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I have been reading the posts to this group regularly - especially over the past few weeks and I have to say I'm more than concerned.  

My son is scheduled to leave for boot camp in December but has requested to leave sooner. 

He has 2 associate degrees - one in Diesel Technology and one in Power Generation. 

When he went to MEPS he accepted a rating for avionics technician (probably not the right technical term) but after he signed, someone at MEPS called him out and said someone in Pittsburgh PA had looked at his ASVAB's and wanted him for nuclear and did he want to do that.  He of course said yes as he was told how prestigious it was and not everyone gets that offer and he "had what it takes" etc. 

He (and we) EXPECT It to be hard but I didn't expect to be reading about a high suicide occurence among sailors in the program and people being dishonorably discharged from the Navy if they aren't successful  I don't expect hand holding but I would think it is in the Navy's best interest to invest in their sailors to be successful and that there would be an infrastructure in place to help that.  

My son was in a technical program.  He is has not had college level chemistry and the physics he took in college was technically oriented. While he is a bright young man - rapid assimilation of book knowledge with no access to tutors or a support structure is probably not a good recipe for his success.  It must be a very special high school graduate who makes it through this program with that kind of knowledge needed.  Although my son is 22 years old, I wonder if he got picked "out of a lineup" just to fill a spot. 

Since his not officially obligated until he walks across the gate at boot camp, maybe he needs to pursue a different rating before he ever leaves for boot camp. 

Views: 1866

Replies to This Discussion


The NUKE program is a very challenging program but it is also doable.  It sounds like your son has already proved himself to be able to finish programs.  If he tested and qualified for it there is a very good chance he can handle it.  I have not heard of dishonorable discharges for sailors that can handle the work.  Just those that mess up in other ways.  If he is twenty two he is probably mature enough for the program.  Especially if he doesn't take himself and his ability to succeed in the field much too seriously.  That sounds like an odd statement but I hope you know what I mean.  My son is six years into it.  The money and bonuses are really good.  That is something that always meant a lot to my son.  I hope your son makes the right decision for him.  Good luck!

I meant to say I have not heard of dishonorable discharges for sailors that cannot handle the work.

Sailormom, first of all, just take a deep breath!  Being a military parent, especially a Nuke Mom, is challenging.  I had many of the same concerns you did when my son first started.  These parent boards have been a lifeline for me; however, I would caution you about reading "too much."  As helpful as this info is, sometimes you just have to take a break from reading this stuff.  It really can make you crazy! 

My son is now about 70% through prototype and finds it challenging but is actually enjoying it a lot.  Whenever I speak to him about something that's been posted, he reminds me that there is a very wide variety of backgrounds and personalities in the Nuke program.  Very often he sighs when I relate a story and just replies that the people involved are not telling their parents the whole story and they were just being stupid. 

If it turns out that your son is really not suited for the Nuke program, he'll find that out and move into another area.  If you read back far enough, you will find many success stories about Nuke drop-outs.  And I get the sense that just qualifying for the Nuke program is a feather in your cap, even if you don't finish up. 

I agree that the suicides are very disturbing.  However, when researching colleges with my other son, we learned that college-age suicides are not infrequent -- the colleges just do a better job of keeping them quiet since they're not good for their recruitment and admissions.  My son feels strongly that if they see a fellow sailor struggling, they have an obligation to help them get help.  Believe me, he got that message somehow from the Navy! 

Just let your son talk through his concerns -- he'll come to the right decision.  We now try to just take it all a week at a time, and that helps a lot.  Our son is not the type who faithfully calls home every week, so periodically I have to send a message asking for a one-liner to let us know he's still breathing!  But we do try to be respectful of his workload and so far it seems to work out okay. 

Congratulations to your son, his acceptance into the program IS something to celebrate, and go easy with yourself.  It's a long road, but I can tell you that it doesn't necessarily get easier, but it certainly gets more manageable.  Take care. 

Don't be very concerned. While there are, of course, many factors that go into success or failure in the Navy nuclear training pipeline, it's in the Navy's best interest for our kids to succeed. The training is expensive and lengthy.

My son went through the training directly out of high school. He was a slightly above average student in high school without any advance math or science education. He is now a nuke ET on the USS Abraham Lincoln. 

Support your son as he progresses through training. As long as he doesn't get into trouble, he won't get a bad discharge. As long as he keeps making an effort, the Navy won't give up on him.

Good luck to you and your boy!

