Navy Dads

A Nuke School success story for parents of Sailors who are struggling

When I was an instructor at NPS, I taught Chemistry, Materials, and Radiological Fundamentals (CMR). If you ask most Sailors who have completed Power School what their least favorite subject was, probably 8 out of 10 would say CMR.

I taught 9 classes over the duration of my tour. Over those 9 classes there were several students who struggled to pass CMR. To pass any class in NPS the student is required to amass a certain number of points (equivalent to a 2.5 GPA when the class if finished). In one of my early classes I had a student named MM3 Messier. He struggled the entire 12 weeks I had him in my class. He failed 2 of the first 4 exams and the ones he did pass, he didn't have a lot of room to spare. What struck me about him, though was his attitude. No matter how bad he did, he was always smiling and making the best of his situation. His mindset was that he would do the best that he could and if he didn't make it he would do the best he could wherever he ended up next. Well, after the 4th grading period I sat down with him to do his exam failure interview and we did some analysis of his current situation. He was currently failing CMR but it was still mathematically possible for him to pass the course. The only problem was that he would have to score higher on the final exam than he had scored on any exam in Power school to date. He needed 321 points out of a possible 400 on the final to pass the course. It was a tall order, but I told him if he was willing to put in the effort, I would do everything in my power to help him succeed. For the next week and a half he spent every minute of his study hall time during the day in my office reviewing material. I organized an extra instruction session on the Saturday morning preceding the exam the next week, which he attended. He spent countless hours with the Night Duty Instructors. This kid was determined to pass this course. He was nervous after he finished taking his exam and told me that he thought he had let me down. Well, later that day when the grades were posted I had the pleasure of seeing the face of someone whose hard work and determination had paid off. He needed 321 point to pass the exam. His final score: 321.5! He passed the course with half a point to spare.  

If you have a Sailor in Nuke School right now who is struggling, encourage them to seek the help of their instructors (or any instructor). If they are putting in an honest effort the instructors will bend over backwards to help them succeed. And if, for some reason, they don't make it through the pipeline, let them know that it's not the end of the world. As long as they made an honest effort, they have nothing to be ashamed of. Just getting into the program was an accomplishment. I have seen many a Sailor not make it through Nuclear Power training and go on to have highly successful careers in the Navy.  

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Replies to This Discussion

Scott,

First of all, thank you for sharing that wonderful story of perseverance and ultimate accomplishment. How wonderful that must have made that young man feel. I'm guessing that it was one of those life changing experiences for him. "Hey, if I work really hard, I can do it" sort of moments.  

My son is currently on staff at Prototype and I know there were times when he had doubts about his ability to get through the program. As an engineer, who crammed a 4 year degree into 6 years while working half to full time, I am awed by the amount of information that is put forward in a very compressed time, and that the young men and women still absorb it.  What got my son through was his attitude, his instructors, and perhaps to some small degree, words of encouragement from dad. 

Can't thank you enough for sharing words of encouragement. Thank you for looking after our best and brightest for 9 classes.

Dan

Scott,  Your story is exactly the same that my son experienced.  Almost ten years ago when he was in nuke training for Nuclear Electronics Technician he was having a very very tough time.  I knew it was extremely challenging and I offered encouragement almost every single day for two and one half years while he was going through all of the schooling and prototype training. His stress was evident to me and his depression even more so.  It was a very tough time for the whole family.

He later told me that he almost quit several times.  His study load was almost torture.  The one thing that saved him was the encouragement of one of his instructors.  My son wanted desperately to quit the program, but he didn't...and we have his instructor to thank. 

Long story short he made it through and had two tours on the Enterprise.  Going through all of the qualifications on his first tour was almost as tough! However, he re-upped twice and also stayed with the ship during its entire decommissioning phase.  He is an official "Plank Holder"!

Last month he started his new assignment as an instructor at the Charleston prototype. And he bought his first house there as well.  He is now also preparing to get a commission through the "Limited Duty" officer program.  

I am so proud of him.  A kid who almost washed out but was saved by a caring and dedicated instructor like you. Now he is the one who will hopefully pull a few kids through the program who otherwise may not have made it. I thank you for posting your story and I hope, and am sure, that my son will be the same type of caring and dedicated professional that you obviously are.  

Best of luck to you.    

My daughter is currently teaching CMR at the power school. There is no doubt that this course is extremely demanding but the Instructors are motivated to help every student pass. Her degree is in Chem Eng. but she is still in a learning mode in teaching this course. Perseverance can usually overcome most anything.

Tim, is your daughter a Direct Input Officer? If she is, tell her to use the experienced fleet sailors in her office to help her with ways to relate the material to the fleet. That is something that DIO'so usually struggle with and I think that's one of the biggest hang up students have with CMR. They just don't see how they are going to use that information once they finish training. I always had students ask me why they needed to know things and if I could show them an example of where they would see what they were learning in the Fleet, they were a lot more receptive. Showing them how they will need that knowledge in the fleet removes a barrier to learning.
Dan, your encouragement helped your son make it through the pipeline more than you think. He undoubtedly had an instructor or two that were exceptional but don't discount the family support. I don't think I would have made it through a 20 year career as a Nuke without the unwavering support of myour parents and, a little later in my career, my wife. I would argue that behind every successful Sailor is a family that supports them. From day 1 at RTC until they get their DD-214, family plays a HUGE role in a Sailor's career.

She is a DIO . I think she mentioned a Chief in her instructor group. Her last class just graduated and I think she picks up another next Friday. Yeah, even though I have indoctrinated her to Navy thought processes, she says the Navy wants her to teach what they need to perform and not much about background (or why?). Even though I'm a chemist, I cannot help her much due to the classified nature of her material. I will try to encourage her to seek out the fleet sailors help

Scott Henry said:

Tim, is your daughter a Direct Input Officer? If she is, tell her to use the experienced fleet sailors in her office to help her with ways to relate the material to the fleet. That is something that DIO'so usually struggle with and I think that's one of the biggest hang up students have with CMR. They just don't see how they are going to use that information once they finish training. I always had students ask me why they needed to know things and if I could show them an example of where they would see what they were learning in the Fleet, they were a lot more receptive. Showing them how they will need that knowledge in the fleet removes a barrier to learning.

A lot of people get hung up on the way the course is taught. Especially people that are more educated in chemistry. They are used to a theoretical approach to instruction and Power School is completely different. All of the courses are approached from an operational perspective. I used to always say we give them just enough theory to make them dangerous. 

This is almost exactly the problem she had at the beginning of her experience at NNPTC. When she took the pre-quals for instruction, she had a problem with the "Navy operational way". She adapted and now she loves her work and the CMR is growing on her. She is due an operational cruise on either a sub or carrier soon. I think she will get a lot from that.

She definitely will. I used to take the DIO's in my office down to the Prototype (the Master Chief that was the lead instructor for the ELT school was a good friend of mine) from time to time to give them a glimpse into the operational world. Tell her to get every bit of operational knowledge she can out of that cruise. It will help her immensely when she gets back in the classroom.

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