GROTON, Conn. —
The buzz of power tools echoed through a tent that provided workers relief from the blazing sun as they repaired the outer hull of the USS Virginia (SSN-774) last summer at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut.
Nearby, Fire Control Technician First Class Bryan Leeson explained some of the history of the 14-year-old vessel to two dozen Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport employees as the group prepared to climb into the submarine through an open hatch.
“At first, I was nervous,” Mallory Claypool, a new hire from Houston, Texas, who began working at NUWC Newport in July, said with a laugh. “I was nervous until I was all the way on the ladder; I prefer going up than going down.”
Claypool and her coworkers were part of a tour designed to give NUWC Newport employees a better idea of how the work they do affects the warfighter.
“The ship’s crew was excited and proud to show their boat and its connection to NUWC employees,” said Chuck Albrecht, NUWC Newport’s Managers’ Internal Control Program coordinator, who volunteered to drive one of the vans to Groton for the tour on Aug. 17. “It’s eye-opening for NUWC employees to see the result of their hard work.”
As Aaron DaPonte, who works in the Platform Systems Engineering Branch of the Communications Systems Division, notes, it also gave the scientists and engineers on hand some ideas for when they returned to Division Newport.
“This helped me further understand how to design for space requirements,” DaPonte, who has worked at NUWC Newport for about one year, said. “Although we didn’t go into the radio room, I know it’s much smaller than I thought.”
Commissioned on Oct. 23, 2004, the USS Virginia is the first in the Virginia-class submarines. Once employees climbed down the hatch, the tour began in the torpedo room. While there, Leeson explained the types of weapons employed by the sub and its capabilities, as well how long it takes to load a firing tube.
The tour then shifted into the machinery room, where Leeson described the functions of the components in the room. This ranged from how the atmosphere for the sub is created to where the backup generators that keep critical functions going are located and how waste is processed.
After a pit stop in the crew’s mess, the tour progressed to the control room where everything is monitored. Leeson pointed out where the sonar displays are located, how the photonics mast works and where the officer of the deck would stand watch. From there, the group made its way back topside, where employees walked along the top of the vessel and asked a few final questions.
Before touring Virginia, employees also explored the Submarine Force Museum, which is home to USS Nautilus, the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine. It is also the first submarine to complete a submerged transit of the North Pole, which it did on Aug. 3, 1958.
While employees did not get the opportunity to tour the Nautilus, they did see much of the history within the museum. The Submarine Force Library and Museum is the primary repository for artifacts, documents and photographs relating to U.S. Submarine Force history.
Opportunities like submarine tours are just one facet of the onboarding process for new hires at NUWC Newport. In 2018, more than 300 new employees started working at Newport. Before each new hire can begin, they must participate in a three-day orientation program.
“Everybody has been very helpful and really good about getting us the information we need,” said Andrew Rapoza, who was one of 35 new hires that attended an orientation session in May. “The nice thing is, even though it’s a lot of information to absorb, there’s a lot of information to refer back to.”
A series of presenters informs new hires on a number of topics, including information assurance, ethics, command evaluation, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)/No Fear Act, environmental awareness, drug-free workplace, anti-terrorism, operational security, counter-intelligence, safety and hazardous communication, ergonomics and records management. They also get to meet NUWC Newport’s Commanding Officer Capt. Mike Coughlin and Executive Officer Cmdr. Marc Picard.
NUWC Division Newport, part of the Naval Sea System Command, is one of two divisions of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. NUWC Division Newport’s mission is to provide research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures. NUWC’s other division is located in Keyport, Washington.