Navy Nuclear Propulsion is that we take pieces from math and science, and a small amount of material, and combine it all to power our Navy submarines and aircraft carriers. And that's vital to enhancing the technology behind maintaining national security. And I just think it's so cool that something so small can power something so big.

The NUPOC program, it was very competitive to get into. You started out filling out lots of applications and going through a security clearance, and you had to take a physical readiness test. The very last thing on the list of applying for the NUPOC program is you go up to D.C. for two or three days, and you take two technical interviews and an interview with the admiral. And the technical interviews, you just go in and talk to somebody that works there, and they ask you a couple of calculus, or physics based questions. And then in the afternoon, you go up and you interview with the admiral, and he asks you a couple of questions, and you have to you know answer them the best you can, but it's really more about what kind of person you are, rather than your academic skills. And no matter how you do on your technical interviews in the morning, the admiral's the one that makes the final decision about whether to let you into the program or not.

The NUPOC program gives me an ability to focus solely on my studies. I don't have to go through the stress of having a job, or worrying about finding a job. You know I already have one when I get out of school. And on top of that, I'm paid a salary twice a month, and I use that to turn around and pay for school, so I haven't had to take out more loans. It's just provided a really stress free environment.

After I graduate from college, I go to Officer Candidate School for approximately 12 weeks, and at the end of that I'll graduate as an officer and go onto Navy Nuclear Power School, which is where you really learn the theory behind the reactor, and how it works, and it prepares you for Nuclear Prototype, which is where you go next for another six months. And that's where you really get to apply the theory you've learned, and work on an actual nuclear reactor. After that, I will go to submarine basic school for two months, and then I'll get to you know report to my base.

When the admiral first asked me if I wanted to join the submarine force, I felt you know like I definitely wanted to do it. I was really excited that he offered that opportunity to me. But really when I thought about it, I really wanted to be able to contribute to redefining the role of women in the Navy. I feel very honored and excited to have the chance to be one of the first women on a submarine, and I just think it's such a cool opportunity, and experience that so few people are going to have.