Being a Navy Machinist Mate, Nuclear Grade for quite a while, I learned great respect for all the military. I was never in a war, but I (as the only woman qualified to to) did go into the reactor compartments on nuke submarines as part of repair crews to fix or provide needed inspections. I specialized in radiation and contamination control and learned much about the ways of shielding and dosimetry.
The initial thing I did after over a year of nuke schooling was to catch the USS Dixon in Honolulu, their first WestPac cruise stop. We went from there to the Philippines and on to Diego Garcia where the US and British have secret ops that are well guarded. After two months there servicing the ships and subs coming in from the Mideast where there was a terrible hostage situation going on, we headed for Australia!
Over half the way there, the old ship had a rusted part of the side that caved in and we started to sink during a storm. Most people on the ship were scared and puking or looking as if they were about to. I wandered all around the ship with candy bars and chips checking them out, then went out to observe the welders leaping over the side to place a large metal bandage over the hole.
We eventually got to Sydney and while the repairs were made more permanent, I explored the country with the guys and loved it! We stayed there about a week, then aimed back to Hawaii where I got to look around much more than before. Back in port at Ballast Point near San Diego, I worked on the submarines, and we visited many other places like Acapulco, Seattle and more.
It has been decades now, but today I think back of my old buddies and the valiant shipmates and the submariners I met and had good times with. The medals? One was for being a nuke mechanic, one was for crossing the equator at the world timeline and the last (the one with the big star, the Navy Achievement medal) was for working with a team on the Dixon to create a working method to solidify the submarine reactor water purification water granular media filtration onboard our ship instead of heaping up more and more hot drums in warehouses on land. Some of those stored drums were there so long that they leaked or otherwise became partially rocked up making solidification impossible.
The Secretary of the US Navy flew in to pin that medal on me as all the crew watched. When I had to turn and speak into the microphone, I heartily announced that the crew and the team I have worked so diligently with were the key. The pic below is the initial thing we started that project with, removed so we could make the changes to enable proper function of the concrete powder application. The team secretly decontaminated, cleaned and got a plaque made that surprised the heck out me. I have it hung in my cabin now. We were indeed a fine set of sailors.
Very proud! Thank you for your service. ⚓