2016-07-13 / Front Page

Queens Native Aboard Navy Nuclear Submarine

By Kayla Good, Navy Office of Community Outreach Public Affairs

Petty Officer 2nd Class Elias Illescas.Petty Officer 2nd Class Elias Illescas.A 2002 Richmond Hill High School graduate and Queens native is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard one of the Navy’s newest attack submarines, the USS Missouri.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Elias Illescas is a fire control technician aboard the Groton-based boat, one of only 12 Virginia-class attack submarines in the Navy’s fleet. The Virginia class is comprised of the Navy’s newest and most advanced subs.

A Navy fire control technician is responsible for using information provided by sonar technicians to determine what is near the submarine while under water. They also employ weapons aboard the submarine.

“I really like the people I get to work with,” said Illescas. “While being out to sea, you get the chance to make a lot of good friends. With the amount of time we spend out there, it’s like gaining another family.”

With a crew of 130, this submarine is 377 feet long and weighs approximately 7,800 tons. A nuclear-powered propulsion system helps push the submarine through the water at more than 25 mph.

A key element of the Navy’s mission is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, according to Navy officials, 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.

Attack submarines are designed to hunt down and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships; strike targets ashore with cruise missiles; carry and deliver Navy SEALs; carry out intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions; and engage in mine warfare. Their primary tactical advantage is stealth, operating undetected under the sea for long periods of time.

“The submarine community has one of the highest operational tempos in the Navy; our missions are extremely technical and demanding,” said Capt. Ollie Lewis, Commodore, Submarine Squadron 12. “We can’t maintain the success that we have experienced without having the most exceptional people serving with us.”

According to Navy officials, because of the demanding environment aboard submarines, personnel are accepted only after rigorous testing and observation. Submariners are some of the most highly trained and skilled people in the Navy. The training is highly technical, and each crew has to be able to operate, maintain, and repair every system or piece of equipment on board. Regardless of their specialty, everyone also 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.

“The best part of serving on a submarine is the opportunity to try differnt things I never would imagine I would experience,” said Illescas. “I am doing things I never thought I would be doing.”

Challenging submarine living conditions build strong fellowship among the elite crew, Navy officials explained. The crews are highly motivated, and quickly adapt to changing conditions. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches, and drills.

“By joining the Navy, I have been given an opportunity to develop my skills and my abilities to build a strong work ethic,” added Illescas.

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