Good Morning Sailormom,

I totally understand your concern.  There has been some sadness on this site and facebook in the past couple weeks but it isn't always that way.  Yes there are Sailors struggling and sometimes I do not understand how they cannot get the help they need.  With all the money the Navy is investing in these Sailors you would think they would have more means for helping them cope with the stress or depression.  :-(

My Sailor just had his 1 year and is currently in Power School graduating on Oct. 30th.  He has thrived and although he gets homesick he knows this will be over before he knows it and he will be on to bigger and better things.  I also think because he has a family that supports him and is there every minute of every day if he needs to just talk for a little bit.  According to him there are allot of Sailors that do not have that.  You probably won't find their families on this site or on our facebook pages because the parents on these sites truly care.  They are on here to support not only their Sailors but the parents and wives of our Sailors.  I feel super Blessed to have these wonderful people in my life. 

My Son has told me of Nukes that have never gone home, never talk to their family and quite frankly do not have allot of friends.  When those Sailors get down, where do they go or who do they talk to? I am not sure how this happens but I find it very sad.  It also bothers my Sailor to see it happening. 

The way I read your post, you are an extremely wonderful Mother that cares.  I am sure your Sailor will do fine in the program.  The main thing he has to think about is that it is allot of studying and allot of learning.  He sounds very Mechanically inclined and that is how my Sailor is.  Luckily my Sailor has thrived and is one of the top Nukes in his classes and I think that has allot to do with his mechanical mind.  Your Sailor also needs to have another passion.  Some Nukes are gamers and that gives them the break from school that most of them need.  Mine happens to be a work out Nuke.  He does his morning PT with his class then he goes for a run and to the gym every afternoon.  This is his way of getting his mind off of school. It has worked really well for him.

I hope this helps a little.  Prayers that you all make the right decision and he is happy and thrives!!

Remember there are so many amazing Navy families on here that care and will help where they can!

My son graduated prototype in September 2014.  He went to boot camp August 8, 2012, after graduating from high school in May 2012.  He was 17 when he enlisted; I had to sign the paperwork.

Second semester of high school he dropped calculus to take a second hour of weight training, which he felt would be more beneficial for boot camp than more math.  (his counselor agreed)

Despite lots of delays (prototype took 50 weeks instead of the advertised 24--equipment problems), he finally finished training. 

Was it challenging?  I suppose it was, although he never let us see him sweat.

He made it, and that is what matters  

With enough determination your son will succeed.  But there are lots of stories of people who are heavily recruited for the nuke program (I'm sure recruiters have quotas).  At one point, we heard the stat 60% failure rate.  I suspect that is rather high.

I'm with the others--I've never heard of a bad discharge for failing the nuke program. The only ones I heard about were for major behavior violations--DUI being the most common. And a whole bunch got in trouble in prototype for supplying liquor to underaged sailors.

Those who fail to complete the program are usually offered the chance to re-rate into some other job, and some leave the Navy--but with good paper.


This is sort of a relief to me... my son is a smart kid and if he reads something that interests him he remembers it... he does well in high school 3.20ish gpa in accelerated classes, but he doesn't push him self to be the best and get a 4.0... he scored high on the ASVAB and was asked to consider Nukes and he said yes... his teachers have always told me he is great at testing but slacks at homework and class discussion... he isn't much of a talker and when I asked him why he doesn't raise his hand to answer questions he says it is because he knows that he knows the answer he doesnt have to prove it... so I hope Nukes isn't too much for him... he still is finishing his senior year and has a bootcamp date of Aug 6, 2018

Hi there Sailormom!

My son just graduated.  In fact, he's on Leave right now right after graduation before going to his first duty station far far away.  The nuclear program was probably one of the hardest obstacles that he's ever had to conquer so far.  He had three things going for him.  1) He wasn't distracted by a girlfriend/significant other.  2)  He was never a hard party person so staying out of trouble wasn't an issue.  3)  He was 24 years old going into the program.  They called him Pops as most of his classmates were straight out of highschool.  Another plus was that he did have a 4 year degree in Electrical Engineering already.

He did have quite a few roommates.  The program is difficult.  If your son was picked "out of a lineup", it must be because they think he has a shot at making it.  It costs a lot of money to pay a bunch of young adults to attend 2 years of class.

I think that if your son can focus and really apply himself for the next two years, that he will succeed.  The Navy will change him though.  For the better!  I'm not a recruiter.  I'm just amazed at how much more responsible he was coming out of the program than he was going into the program.

I should add a disclaimer:  A girlfriend/significant other can be a distraction.  And I'm also positive that a girlfriend/significant other could be a wonderful source of encouragement and support.  I did not intend to imply something negative.  I was listing what worked out in my son's case only.  Apologies to anyone that I offended!

