By Kayla Turnbow, Navy Office of Community Outreach
PEARL HARBOR – A Corpus Christi, Texas, native and 2013 Flour Bluff High School graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard one of the world’s most advanced nuclear-powered submarines, USS Greeneville.
Petty Officer 2nd Class John Mahaffey works as a machinist’s mate (nuclear) serving aboard the Pearl Harbor-based submarine, one of 56 fast-attack submarines in the U.S. Navy.
A Navy machinist’s mate (nuclear) is a nuclear mechanic responsible for operating and maintaining mechanical equipment in the submarine’s engine room.
"I really enjoy the people I work with aboard the sub," said Mahaffey. "They are certainly among the best people I have met."
Jobs are highly varied aboard the submarine. Approximately 130 men and women make up the submarine’s crew, doing everything from handling weapons to maintaining nuclear reactors.
Attack submarines are designed to hunt down and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships; strike targets ashore with cruise missiles; carry and deliver Navy SEALs; carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions; and engage in mine warfare. Their primary tactical advantage is stealth, operating undetected under the sea for long periods of time.
"Our submarine teams are small, elite, and rely heavily on extraordinary individual performance," said Rear Adm. Daryl L. Caudle, commander, Submarine Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet. "It is no surprise that our sailors continue to set the standard for excellence, and the country continues to be well served by their service and sacrifice. I couldn’t be more proud to lead this professional fighting force."
According to Navy officials, because of the demanding environment aboard submarines, personnel are accepted only after rigorous testing and observation. Submariners are some of the most highly trained and skilled people in the Navy. Regardless of their specialty, everyone has to learn how everything on the ship works and how to respond in emergencies to become "qualified in submarines" and earn the right to wear the coveted gold or silver dolphins on their uniform.
"I am the first in my family to serve in the military," said Mahaffey. "I jokingly took a practice Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test and got a 98. I knew that I wanted to use the Navy as a way to further my education which I plan to do by continuing a career in nuclear power."
Challenging submarine living conditions build strong fellowship among the elite crew, Navy Officials explained. The crews are highly motivated, and quickly adapt to changing conditions. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches and drills.
"Serving in the Navy, for me, is a means for education and a way to get more experience that will benefit my future," added Mahaffey.