Nuclear officer…

Jenniffer Wise

Nuclear officers spend 50 percent of their career at sea and are away from their families more than two months at a time.
Despite this, United States Navy Cmdr. Arnold O. Lotring spent the last two days encouraging qualified University students to apply to the U.S. Navy Nuclear Power Program.
“We chose a selfish life, but we do not regret it,” he said.
With St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, Lotring presented a plaque Wednesday morning to honor the USS St. Paul, a decommissioned ship. The cruiser served from 1945 to 1971. In 1953 it was the last ship to fire a round at sea in the Korean War.
On Tuesday, the commanding officer of the nuclear-powered submarine, USS Minneapolis-St. Paul, talked to Navy ROTC midshipmen, students and faculty members of the University’s engineering department about his experiences as an officer in the U.S. nuclear power program.
Lotring said students enter the program with a five-year commitment, then re-enlist on a yearly basis.
The first year is spent learning engineering and nuclear theory. Officers are then assigned to a surface ship or submarine.
Crews are typically away from their families for more than two months. To keep in touch, each crew member can receive one 40-word “familygram” every two weeks.
“It will say, ‘Love you. Family great. Miss. Dog OK,'” Lotring said.
Lotring, 38, has been with the nuclear power program for 19 years and earns $90,000 annually. He said he operates a billion-dollar ship with 140 men and a $2 million budget.
“I am sure that CEOs of some companies make more, but they don’t get to drive submarines,” Lotring said.
Lotring said that the more naval officers recruited, the better. Officers must pass a test to get into the program, but a 2.9 to 3.0 gradepoint average is acceptable, along with skills in math, physics and chemistry.
“We want to dispel the rumors that unless you are a 3.9 electrical engineer, you cannot apply. We look for a good college background, learning ability and leadership to become naval officers,” he said.
Although the problem with women working on submarines has been the close living quarters, women’s opportunities are nonetheless growing phenomenally, Lotring said. “I pass ships in the channel, and that big ship coming towards me is driven by a woman. Women are landing F-14 fighter aircraft onto carriers. … There is no doubt in my mind that women will soon be driving subs.”
Despite his relative youth, Lotring must retire from driving submarines next year.
“When you are in your early 40’s, you are ready to do a desk job. There are no 50-year-olds driving subs,” Lotring said, “(After) 20 years, it will be hard to leave the ship for the first time.”