Navy Nuke: If I Could Do It All Over Again

Navy NukeI left the Navy in July 2001. I should be rich by now (and maybe even married). There are so many things I wish I would have done differently that would have put me light years ahead of the curve by the time I had been out for 5 or even 10 years. Here’s how to make the most of your time when you are in so that you will hit the ground running when you get out.

1) I wish I would have been nicer to people.


After you have been out of the Navy for 2 years you forget all about the bad times and the crappy things that frustrated you so much. All I remember now are the really good times and fun stories. And I also remember all the times I was a jerk to different people. Like the time I nearly broke Owers’ camera and ripped off Billy Mack’s bed spread because somebody triced me up in my rack. That was a pretty jerk move on my part and the years have not let me forget it. Or the time I was ticked off at my good buddy Iron Mike Nunez and called him Iron Nav. Not cool. We still talk about that sometimes.

Sometimes you just have to let things roll off of your back and not react like a spoiled child every time something doesn’t go your way. So if you are reading this because you are going into the Navy, Army, Air-Force, Marines, Coast Guard, or other service, remember to be freaking cool and nice to everyone. Your life will be much easier.

2) I wish I had told more people “THANK YOU”


Let’s face it, I was not the smartest Nuke. Not even close. But man did I have some smart friends. My room mate Rippon practically got me through Nuke School and my final Prototype Board on his own. If not for that guy, I probably never would have passed Nuclear Prototype. And I never really said thanks.

Dan Wyatt and Michael Nunez got qualified Reactor Operator aboard the John C. Stennis…while I clung like a mad man to their shirt tails. Jeff Carr, Jason Chupp,  and Randy Early took me under their wings and taught me just about everything I know about standing watch and doing some serious partying (and also “Gus” Gustvson). Miguel Enrique Rivera-Rojas, Keenan Mrozek, and Glen Hershey helped me do more maintenance items and trouble shooting than I care to recall. Basically, I knew nothing and all of these guys made me look like a SAT sailor. And I never really said thanks, because as long as six years sounds, blink your eyes and your on a plane back to your hometown.

3) I Wish I Read This Before Ever Enlisting

Dustin’s (updated 7/28/2015) Pre-Nav Reading List

  • The Bible
  • The Four Hour Work Week ($1.99 on Kindle, outdated tactics, but timeless principles)
  • Choose Yourself, (free on Kindle)
  • The 10x Rule (get the Audible version, you’ll want to listen whenever doubt starts to creep in)


There are some books that I pretty much base my life on: The Bible, The Fountainhead, The Four Hour Work Week, and

I recommend reading all four in that order. Your life will be improved. The old model is to spend your youth working, working, working, and putting away a measly amount of your salary every paycheck in the stock market. That measly amount grows slower than you could ever possibly imagine and some 45 – 60 years later you are a millionaire. Now you can rest and party (at 70 years old). Meanwhile you’ve been divorced twice and your kids and family hate you because you spent your whole life working, and you never went to Vegas on a whim, and you never dated a model, and you never went to a nudist colony in Europe, and you never spent a month in Belize living on a beach and eating bar-b-q everyday and swinging a kettle-bell every morning for about an hour because there was no gym around. Oh well, at least now you’re a 72 year old millionaire. If you have ever dreamed of getting off the treadmill, I recommend these 4 books.

4) I wish I got my degree before getting out.


Thomas Edison State College has a great program for military personnel and especially for Navy Nukes. Here’s what they don’t tell you about a college degree…it don’t mean much. I went to Law School with people from Harvard, Columbia, MIT, Yale, Stanford, The University of Texas, and several other prestigious schools. Guess where my undergrad degree was from. Thomas Edison State College. I never even stepped foot in the building. I’ve never even been to New Jersey. I only took 1 class from them (Statistics), and the rest of the credits either transferred in from the Nuclear Program, or I took at Junior College (for next to nothing), or I took during my 2 semesters at the University of Houston. An undergraduate degree is little more than a piece of paper that allows you to get your foot in the door. As a veteran, with some amazing experiences, you can write your way into just about any Law School , Med School, Business School, or Insert Desired Institution Here with little more than some creative story telling and a degree from Thomas Edison State College or just about any other Undergrad Institution that you can think of.

If I would have applied myself and got that Thomas Edison degree before I got out of the Navy, I could have saved myself 3.5 years and went straight to Law School or any other advanced education program that I wanted to go to within 2 months of leaving the Navy. Or…I could have skipped all my time as a technician and just worked as an engineer (which is several times easier than being a technician and pays twice as much). I got hired as a Test Director / Structural Engineer at NASA just because of my Thomas Edison Degree and some excellent interviewing skills (after sitting for several Operational Reactor Safety Exam interviews, a job interview is cake). So don’t think just because Thomas Edison or other schools are not traditional colleges that they can’t give you all the benefits of the more popular schools. Do all you can to get your degree before your first enlistment is up. If one of the reasons you are joining the service is so that you can pay for college, why not just get your college degree while you are in. It’s possible. I saw guys who did it.

5) I would have learned how to make money.


I graduated top ten percent in High School. Then 2 years of Nuclear Power Pipeline. Then 4 years on board a Nuclear Aircraft Carrier as a Nuclear Reactor Operator, then 3.5 years of engineering education in college, then 4 years of Law School while working as an engineer. That’s a TON of education! That’s about 16 years of education after High School. That’s about 10 years of college-level education and 4 years of Doctorate-level education. Not once, during all those years, did I ever learn how to make money.

I learned how to make other people filthy rich. I learned to be an employee.

That’s a lot of time and money to spend learning how to make somebody else rich.

That’s a lot of “life” to spend learning to make someone else rich.

If I was 18 and going into the service today, I would grab all the books I could about making money. How to make passive income would be a subject that I read as if my life depended on it.

One day your going to be out of the Navy, and you will be sitting at your first or second job looking at your pitiful 401k statement online and it will hit you. It’s a sinking feeling. You will start to do the math and you will realize that you only have 35 more years of this and then you can retire. I don’t want to sound fatal, defeatist, or depressed. But spending the next 40 years seeing your family on weekends and for a short time at the end of your work day is no way to live. Life passes you by, while you are making other people rich, clipping coupons, and hoping for 8% returns on your 401k. Learn to make money, while you’re in the service…while you don’t need any money.


6) I would have helped more people.


Your life in the service will be much easier if people like you. People will love you if you help them. If someone is having trouble losing weight, help them get to the gym or go jogging with them once or twice a week. One day you are going to desperately need this person and they will bend over backwards to help you out of a jam. Help people.

But don’t be that guy who is always keeping score and always insists on tit for tat. Nobody wants to help this guy. Everybody ends up hating that guy and going out of their way to inconvenience that guy. I can not possibly stress this point enough: Your life in the service will be much easier if people like you.

That’s just about all I would have done differently. If I think of anything later I’ll kick out another post.

Click Here to Join the Newsletter for Navy Nukes




Author: navynukejobfinder

I did six years as a surface nuke ET. Then college, then grad school. Now I moderate this forum. Gooooooo navy!