Once a submariner, always a submariner

Machinist's Mate (Nuclear) 2nd Class James Wright is highlighted in this week’s recruiter in the spotlight. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Meranda Keller)

Story by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Meranda Keller

Young adulthood can be a pivotal point in life where every decision can lead to unexpected adventure and opportunities. This rang true in 2012 for a young Georgian man whose ambition and desire would lead him on a new course. James Wright was attending Georgia State University, pursuing a degree in nursing, when the 19-year-old decided he needed a new challenge and a different path than everyone else in his family.

“I realized I was only pursuing nursing because it just seemed right since my mom was a nurse,” said Wright.

He saw the Navy as an exciting opportunity, but he took it a step further when he went to his local recruiter and joined the Navy in the nuclear power program. Nuclear technicians, power plant operators, and subsystems specialists are responsible for keeping all the Navy’s commissioned submarines and aircraft carriers running. These Sailors complete around two years of education, following a curriculum developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that teaches them to perform the complex technical functions that are at the core of submarine and carrier capabilities.

Their job involves everything from operating nuclear propulsion plant machinery to controlling auxiliary equipment that supports naval nuclear reactors, maintaining various electronic, propulsion and weapons systems.

Now, seven years later, Wright is a Machinist’s Mate (Nuclear) 2nd Class and has been serving on shore-duty as a recruiter at Navy Recruiting District (NRD) San Francisco for the last six-months.

Wright looks back favorably at his decision to join the nuclear program. “I didn’t realize how challenging it would be, and I almost failed out of the program after two tests,” he said. “I began to seek assistance, which I found in my instructor at the time, MM1 (Machinist’s Mate 1st Class) Michael Browning. From then forward I excelled, achieving a 3.38 GPA in Nuclear Power School and qualifying first in my class at Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU) Ballston Spa,” said Wright.

After graduating NPTU, Wright served on board the USS Hampton (SSN 767) where he earned two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals.

Submarines are still a passion for Wright, even after choosing to go recruiting in the San Francisco Bay Area. “I wanted to be close to my mother and brother after being across the country from them for almost seven years,” said Wright.

He has contracted five people so far, three of which are submariners. Wright says, just like him, they never thought of the possibility of going to be submariners. “That has been really rewarding to me, knowing I’ve made such an impact on them that they wanted to join my community,” said Wright.

In his short time at the command, Wright learned it is hard at times to just walk up to people and spark a conversation, but he thinks his perseverance, self-drive and confidence gives him the ability to help others and have a positive impact on the submarine community.

Wright plans to stay in the Navy and has ambitions of becoming leading petty officer qualified and keeping in the field of nuclear engineering; he is striving to become the nuclear recruiting coordinator during his time at NRD San Francisco. His long-term goals are to become a submarine officer and command a submarine one day.

Navy Recruiting District San Francisco has 10 divisions, which include 33 enlisted Navy Recruiting Stations, four Navy Reserve Recruiting Stations, two Navy Recruiting Processing Stations, and three Navy Officer Recruiting Stations.

Navy Recruiting Command consists of a command headquarters, three Navy Recruiting Regions, 18 Navy Recruiting Districts and eight Navy Talent Acquisition Groups that serve more than 1,330 recruiting stations across the world. Their combined goal is to attract the highest quality candidates to assure the ongoing success of America’s Navy.

For more news from Commander, Navy Recruiting Command, go to Follow Navy Recruiting on Facebook (, Twitter (@USNRecruiter) and Instagram (@USNRecruiter).