Videos: Today's Military

    The Role of a Navy Nuke(03:33)

    Petty Officer Alicia Ferrell, a Nuclear Machinist's Mate or "Navy Nuke," discusses her role in the Navy and the training she received for her nuclear energy career. As a "Navy Nuke," Ferrell works with the nuclear plant that keeps Navy aircraft carriers and submarines running. Being a Navy Nuke does not require a college degree, and training as a Nuke gives you approximately half the credits needed to receive a Bachelor of Science degree through the Navy's tuition assistance program.

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Petty Officer Alicia Ferrell: I am a nuclear machinist mate, or what some would affectionately call a "Navy Nuke." We operate in a reactor plant on either an aircraft carrier or a submarine to make sure that the ship has lights, power, so that whatever mission that we have to accomplish, we can accomplish that mission.

There are three different types of Navy nuclear ratings. You have electrician's mate, machinist mate, and electronics technician. The electrician's mate works on motor generators, turbine generators, and things like that. The machinist mate works on the mechanical side of the reactor. The electronics technician works on reactor safety controls.

And after you speak with a recruiter, you will take an entrance exam that will determine whether you can become a Navy Nuke. The A school is targeted towards whatever particular rating you are. The next school would be your power school. At the power school is where you learn what you need to be a Navy Nuke. There, you learn about how a reactor plant operates. The next school is Prototype. And at Prototype, it's a hands-on experience. You actually get to qualify on an actual running, operating reactor.

To become a Navy Nuke, you do not need a college degree. By the time you finish completing all those schools, you will have earned enough credits to take you over half of the way to your Bachelors of Science degree, and then you can use the Navy's tuition assistance program to take the ten or 12 classes you need to actually get your bachelors.

The training to become a Navy Nuke is pretty intense. You have eight hour class days. And instead of taking your homework home to do, you have to do it at the schoolhouse, because it's classified. Some of the things I studied in the process of becoming a Navy Nuke [were] chemistry, physics, thermodynamics, fluid flow, basic algebra, and also radiation health.

When I've been overseas, I have most definitely left the ship. I have been to so many different places, I've been to Greece, Dubai. I've been to Chile, I've been to Brazil. Whenever the ship pulls into a foreign port, you're encouraged to get off the ship and explore.

Oh, my free time? I like shopping a lot. I especially like shopping for shoes. Outside of normal working hours, which is generally, it's like a regular nine to five or what have you, I'll go to the gym, or go home and relax. Maybe go to the mall, go to the movies, read, write, hang out with friends.

The commitment for the Navy nuclear program, the initial commitment, is six years. After you complete your school, that's when you will actually have hands on experience doing the job. The job market for a Navy Nuke outside of the Navy is very open wide. There's never a job shortage, or inability to get a job.

The Navy has helped me achieve so much. Right now, I'm in the process of completing my bachelors of science in nuclear engineering technology. I hope to also pursue a masters. I also plan on starting a family one day. My advice to anyone considering being a Navy Nuke, it's very well worth it. It will pay off in the long run as far as education-wise, the training, the skills. Whether you make it a career, or whether you just do it for one enlistment and get out.