A Day in the Life of a Reserve Submarine SUPPO

BY KARLA GABEL, OFFICE OF SUPPLY CORPS PERSONNEL
NAVAL SUPPLY SYSTEMS COMMAND

Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) approaches Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia. Wyoming is the 17th submarine in the Ohio-class and the fourth U.S. Naval ship to be named after the 44th state of the Union. –photo by Lt. Rebecca Rebarich

 

Lt. Amy Aguirre is one of only two female Navy Reservists to serve as a Supply Officer (SUPPO) or “Chop” on a submarine. In 2015, she was recalled to active duty and serves on the Blue Crew of the USS Wyoming (SSBN 742), an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine. During her last patrol on the Wyoming, Aguirre was promoted to lieutenant and, in the same week, earned her submarine warfare qualification pin – her “Dolphins.”

“I might be walking just a little bit taller now. It’s been such a challenging year. It really is a great feeling to have accomplished that goal,” said Aguirre.

Being the Chop on a submarine is quite different from being a SUPPO on a surface ship. Since submarine duty is considered an independent duty assignment, there is only one SUPPO aboard, supporting a crew size of approximately 160 Sailors. As the Chop, Aguirre is responsible for the operation of the ship’s general stores (S-1) and food service (S-2) divisions. Her duties include procurement, receipt, inventory, issue, survey, and transfer of all material used by the ship as well as operation of the crew’s mess, wardroom, and financial functions.

Given the smaller crew size on submarines, all crew members have multiple roles and watch standing responsibilities. Aguirre’s collateral duties include Hazardous Materials Coordinator; Afloat Environmental Protection Coordinator; Public Affairs Officer; and Arms, Ammunition, and Explosives Key Custodian.

As with all naval vessels, the Wyoming operates 24-hours a day, so everyone is assigned a watch section. There are three sections that rotate every eight hours, and everyone rotates to a new schedule every two weeks.

Let’s take a look at a day in the life of Lt. Aguirre as the Chop on the day watch during her most recent patrol…

Up and At ‘Em!

Lt. Aguirre’s day begins at 0530. Upon awakening, she gets out of bed and gathers her shower necessities, moving quietly, so she doesn’t disturb her two sleeping roommates, who are on different watches. Getting organized the night before is a big help.

As she walks down the hallway to the “head,” the submarine is fairly quiet, although there is some noise, with one-third of the crew always awake and on watch. By 0615, she is on her way to walk through the crew’s mess, galley, and wardroom to make sure everything is prepped and ready for breakfast. She inspects the cleanliness of the spaces and checks the temperature of the chill boxes, milk cooler, and freezers, ensuring that everything is kept at the proper temperature.

The Wyoming returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay following routine operations. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rex Nelson

The Watch

After a quick walk–through of the food service spaces, Aguirre starts her pre-watch tour in the sonar room, then moves on to control to talk with the contact manager she will relieve. “It is imperative to understand the environmental conditions, as well as the contact picture prior to relieving the watch. As contact manager, our job is to use available data from all the sensors that we have to safely position the ship and maximize the distance between us and surface vessels,” stated Aguirre.

After the pre-watch tour, the pre-watch brief begins promptly at 0645, when those with key support roles on the watch gather to talk about what is happening on the sub. The group discusses turn-over items and lessons learned from the previous watch, as well as navigation goals and all planned evolutions and training that need to be accomplished during the watch, and any
specific instructions or information contained in the commanding officer’s night orders.

After breakfast, Lt. Aguirre returns to her stateroom to retrieve her sweatshirt. It’s cold on the sub! With coffee in hand, she relieves the watch at 0730. The next eight hours of her day are spent standing watch as the contact manager, where she works closely with the contact management team and makes recommendations to the officer of the deck.

During the watch, the team takes the sub to periscope depth to send and receive communications. The team shares the responsibility of manning the periscope by relieving one another every 10 minutes. After communications are complete, the crew returns to normal operating depth.

At 1435, the oncoming contact manager comes to control in preparation for his or her watch and pre-watch brief. At 1530, the oncoming watch section relieves the watch and the off-going watch team heads to the wardroom for lunch. After lunch, Aguirre’s job as SUPPO begins.

Lt. Amy Aguirre, assigned to the USS Wyoming (SSBN 742), receives her Dolphins from Cmdr. Chris Gilmore. Photo by YNSSN Austin Bromley

SUPPO Duties

After a quick stop back in her stateroom at 1615, Aguirre grabs her notebook and heads off to the Supply Office to start her daily paperwork at 1630. She reviews daily reports and verifies that computer system back-up has occurred for the previous day. She also reviews all documents for parts issued that day. She must review 100 percent of all parts receipts and issue documents. All receipts must be in compliance with the Department of Defense’s Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness reporting requirements.

Inventory management is a big part of Aguirre’s job. An inventory sampling audit is completed monthly for parts issues, receipts, and all inventories conducted during the month. She verifies electronic stock records against paper documents and does a physical count of parts and subsistence. Since maximum use of space is necessary on the sub, many of the most commonly issued parts are stored in parts lockers in the missile compartment where some of the Sailors sleep. Aguirre uses her “days off” from watch to conduct parts audits during daytime hours when the crew is awake.

At 1945, Aguirre heads to the wardroom for the evening meal. Saturdays are a special time on the Wyoming, as she joins her team for pizza night. The next few hours are spent in the galley making pizzas for the crew. Sailors not sleeping or on watch gather in the crew’s mess to socialize with pizza and a movie. Aguirre stated that she “enjoys serving the crew while working alongside the top-notch culinary specialists on her team, and making some of the best pizza in the fleet!”

Sometime between 2300 and midnight, Aguirre crawls back into bed, ending her day feeling tired, but with a feeling of accomplishment, knowing that she is part of a team of some of the best and brightest the Navy has to offer.

What’s Next?

As a Reservist with limited time left on active duty, Aguirre will go on one more patrol before the sub changes homeport to Norfolk for overhaul. For the time remaining on her orders, she will likely be temporarily assigned to the Naval Submarine Support Center at Kings Bay, Georgia. She said, “It will be interesting for me after having been on a boat…to provide support to the waterfront having had that experience of going out to sea. That will be exciting.”

September/October 2017