Serving on the High Seas: The silent service of submariners
As we conclude our series of reports from Naval Base Norfolk in Virginia, we're taking a look at submarines in the Navy.
Stealthy, agile and equipped with some of the most powerful weapons on the planet, submarines have always seemed to carry a layer of intrigue and mystery in the U.S. Navy.
"I think we have really cool mission sets, we get to do a lot of things we can't talk about and that a bunch of other people will never know what we do," said Lt. Alexandra Brunell. "I love how tight-knit the community is, it's really about what you know, it's not about who you are so we're not very rigid on rank structure, obviously we have it and we have the respect there but it's all about what you know, not who you know."
Lt. Alexandra Brunell is a Pennsylvania native and the Assistant Weapons Officer on the attack submarine USS New Hampshire, which is currently docked at Naval Base Norfolk for maintenance.
"One of the primary missions of submarines is ISR, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and we're one of the platforms that truly no one knows where we are, to include anyone off the boat, only the captain, he's the most senior man that knows where a submarine is at any given time and so we are able to go do things that other people don't know where we are unlike some of our partners in the Navy, surface ships, etc," Lt. Brunell said. "People kind of know where they are, they're a big radar target and they perform a very different role."
Attack submarines like New Hampshire are also designed to seek and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships, project power ashore with Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, support battle group operations and engage in mine warfare.
Playing a vital role in national security is something not lost on Brunell.
"It's being able to get out there and get the intelligence and be able to feed that back to everyone that needs to know and figure out what we need to do and we play a pretty good part in warfighting especially when we need to go out there and do the job first being undetected, get in, get out," Lt. Brunell said.
While the ship is docked, sailors brush up on their training at the nearby Submarine Learning Facility. Virtual training simulators allow the sailors to replicate life under the sea and navigate potential pitfalls.
On the full movement platform, when the sub dives, the entire simulator moves to recreate the sensation of diving and helps guide steering and dive angles.
It's an invaluable tool sailors like Brunell take full advantage of so they can be at their sharpest when called upon.
"Being part of the weapons department, we really are ready to respond at any moment," Lt. Brunell said. "We are ready to launch a tomahawk, ready to shoot a torpedo and we're constantly training. Luckily, we have the submarine learning facility here in Norfolk where we go and do trainers every week and we are ready to go and face the adversary and we make sure we are ready to do that through those trainers and get practice every day."
You can find all our previous Serving on the High Seas stories here at wfmj.com and under the video tab.