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By Nick Scott
Trident Refit Facility, Bangor
When Trident Refit Facility, Bangor, team member Eon Carter-Tripp, a day shift work lead for Repair Department, checked aboard ballistic missile submarine, USS Alabama (SSBN 731), he had only anticipated a 3-day underway. That three days quickly became 10.
“I thought it was going to be just a quick trip, super easy, but after I got my rack (bed and locker) and my TLD (Thermoluminescent Dosimeters), I found out it was going to be a lot more intense than I thought,” said Carter-Tripp. “I knew about the added time before I left, but I didn’t realize the intensity would be dialed up too.”
“I’ve been at sea for years, as a surface Sailor, but work on Alabama was particularly challenging,” said Carter-Tripp. “The submarine service is almost like a different Navy, learning to lingo was half the battle.”
Carter-Tripp joined the U.S. Navy in 2008 as a machinist’s mate (auxiliary).
The Visalia, California, native served for five years aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5), decommissioned in 2015, before transferring for shore duty to TRFB as a machinist’s mate (auxiliary) 2nd Class in 2015.
Carter-Tripp became accustomed to life in Washington, so when he transitioned out of the Navy in 2017, he was immediately hired as a civilian team member at TRFB.
“I love this command, I wasn’t ready to leave it, so transitioning to being a civilian employee just made sense,” said Carter-Tripp.
Carter-Tripp tested various systems aboard Alabama, bringing his expertise to the table to ensure mission success which was, according to him, his number one priority.
Carter-Tripp worked on everything, meticulously scouring the boat for anything that could even potentially cause issues.
“I repaired three HPACs (high pressure air compressors), one needed a new O-ring, I changed out the crossheads, thankfully I came prepared so I was able to pull off that fix fairly easily,” said Carter-Tripp.
A faulty O-ring is what caused the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.
“Okay, it might be a bit of an exaggeration to say it would have caused a disaster, but attention to detail is still important,” said Carter-Tripp. “Today’s minor inconvenience can become tomorrow’s disaster. Safety first.”
When the HPAC system was tested again, it tested satisfactory. Carter-Tripp said he was informed to enjoy the remaining time onboard the vessel by the commanding officer, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Larry Arbuckle.
“It was such a cool experience, one I hope to experience again,” said Carter-Tripp.
At the end of the underway, Carter-Tripp was awarded an honorary Submarine Warfare Insignia, more popularly called “Dolphins” by submarine communities around the world, for outstanding service aboard Alabama. In addition to being pinned, Mike Carpentier, repair superintendent, TRFB, came to the pier to give him a challenge coin.
“While in training underway, the triad (commanding officer, executive officer and chief of the boat) walked in and when the chief yelled ‘attention to award’, I assumed they must have meant it for someone else,” said Carter-Tripp.
“I didn’t expect to be made an honorary submariner, I was blown away,” said Carter-Tripp. “I work hard because that’s the job, but it feels great being recognized and being made a part of such an exclusive community.”
Carter-Tripp said that even though it was a lot of work, it was a very unique experience.
“It was high stress for sure, but overall I had such a great experience on Alabama. I would absolutely go underway again,” said Carter-Tripp. “My only experience before this was on surface vessels, submarines are an entirely different beast.”