http://www.navytimes.com/news/2009/10/n ... g_102909w/
Top nuke officer details training backlog
By Andrew Scutro - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Oct 29, 2009 14:16:34 EDT
MCLEAN, Va. — There’s a kink in the nuclear propulsion training pipeline that is keeping new operators from flowing to the fleet, according to Adm. Kirkland Donald, head of the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program.
Speaking Wednesday at the annual Naval Submarine League symposium, the admiral said his biggest training challenge is pumping nuclear-trained sailors onto subs and aircraft carriers because the Navy’s four training reactors are “aging” and in need of replacement.
“The end result right now today is we have a backlog of students waiting to complete their training and as a consequence, a diminished throughput of operators to the fleet,” he said.
The Navy operates two training reactors in upstate New York and two in Charleston, S.C.
In his comments, Donald had high praise for the undersea fleet, noting that its services are in high demand by combatant commanders, keeping submariners “exceptionally busy.”
In speaking about integrity, he noted two recent scandals involving cheating among reactor-qualified sailors — on the attack sub Hampton in 2007 and aboard the carrier Harry S. Truman in 2008 — saying such lapses are “unacceptable” and that each “damages our reputation.”
Donald also addressed the recent news that some midshipmen at the Naval Academy would be forced to join the submarine force because not enough were applying. Donald personally interviews all nuclear officer candidates.
He said almost all those who did not choose nukes understand it’s a military reality. He also shared that a career aboard subs was not his top pick as a midshipman, either.
“I am the living proof that the second choice ain’t bad,” he said.
The Navy’s nuclear reactor program is notoriously tight-lipped and feared for its exacting standards especially during inspections. In telling an anecdote about how the baseball great Ted Williams refreshed his skills during slumps by reviewing the fundamentals and using a light bat, Donald joked that in the naval reactor realm, “we always found heavier bats worked better.”