I like your disclaimer!   I know that my son is very blessed in having his girlfriend living nearby.  They had been friends for many years and then decided to begin "dating" in January.  He left for bootcamp in March and is now in the last third of A school.  Since he gets to talk to her daily with visits and church on weekends, he is getting a lot of encouragement.  We also live in SC and his sister and bro-in-law live in the greater Charleston area also.  I do think that the Nuke sailors need to have outside interests and a way to relax.  It is not so important to be # 1, but to be successful and enjoy the "process" of learning.   I do ask our Nuke to  encourage  the others also.  He is very good about helping them if they need a little extra help.  That was a little longer than intended.   I have a ukulele class this morning!!!!

Hello to Very Concerned,

I wanted to offer some reassuring words.  My son is in Prototype and doing well.  He did not take any college science or math, entered the program a little older with some college, and was not focused on math, science or anything technical in High School. He is making it and the solid majority (90/95% plus) of those selected for Nukes make it!

The Navy needs Nuclear gals and guys (they are under-manned in those jobs because of the length of the training) and they look for those who perform well on the  ASVAB and those who have done well in school or in a technical program. Your son's background sounds great. Rapid assimilation of material in books on his own without tutoring or a support structure is a big deal!  That is a recipe for success when applied in any direction!  He sounds very bright!

Some kids get to Nuke school and are in over their heads and most of those kids make it!  I don't mean to downplay how hard it is!  But the majority of the guys and gals who get into the Nuke program do very well.  My son has experienced support from the other sailors and from superiors when he has needed it and has given support and helped others study to pass tests, etc.  The structure of the program supports learning the material, as well.

I have been out to visit at Goose Creek several times and had the chance to meet a few of my son's classmates. Almost all were working as hard as serious college students taking a full-time load of classes, doing all the homework and working a 15/20 hour a week job.  It's tough and so is the job for which they are training!  The majority of the Nukes are able to grow and develop themselves and fulfill the requirements.  I hope this makes you feel a little bit better!

My hubby, a retired officer, wanted me to reassure you that one cannot be dishonorably discharged from any branch of the military unless one commits a felony.  The Navy does help people to move to other work positions within the service when that is a good decision for the Navy and for the individual who is struggling in the program.

Your son has been successful and has worked hard.  Sounds like he is likely to do very well in any program!

I wish you and your son all the best!


My son graduated last May and will be deployed soon. When he enlisted, he learned he had a 12 month wait for the Nuke program. His recruiter contacted a teacher in the Charleston, SC Nuke school to ask what classes my son should take at college since he had time to attend before leaving for boot. The teacher said not to take any math or science. The hardest part for sailors in A School is to unlearn the civilian methods and relearn to do the processes the Navy way. (We paid $20,000 for square dancing and some easy English courses but, he did reconnect with an old girlfriend from junior high school who became his wife!)

In A School, my son sat at the front of the classroom and asked LOTS of questions. He showed he was eager to learn. His friends all said they didn't ask any questions because, my son asked them all. He finished in the solid middle of his class in A School. The top ranked sailors all worked hard, had degrees like your son, and were familiar with mechanics.

The best part of the course was no homework outside of the classroom building. Homework was always my son's downfall at high school. As long as your son shows-up for class and study hall, he should be fine.  My son had teachers monitoring the study hall that were tutors. The better students helped my son because the class got rewards for doing well. (They got doughnuts one week when their class got the top scores!) If your son is working hard in class and asks for help, he will get it.

Remember: Once he graduates from A School or Power School anywhere in the class rankings, if he does not want to be a Nuke, he can change to the Officer ROTC program at many universities across the country, paid for by the Navy. That is one of the perks of the Nuke program.

Sadly, suicide is a reality. My son lost one of his friends in Prototype. There was no warning and my son was devastated. He almost did not graduate on time due to his sadness. We are blessed that my new daughter-in-law was able to help him through his loss in time to graduate. She is such a blessing!

If I had it to do over, I would write my son a letter describing the wonderful life he would have if he does not complete the program. It is not the end, only a detour. I would sit down with him and write some goals to achieve if he does not finish the program. I would make his future beyond the Nuke program a reality that will be celebrated by his family. His recruiter can help with that.

First, your son has to make it through boot. They will discuss the appropriateness of the Nuke program at the end of boot, after they get to know him. I hope this helps.

PS He should run, do pushups, swim laps, and learn to polish boots to a mirror shine before he leaves!

Proud Navy Mom!


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