|Seaman Joseph Parenti of Mt. Sterling,
Ohio, salutes for his mom during a visit home after
completing basic training. Photo by Susan McKay
WASHINGTON, April 19, 2002 -- Seaman Joseph Parenti is going to be a "nuke" - in Navy parlance, a nuclear propulsion plant operator aboard a submarine or aircraft carrier.
The 18-year-old Mount Sterling, Ohio, native is spending his days - and nights - studying mathematics, chemistry, and physics. If he is successful in this 24-week course, he will go on to 24 weeks of Nuclear Power School to learn all about thermodynamics, reactor principles, and radiological fundamentals.
"At this school, everything is based on perfection," Parenti said. "There are no shortcuts. I get up at 5:30 in the morning. I go to school and I don’t leave until four in the afternoon. We usually have three or four hours every night of studying." Parenti acknowledged it was "a hard jump to go from spending about an hour a week on homework to spending four hours a night on seriously intense study and homework."
Parenti said he joined the Navy specifically for the nuke program.
"When I was a senior in high school, I really wasn’t applying myself - unless it was sports," he said. "But everybody always said I had the potential. I heard about the nuke program and I talked to ex-nukes and I saw how successful they were."
He has also come to appreciate the simple idea of serving his country.
Many people have the wrong impression of the military, Parenti said, reflecting on his journey into manhood. People who don’t see the military as a good option "are stuck in the Ice Ages," he said. "Now that I’m in it, I think the military should be mandatory for everybody for at least two years.
"Before we went to boot camp," he said, "the very first things they asked us were, ’Who’s here for the college? Who’s here for the money? Who’s here for travel?’
"When they asked, ’Who’s in it because they want to serve their country?’ only one or two kids raised their hand. At the end of boot camp, they asked the same questions again, and this time when they asked about serving their country, everybody raised their hand."
For young Joe Parenti, he is living in "a completely different world," but a world in which he is both serving his country and laying the foundation for his future.
Source: American Forces Press Service via Veterans News and Information Service