Today’s veteran: Jason Rodgers, 46
Born: Baton Rouge, La.
Service: Navy, 6 years, 8 months
Duties: Sonar technician
Rank: Petty officer 2nd class
Recognitions: National Defense Service Medal; Good Conduct Medal
Duty stations: Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay; Bangor, Wash. and aboard USS Nebraska and USS Kentucky
His story: While some sailors are unenthusiastic about serving aboard submarines, that wasn’t the case with Jason Rodgers.
He chose submarine service when he met with his recruiter because he liked the challenge.
“I wanted something not everyone could do,” he said. “There was something unique about it.”
He always intended to enlist in the military after high school but wanted to get some life experience prior to joining. He finally met with a recruiter when he was 24 years old. Being older than most of his fellow recruits helped, he said.
He was trained as a sonar operator, which was the job he chose after watching the movie “Hunt for Red October.”
The role of ballistic missile submarines is to remain submerged and undetected as a deterrent to nuclear attack, and Rodgers’ job was to monitor everything in surrounding waters. He searched for anything from enemy submarines and surface vessels to fishing boats dragging nets and low-flying aircraft. The job was serious but it was also fun, he said.
“It was like operating a video game for a living,” he said. “I was looking for anything and everything. You have to see everything around you, and you have to avoid it. At times it was draining.”
Rodgers earned his Dolphins during his first deployment aboard the ballistic missile submarine USS Kentucky, but wasn’t pinned until he returned to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.
“I had an admiral pin it on me,” he said.
He also had to sing the official song of his boat during the ceremony.
“I sang it loud and proud,” he said. “It was a great feeling to be one of them.”
The respect between all submariners was evident in 2000 when the Russian submarine Kirsk sank in the Barents Sea, claiming the lives of all 118 crew members. Rodgers said the crew on his boat held a moment of silence for the Russian sailors who lost their lives.
He was serving at Kings Bay when the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred. He wanted a more active role in response to the attacks, but he wasn’t willing to transfer to surface vessels because he liked the relaxed protocols in submarines and the tight-knit camaraderie of the crew.
He volunteered to serve aboard fast-attack submarines but was assigned to the crew of another ballistic missile boat, the USS Nebraska.
He was also trained to be a sonar technician, capable of maintaining and repairing the equipment he was operating.
The most difficult part of the job, Rodgers said, is he can’t talk about much of what he did because it is classified information.
He left the Navy after a training incident that left him with post traumatic stress disorder that counseling was unable to help him overcome. He has no regrets, however, about his service and how it shaped him as a person.
“It refined the characteristics I was raised with,” he said. “It taught me to deal with various people. I don’t think I would change a thing.”
Our Veterans runs Wednesdays. Contact Gordon Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or at 912- -464-7655 to suggest a veteran for a column.