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Nuclear Officer Interviews


Registered User
I don't really know why so many Nukes bail after their first tour and it may be as you say, but I don't feel that the Admiral's interview has a correlative affect on retention.


I'm sure money plays a big part. Many can walk into a six figure job. Not bad for someone in their late 20's.

Nuke training can pay big dividends. We know a couple of retired nuclear trained aviators (06's) who started out in the civilian sector at over $350,000/yr.


I don't really know why so many Nukes bail after their first tour and it may be as you say, but I don't feel that the Admiral's interview has a correlative affect on retention.
Money is part but not everything. The Admiral, or some other type of "senior intrusive leadership" isn't it either. I'll speak from the submarine perspective since its what I know.

The job is rough. No other way to put it. I saw what JO's on a submarine do and how they live and it is no accident that there wasn't a Nuc Option on my application for STA-21. Being at sea, the job is comparable to other JO billets in other communities. Watches, quals, admin and running a training program (no small task in the Nuc world) etc...however being a Nuc brings with it a few little extras...ORSE (Operational Reactor Safeguards Exam)...a sweet little honey which lasts about 72 hours...during which the average JO sleeps about 4...lots of pain, both in preparation and execution. In addition, this single examination absolutely makes or breaks the career of your engineer and to a somewhat lesser extent, your XO and CO. If the boat BAs an ORSE, your engineer will not select for XO. That is alot of pressure to put on one examination. Yes, officer advancement is tight in the aviation community but sustained effort etc...seems to be more prized than single event performance. Lots and lots of pressure.

But then....you pull in...and instead of well earned time off, and the chance to take leave, you get....more time on the boat. The average JO will be in three section SDO/EDO rotation so 24 of every 72 hours are spent on duty, on the boat...and then there are normal working hours. On a non-duty day, if nothing is wrong, the JO's I worked with routinely spent 11-12 hours on board per day. So...in a 72 hour period, 24 hours + call it another 24 hours...you spend 48 hours on the boat. That sucks...and it continues until the boat goes to sea again...rinse, lather, repeat. Boomer guys have it a little better...they usually get a two week window to take some leave after a deployment. When they come back, the boat is still at sea however, the days are still 10 ish hours-12 hours long and full of....TRAINING!!!! Yeah! Alot of guys prefer the fast boat lifestyle because they at least get to do neat tactical employment stuff in the forward end of the boat instead of driving a big quiet hole in the water.

Hope this helps clear up the retention issue...:eek: :(

One of the JO's on my boat had a shirt that said it well...It had a three eyed gold fish (get it?) on the chest and it said..."I sold the Navy the best years of my life for 10000$".

There are rewards...but damn...its a tough road.


Keep in mind, retention for sub guys is right around where the Navy wants it. My recruiter (back in '02) said that the retention after the first sea tour was about 35% (though he did say, most got out after the JO shore tour). He said that was OK though, because there aren't enough DH spots for all the JOs, and if more people stayed, they probably would be forced in a different direction after not screening for DH.


Internet killed the television star
scoober78 said it best. While what I did as a Nuke was interesting, there is no way in he*l I'd have done it as a JO. There's just something about seeing guys that are 23-24 walking around with ghost white skin from not seeing sunlight with bloodshot red eyes....reminded me of Dawn of the Dead.

@ Schnugg As for responsibility, I'd have to say I think Nuke officers on average have a bit more. An old chief of mine put it best; the CO of a carrier is responsible for the carrier, but if the Chang doesn't pass ORSE, the carrier can still deploy, it just has to leave the reactors on the pier....kind of tough to do and still put planes in the air.


Registered User
I'm not sure that's true, especially of the SWO community (both conventional and nuc). SWOs are forcing too many JOs in the pipeline to address the problem of retention. Bonuses are climbing ever higher - the SWO (nuc or conventional) DH bonus just went up to 100k. Most SWO JO's I've spoken to refer to it as "blood money". Nucs have it even tougher since they're always the first on the ship and the last off. But they can make a killing...

Keep in mind, retention for sub guys is right around where the Navy wants it. My recruiter (back in '02) said that the retention after the first sea tour was about 35% (though he did say, most got out after the JO shore tour). He said that was OK though, because there aren't enough DH spots for all the JOs, and if more people stayed, they probably would be forced in a different direction after not screening for DH.
Oh yeah, lots of non-tech majors at nuc school. Many of them from NUPOC as well as ROTC/Academy. I'm not sure what the Navy's official stance is, but they seem to especially like the female and minority type.

Originally Posted by hourocket View Post
You would be surprised as to how many non engr/science majors are in the Nuke program. I had plenty on my boat that were English, Phsyc, Poli Sci.

Yeah...but most of those I've heard of were from USNA/ROTC where they're required to take 2 semesters of calc, and 2 semesters of physics...I was surprised to see a NUPOC (OCS).
Hey guys. Just wanted to let you know how my phone interview went before I forget about it. Pretty much he asked me 5 questions. Here they are...

1. A person launches a baseball at a rate of 50 ft/s off the top of a roof that is 500 ft off the ground. How are from the building does it land? Make your own assumptions.

2. A truck is placed on a sloped hill and let it go, and is placed high enough so that when it reaches the bottom of the hill, it attains a speed of 20 m/s. How much a higher does one need to place the truck on the sloped hill so that is attains a velocity of 40 m/s when it reaches the bottom of the hill.

