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US Navy submariner recalls that time a sailor had a mental break aboard his boat during covert ops and ripped off parts of one of the cabinets that provided backup control of the nuclear reactor – The Aviation Geek Club


‘He ended up cracking the “local control” switch for the control rods before I was able to intercept and subdue him,’ James Thompson, former Electronics Technician aboard US Navy submarines.

America’s submarines have come a long way since the first hand-cranked wooden rigs. Today’s state-of-the-art vessels are able to support hundreds of sailors working and living together under the sea for months at a time.

Serving on a US Navy submarine crew takes courage, stamina and deep expertise — literally.

“I don’t think being on a submarine is for everybody. I think you have to be somebody that can be comfortable with no sun and no outside communication. Submariners are different from everyone else in the Navy. There is also a different kind of camaraderie down here,” Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Khamani Conklin, Torpedoman’s Mate, aboard USS Maine (SSBN-741) Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, says.

Because of this unique environment has anyone in a Navy submarine ever lost their mind being stuck underwater for months at a time?

‘Oh, yes. I have even been a witness to that firsthand,’ James Thompson, former Electronics Technician aboard US Navy submarines, says on Quora.

‘During a 6-month deployment, we had a sailor that had a mental break during covert ops (basically we were supposed to remain as quiet as can be for weeks/months in a row to do surveillance). I happened to be on watch in the engine room when this sailor came back in the engine room and grabbed a wrench and started bashing the cabinets that controlled the engine room equipment. When I came across him, he was ripping parts off of one of the cabinets that provided backup (local) control of the reactor. He ended up cracking the “local control” switch for the control rods before I was able to intercept and subdue him.

‘Long story short, we had to divert for repairs as soon as we were able to do so (we also had a bad bearing in one of the Main Sea Water pumps, that resulted in a reduced ability to maintain higher propulsion speeds), so we had to go “off station” and get parts to conduct repairs. As soon as we were in port for repairs, that sailor was taken off due to his mental issues.’

Thompson concludes;

‘Having a sailor have a mental issue that resulted in temporary or even permanent reassignment was pretty common during that CO’s tenure on my submarine.’

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.





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