NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. —
Capt. Todd Nichols recently took over the role and responsibilities of Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) Deputy Commander. Hailing from Monticello, Fla., he has served in the U.S. Navy for more than thirty-seven years, a career that he hopes will help NNSY achieve its mission of getting ships and submarines out on time.
“These are challenging times facing the shipyard. The aged infrastructure, enduring financial constraints, a pandemic, and recent rise of cultural and societal issues have combined to impact our team’s performance,” said Nichols. “I’m looking forward to being part of the turnaround and developing solutions for leading NNSY back to having a reputation of getting ships out on time in great material condition.”
Graduating high school in 1983, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, becoming a machinist’s mate. “I came from a small town that lacked career opportunities,” said Nichols. “I joined the Navy because it provided that opportunity in addition to furthering my education and a chance to see the world.”
After completing recruit training and Machinist Mate A-school in Great Lakes, Ill., Nuclear Power School in Orlando, Fla. and prototype training in Ballston Spa, N.Y., he reported to his first of eight U.S. Navy vessels, the USS Grayling (SSN 646). After his tour onboard the Grayling, he reported onboard the USS Daniel Webster (SSBN 626).
“I served on the Daniel Webster conversion crew, which transitioned a ballistic missile submarine to the Navy’s second Moored Training Ship (MTS),” said Nichols. “This is where I was advanced to chief petty officer.”
Nichols was selected as the Machinery Division Leading Chief Petty Officer for the initial crew manning of the USS Seawolf (SSN 21). “From an engineering perspective, the Seawolf submarine was fascinating with its completely new designed and advanced technology.”
On Seawolf, Nichols was selected for commissioning under the Nuclear Power Limited Duty Officer program, reporting to USS McKee (AS 41) as the Nuclear Repair Officer and Planning and Estimating Officer. It was during this tour where he first arrived at NNSY, as he was on McKee during its final voyage when she was brought to NNSY to be inactivated.
Through multiple extended deployments, he supported Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom while serving onboard both the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) where he was the Maintenance Officer during Reagan’s post-construction Selected Restricted Availability.
Nichols served onboard USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) as the Production Management Assistant in La Madallena, Sardinia Italy. He was involved with the inter-fleet transfer and extended Docking Phased Maintenance Availability and conversion to a hybrid Navy-Military Sealift Command Submarine Tender.
He was then assigned to OPNAV Staff, selected as the first Nuclear Limited Duty Officer Community Manager for Nuclear Programs and Policies (N133) in Washington D.C. After which, he reported to the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) as Chief Engineer. During this tour, Bush completed an extended combat deployment which executed the initial strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).
After serving as the Nuclear Power/Submarine Limited Duty Officer and Chief Warrant Officer Branch Head (PERS 42) in Millington, Tenn., he reported to NNSY. “I look forward to working with the leadership team to steer the shipyard on a new heading, one which unleashes the full potential and talents of this team,” said Nichols. “People bond quickly when facing adversity together. A changing moment is reached when differing interests are set aside and people begin to work together to achieve a greater goal. It is a spark ignited from within on its own, and leadership cannot force the ignition to happen. But I’m confident that changing moment will happen—soon—and we will turn this shipyard’s weaknesses into strengths. It will be an inspiring moment for America’s Shipyard.”