3. A mass is given an initial velocity of some value on a frictionless surface, and eventually comes into contact with a spring, and compresses a certain amount. How much further does the spring compress in a situation where the initial velocity is doubled?

4. Take the function f(x) = 1/x, from 1 to infinity, and rotate this around the x-axis. Find the volume.

5. Given a circuit that has a 10 V battery, and one 5 ohm resistor, followed by 3 resistors in parallel ( 5 ohms, 2 ohms, and 10 ohms), find the equivalent resistance, and then the current, as well as the power.

My interviewer said "very good" after I did each problem and said I was definitely ready to go to DC. At times though it seemed like he was talking to someone else and wasn't 100% paying attention to what I was doing. The call was even disconnected and I had to call him back. The main assumptions I made were g = 10 m/s^2 for #2, and g = 30 ft/s^2 for #3, and that no non-conservative forces (i.e. air resistance) were present. I also called my spring constant "k". There were no calculators allowed, and so when I had a calculation, I had to approximate it. For example on my circuit problem, I had a quotient 10/6.5, and I explicitly told him that I'm going to approximate this as 1.6.

Pretty much the questions were easy, but the somewhat challenging part was keeping my composure and try to think through the problem and talk to him at the same time. He said I should expect a buoyancy problem when I go to DC, and that I probably won't see any Civil Engineering questions (I was a CE major). Hope this is helpful.
I just got back from the DC interview, where I was accepted for subs. I'll tell most of my experience the day of the interviews. It was held from May 17-19, but the actual interviews took place on the 19th.

At around 0630, we met up at the Starbucks and walked to the building. Naval Reactors I guess. The first round of interviews started around 0815. Pretty much everyone went at the same time, and the questions you got depended on which engineer you were assigned to. The consensus was that if you were an EE, you were going to get advanced circuits questions. Anyway, my first interview I got 3 questions. I feel I only got 3 because I took so long on the last question, that he didn't have time to ask anymore. Here are the questions.

1. You are standing on one side of a river that has no current. The river width is 3 miles, and you need to get to a point on the other side, and downstream 8 miles. You can swim at a rate of 3 mph, and run at a rate of 6 mph (I don't remember the exact rates). What is the path you should take to minimize the time to get from start to finish? When I have my final answer, he also told me to tell him the total time, as well as justify my answer.

2. Take the function y=1/x, from 1 to infinity and rotate it around the x axis. What is the volume you get? Also, what is the area under the curve using the same limits. He also asked me to explain why the volume was finite, but the area was infinite.

3. Kinda hard to explain this one. But it was a basic circuit that had two voltage sources, then one resistor, and then 2 resistors in parallel. He asked me to find the power going through a specific resistor. This is the problem I got stuck on. Just like everyone else has said, don't give up and explain what you are trying to do. So many times I just wanted to say "next question". But I found a mistake in my algebra and found out how to do it. I wasn't able to write down the true final answer, but he accepted my answer when I tried explaining it (he told me "in the interest of time, just explain what you're trying to do"). I ended up passing this, and only got like 2.5 out of 3. Oh yeah, he let me use a really basic calculator.

For the second interview, which took place right after the first guy, the guy was a lot nicer and helped me when I was doing the problem. For example, he told me to use 110 pounds instead of 100, because the math works out nicer, and it did. Here were the questions.

1. Making basic measurements on a cup with a ruler, estimate the volume of it using calculus. After I made my estimate, he had me pour a bottle of water in the cup to test it, and it turns out I overestimated it. He wanted me to explain the reason for the error.

2. Using a bunch of rubber bands to construct a slingshot, how far could you launch a 0.1 kg ball? He wanted to see how I would analyze a situation. Pretty much I modeled the slingshot like a spring and then used basic kinematics for the time when the ball leaves the slingshot. He also wanted me to state reasons why the real answer differs from the theoretical answer.

So I had to have passed both since I didn't get a third interview. For those going for surface or subs, I only knew one guy who needed a 3rd interview for failing one of the first two.

The last interview with Admiral Richardson was the only interview I was seriously nervous for. There's a specific procedure you follow when entering his office. When waking in, as soon as you pass the doorway, you start saying your script, which includes name, hometown, school, and what you're applying for. You're supposed to go straight to the seat, but naturally I froze, finished my script, and then say. He asked me a lot of questions, but his first one was why I wanted to do submarines. His follow up questions were based on what I gave as the final part of my answer. In short, the questions he asked were what I've been doing since graduation, why I didn't finish NROTC, if I had family in the military, and why he should believe that I'm committed to the program. The last question he asked was "What will you bring to the Navy?", and it felt like the most important. He thanked me when it was over and said he'd like to send my dad a letter, and I walked out and then a LCDR congratulated me a few seconds later saying I was accepted.

The type of interview seems to be of a random format. For example, the girl who went before me had to do a report, and another guy was assigned a research paper. We were told that if you get a research paper or book report or just assigned something in general, it's a good thing because it means you're accepted. You just have to do something extra. Well, I didn't get that.

There were about 36 of us, and I believe two were not accepted. From what I understand, those two were applying for instructor/reactors engineer, but were offered a fleet position, and ultimately declined. We filled paperwork out and then at the end, swore in.

That pretty much wraps up the 3 days I was there. I wanted to provide this info since other people have been helpful, and I hope this is helpful as well.