Sailor: Lt. Cmdr Magnum Vassell, Naval Submarine School in Groton, Conn.
Mom: Veneta Vassell, Dorchester, Mass.
Raised in a large Jamaican-American family in Dorchester, Mass., Lt, Cmdr Magnum Vassell knew that in order to attend his dream school he would have to find a way to pay for it.
“I wanted to see what was out there for me,” says Vassell. “This wasn’t a difficult decision for me. I wanted to see what else I could do – and I loved the idea of working on a submarine.”
In 1993, Vassell achieved his dream. He received a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, Mass. After graduating in 1997, he attended Naval Nuclear Power School in Orlando, Fla., and then completed 14 months of prototype training at the Naval Propulsion Plant in Goose Creek, S.C.
In 1998, Vassell became a division officer aboard the USS Philadelphia, where he embarked on two back-to-back deployments. Traveling from the city streets of Dorchester, Mass., Vassell’s first deployment found him touring the frigid waters of the Arctic Circle, supervising torpedo tube testing.
“This was like nothing I had seen before. I was touring the Arctic, supervising torpedoes. Life changed quickly for me, to say the least,” says Vassell. “I gathered a wealth of knowledge as a submariner during my sea time.”
Vassell began his second deployment aboard the USS Philadelphia in 2001. He toured the Mediterranean Sea, received his qualification in submarines and was certified as a Naval Nuclear Propulsion Plant Engineer by the U.S. Department of Energy. On board the USS Philadelphia, he supervised the submarine’s propulsion machinery.
Vassell’s mother, Veneta, had little experience with the U.S. Navy and was startled at first when her son left Dorchester, their adopted home.
“It was a bit scary when Magnum first left. I really have no family here,” says Veneta. “However, as I’ve watched Magnum’s career advance, I am so happy the Navy gave him the financial means to go to college and provide him a future he may not have had if he stayed home.”
Continuing his ambitious pattern, in 2005 Vassell became a Combat Systems Officer aboard the USS Hartford, where he maintained and tested the submarine’s sonar, fire control, and weapons systems. His deployment included port calls in Peru, the Panama Canal and throughout the Caribbean Islands.
“I went after every opportunity,” says Vassell. “I wanted to travel all over the world and learn as much as I could. I got to visit cultures and places that I would never have visited without the Navy.”
Currently, Vassell is Department Head of the Modernization Team at the Naval Submarine School. He also is focusing his efforts on a new project – reactivating the National Naval Officers Association (NNOA) – and reaching out specifically to diversity students. His goals are to give back to kids who grew up in communities like Dorchester and to enhance diversity within the Navy officer corps.
“The Navy has enabled me to do so much, from mentoring Sailors to training and reaching out to diverse students, I am grateful,” says Vassell.