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Corpus Christi native keeps America’s nuclear adversaries at bay

Posted: 11:23 AM, Aug 02, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-02 12:23:29-04

SILVERDALE, Wash. – A 2008 Calallen High School graduate and Corpus Christi, Texas, native is presently engaged in a critical mission for the security of the United States: deterring nuclear war.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Rafael Perez, a logistics specialist is serving aboard one of the world’s most advanced ballistic missile submarines, USS Pennsylvania. Based at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Washington, not far from Seattle, USS Pennsylvania is one of 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines in the Navy’s fleet.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Rafael Perez
Petty Officer 2nd Class Rafael Perez

As a logistics specialist, Perez is responsible for financial management, inventory management, and getting supplies to the boat.

“From a logistics specialist point-of-view I enjoy the networking I get to do with my job and meeting people,” Perez said. “I’m also the ship’s barber.”

Perez draws from lessons learned growing up in Corpus Christi.

“I learned a lot growing up there, and I learned a lot from my mom, she taught me to keep a positive attitude,” Perez said.

The Navy’s ballistic missile submarines, often referred to informally as “boomers,” serve as undetectable launch platforms for intercontinental ballistic missiles. They are designed specifically for stealth, extended patrols and the precise delivery of missiles, and they are the only survivable leg of the nation’s strategic nuclear forces, which also include land-based missiles and aircraft.

USS Pennsylvania (SSBN 735)
The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Pennsylvania (SSBN 735) transits the Hood Canal as the boat returns to its homeport at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor following a routine strategic deterrent patrol. Pennsylvania is one of eight ballistic-missile submarines stationed at the base, providing the most survivable leg of the strategic deterrence triad for the United States. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda R. Gray/Released)

As long as nuclear weapons remain in the hands of potential adversaries, the nation’s nuclear forces provide a safe, secure and credible deterrent to the threat of nuclear attack. The Navy’s continuous at-sea deployment of submarines like USS Pennsylvania provides the ability to mount an assured response.

As effective as the Ohio-class submarines have been over their decades-long lifetimes, the fleet is aging, with the oldest submarines now more than 30 years old, well past their planned service lives.

A new and effective successor is critical to national security, and the Navy is well into the process of designing and fielding a more advanced ballistic missile submarine, which will provide the necessary sea-based nuclear deterrence into the 2080s and beyond.

Submarine sailors are some of the most highly trained and skilled people in the Navy. The training is highly technical, and each crew has to be able to operate, maintain, and repair every system or piece of equipment on board. Regardless of their specialty, everyone also has to learn how everything on the submarine 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 uniforms.

“The men and women from across our nation who volunteer for military service embody the fundamental values of honor, courage and sacrifice that are the bedrock of our republic,” said Rear Adm. Blake Converse, Commander, Submarine Group Nine. “They protect and defend America from above, below, and across the world’s oceans. The entire nation should be extremely proud of the hard work that these sailors do every single day to support the critical mission of the Navy and the submarine force.”

“I really enjoy the opportunity to learn different things and apply those to situations that normal people would break under the pressure, and to know that the guy next to me can save my life and I can save his,” Perez said.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Perez and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, one that will provide a critical component of the Navy the nation needs.

“My service is about defending the freedoms our countrymen enjoy and making the sacrifices so they can live a better life,” Perez said. 

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Bill Steele, Navy Office of Community Outreach