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Recent Columbiana Graduate Excels as a Missile Technician
Recent Columbiana Graduate Excels as a Missile Technician
Don Mook
Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Seaman Apprentice Aaron Thistlewaite assigned to Trident Training Facility hails from Columbiana, Ohio, and is a 2018 graduate of Columbiana High School. 

Thistlewaite is a missile technician stationed at the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, homeport to the Ohio-class ballistic-missile and guided-missile submarines. 

"Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay is home to all East Coast Ohio-class submarines," said Rear Adm. Jeff Jablon, commander, Submarine Group 10. "Team Kings Bay ensures our crews are combat ready when called upon, putting our submarine forces on scene, unseen." 

“I am a missile technician in training I make sure we uphold the integrity of the missiles,” Thistlewaite said. 

Thistlewaite credits continued success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Columbiana. 

“I realized in my younger years that depending on how you respond to conflict could create a positive or negative outcome,” Thistlewaite said. 

The Navy's ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs), often referred to as "boomers," serve as a strategic deterrent by providing an undetectable platform for submarine-launched ballistic missiles, according to Jablon. They are designed specifically for stealth, extended patrols and the precise delivery of missiles if directed by the President. The Ohio-class design allows the submarines to operate for 15 or more years between major overhauls. On average, the submarines spend 77 days at sea followed by 35 days in-port for maintenance. 

Guided-missile submarines (SSGNs) provide the Navy with unprecedented strike and special operation mission capabilities from a stealthy, clandestine platform, according to Jablon. Armed with tactical missiles and equipped with superior communications capabilities, SSGNs are capable of directly supporting combatant commander's strike and Special Operations Forces (SOF) requirements. The Navy's four guided-missile submarines, each displace 18,750 tons submerged. Each SSGN is capable of carrying 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles, plus a complement of heavyweight torpedoes to be fired through four torpedo tubes. 

The first submarine was invented by Yale graduate, David Bushnell, in 1775 and provided the colonists with a secret weapon in the form of a one-man wooden craft in an experimental submarine that was nicknamed the Turtle. 

Although Bushnell’s efforts were unsuccessful in attempts to blow up British vessels during the American Revolution George Washington said of the Turtle, “I then thought, and still think, that it was an effort of genius.” 

U.S. submarines may not be what some have imagined. Measuring 560 feet long, 42-feet wide and weighing more than 16,500 tons, a nuclear-powered propulsion system helps push the ship through the water at more than 20 knots (23 mph). 

Because of the demanding environment aboard submarines, personnel are accepted only after rigorous testing, according to Navy officials. Submariners are some of the most highly-trained and skilled people in the Navy. Regardless of their specialty, everyone has to learn how everything on the ship works and how to respond in emergencies to become “qualified in submarines” and earn the right to wear the coveted gold or silver dolphins on their uniform. 

“I love that I get to interact with the missile technicians that have been to the fleet so I get to speak with them and learn more about my job,” Thistlewaite said. 

Serving in the Navy means Thistlewaite is part of a world that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy. 

A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea. 

“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.” 

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Thistlewaite is most proud of passing all of his submarine schools. He graduated top of his class and all the hard work he put into his studies paid off. 

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Thistlewaite and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs. 

“Serving in the Navy means that I put on the uniform and serve the country to protect others here in the United States,” Thistlewaite said. 

--- Article provided by American Connections Media Outreach ---