Nuclear Prototype - Charleston

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Google Maps and satelite photos are amazing! I started out trying to get a look at my old neighborhoods for old times' sake. For most of them, the best I could get was a grainy mid-range shot where I could pick out major roads and larger buildings.

So, I didn't have very high hopes for the neighborhood I lived in when I was a Nuke Instructor stationed in Charleston. The Naval Base butts up against a Polaris Missile Facility, so I figured that govt security would preclude any kind of detail in that area. Was I surprised. I zoomed all the way in on the apts and then started tracing my drive to the base.

Here, in great clarity, is the Nuclear Prototype Training Facility in Goose Creek, SC (click on pic for the full-blown Google image). The square building just left of dead-center is the main training building - where most of the support functions are located, and where classroom, and book study are conducted. Until qualified to operate, students put in 12-hour days. 8 hours with their crew, and 4 hours of study time before or after crew time. Crews rotate shifts.

The three things in the Cooper River are: top (white) - support barge, middle - MTS-635: Sam Rayburn, bottom - MTS-626: Daniel Webster. The two MTS's (Moored Training Ships) are former active SSBN (ballistic missile submarines). Their missile compartments have been removed, and special protective systems installed in their forward compartments to allow the operation of their reactor plants in a populated area.

I started out as a student on the Rayburn (the only prototype in Charleston at the time). Shortly after becoming an instructor a bunch of us were transferred to the Webster which was currently in the Charleston Shipyard being converted. We helped complete the conversion and then moved up the river with the Webster to train and send to the fleet the Webster's first five classes.

I have to say, Charleston was my favorite duty station. The town is awesome. The weather is awesome. People are friendly. And instructor duty was the best. Great bunch of guys. Our softball team always did well, and I picked up an MBA in my spare time. If not for the rotating shifts, this would have been the perfect gig.


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