February 4th , 2014 10:00 am Leave a comment

After serving aboard submarine, Norris surfaced with college degree


Photo by Brandon Hicks

Photo by Brandon Hicks
Richard Norris is pictured with the model of the USS John C. Calhoun he earned by serving with the submarine’s decommissioning crew. The model is made of materials from the original submarine.

Richard Norris served in the Navy during Desert Storm and worked as a nuclear engineer in a submarine.

For Norris, the biggest benefit of his service in the Navy was that he was able to complete his undergraduate degree while enlisted, which in turn allowed him to enter law school when he was discharged from the military.

Norris joined the Navy in January 1989 while he was attending East Tennessee State University. He said he liked the idea of being able to work toward starting a career while serving in the military and being able to attend college.

After taking a series of tests to determine where he would best fit, Norris decided on attending nuclear power school to serve as a nuclear engineer on a submarine. Once he completed almost a year-and-a-half of training, he was stationed on the USS John C. Calhoun, a ballistic missile submarine that deployed into the Atlantic Ocean.

Instead of being based out of Norfolk, Va., like the rest of the Navy, submarine crew members were based in Charleston, S.C.

Norris said the submarine had two crews of 110 men who served on 3-month deployments into the Atlantic Ocean.

“We just went out in the middle of the ocean and submerged,” Norris said. “It was for security, a deterrent because we have the missiles on there.”

After each 3-month period, the submarine would come in to port at Jacksonville, Fla. to allow the crews to switch out. The off-duty crew would return to Charleston.

“When you are in for three months, there is not a lot to do, so what I did was go to school,” Norris said. “I got my degree during those three-month periods that I was in for five years. If you were in and showed a desire to go to college, they let you.”

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