Lakewood native serves in Navy’s “silent service” half a world away

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By Lt. Eileen Suarez, Navy Office of Community Outreach

SANTA RITA, GUAM - A 2010 Mayfair High School graduate and Lakewood native is serving in the U.S. Navy’s silent service as part of a crew working aboard one of the world’s most advanced nuclear-powered fast attack submarines, USS Chicago.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Thompson is a sonar technician serving aboard the Guam-based submarine, one of 40 Los Angeles-class submarines making it the backbone of the submarine force.

A Navy sonar technician is responsible for the safety of the ship. They are the eyes and ears of the boat when they are underway.

“My family taught me perseverance. It took me three years to get into the Navy and because of my perseverance I made it.,” said Thompson. “My cousin is in the military and he is the one who got me into submarines. He and I have always had similar interests, and if he liked it then I knew I would as well.”
With a crew of 130, this submarine is 360 feet long and weighs approximately 6,900 tons. A nuclear-powered propulsion system helps push the submarine through the water at nearly 30 mph.

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.

“Guam is a unique homeport with the missions we conduct and the high caliber of Sailors we have stationed here,” said Cmdr. Brian Turney, Chicago’s commanding officer. “My crew in particular is incredibly talented, and I am proud of the hard work and dedication they show each and every day.”

According to Navy officials, submariner sailors 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 sub 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.

“Getting the submarine warfare pin has been my greatest accomplishment. It defines you within the Navy as someone who can be trusted to do the right thing,” said Thompson. “Your shipmates can sleep at night with you on watch.”

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

“Being in the Navy has made me more well-rounded person and I have been able to see the world in a different view,” added Thompson. “I have been in Guam three years and my favorite part of being here is enjoying the island life.”