Baltimore Native Taking Nuclear Knowledge To Sea - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Baltimore Native Taking Nuclear Knowledge To Sea

US Navy Officer candidate Alexander Boettinger 1 (courtesy Naval Service Training Command)

St. Joe grad Alexander Boettinger (seen in foreground right) is set to receive a Commission from the US Navy’s Officer Candidate School. (courtesy Naval Service Training Command)

NEWPORT, RI — If you’ve ever questioned the life-changing impact of elementary school field trips, consider US Navy Officer Candidate Alexander Boettinger.

Better make that Ensign Alexander Boettinger.

The Baltimore native and Mount St. Joseph High School (2016) alumni is scheduled to graduate today from the Navy’s Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Newport, Rhode Island.

“I got interested in the Navy, because when I was in the fourth grade, we took a field trip to the Naval Academy in Annapolis,” explained Boettinger in a recent phone call from OCS. “I really liked everything that was going on there and thought it was really interesting. From that experience, I got interested in nuclear engineering and figured subs would be the best fit for me.

US Navy Officer candidate Alexander Boettinger 3 (courtesy Naval Service Training Command)

Officer Candidate Alexander Boettinger. (courtesy Naval Service Training Command)

“I had looked at schools in Maryland, but they didn’t have nuclear engineering there as a Bachelor, so that’s why I went to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Then in my second year, I learned about the Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program (NUPOC). I figured that would be a great way to get to do something I’d always dreamed about – going on submarines. When I finally got my orders to come to Newport, I was very happy about it.”

Unlike the U.S. Naval Academy and the ubiquitous university ROTC programs, OCS is a 13-week program for people (both Navy personnel and civilians) who have already graduated college. OCS is the first post-college step for enlistees of the NUPOC program.

“The Academy, NROTC and OCS all result in commissions as Ensigns but have different paths to get there,” explained LCDR Frederick Martin – Public Affairs Officer; Naval Service Training Command. “Following OCS, the then Ensigns will go onto community specific training.”

Boettinger’s community specific training (another 1-2 years worth of instruction) will begin immediately after graduation from OCS. Ensign Boettinger will initially report to Naval Nuclear Power Training in Charleston, SC for submarine training, before arriving at his first assignment.

When asked if he came from a military background, Boettinger said that his grandfather was a colonel in the Army.

What has been the biggest challenge he has faced so far?

US Navy Officer candidate Alexander Boettinger 2 (courtesy Naval Service Training Command)

A Marine Drill Instructor keeps OC Boettinger and his classmates on their toes.
(courtesy Naval Service Training Command)

“Well, first, I would think that it would just be getting used to the military culture (the indoctrination phase). In college, I was just focusing more on my major, but I was also learning basic naval history procedures. Here, you’re stressed quite a bit, just to make sure that you can handle it. But it really helps prepare you for the other phases.”

It may not be as demanding as Parris Island, but the stress in Newport is no less real. Marine Drill Instructors (DI) along with Navy Recruit Division Commanders (RDC) train students throughout the entirety of OCS.

“Now I’d say the most difficult part was my first week of the Candidate Officer phase, where I had to go around trying to make sure the squadrons of all the other classes ran smoothly. Make sure all the events are going well and everybody is safe. It’s an applied leadership phase under the discretion of staff. So, we’re heavily responsible for the smooth running of OCS.”

What kind of challenges does Boettinger foresee as an officer of a nuclear submarine?

“You would have to get used to having very little contact with the outside world because the main purpose of submarines is stealth. You would be underwater constantly, so you’ve got to be used to not necessarily having contact with family as much as you’d like. And you’ve got to get used to not having as much sunlight as normal. But I think it’s a pretty rewarding career, because of the mission set. Submarines have a lot to do with reconnaissance and strategic operations.”

Missing family would be a deal breaker for a lot of young people. How do Boettinger’s folks feel about his decision to serve aboard subs?

“They were very happy that they’ve known about (my dream) for a long time. Like I said, I’ve been interested in joining the Navy since I was in fourth grade. So they’re very happy that I’m so close to actually starting my career.”

Are there any particular places the new officer would like to see as he sails around the world?

“I don’t have any particular places that I would like to go,” admitted Boettinger. “My main goal is: I want to serve my country aboard a fast attack submarine.”

About the author

Anthony C. Hayes

Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A one-time newsboy for the Evening Sun and professional presence at the Washington Herald, Tony's poetry, photography, humor, and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore!, Destination Maryland, Magic Octopus Magazine, Los Angeles Post-Examiner, Voice of Baltimore, SmartCEO, Alvarez Fiction, and Tales of Blood and Roses. If you notice that his work has been purloined, please let him know. As the Good Book says, "Thou shalt not steal." Contact the author.

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