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Lake Roosevelt graduate recounts time in Navy

 

Calen Farmer serving on the George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier. - submitted photo

Lake Roosevelt graduate Calen Farmer spent six years in the Navy before pursuing an electronics engineering degree, and the experience took him around the world.

Farmer graduated from Lake Roosevelt in 2008 and enlisted in the Navy in February of 2012, just two days before his 22nd birthday.

" Like most young people, I was lost in life and didn't know what to do with my future," Farmer said. "I tried going to school, but it just was not for me at the time. After realizing I wasn't going anywhere in life, I looked for direction. The Navy would give me training, education, a job, benefits, and everything I didn't know I was missing."

Farmer attended a nine-week bootcamp in Great Lakes, Michigan before spending 15 months undergoing Naval Nuclear Power Training in Charleston, South Carolina, then eight months in Saratoga Springs, New York for eight months, completing training as a nuclear electronics technician and nuclear reactor operator.

"Some have compared my training on the level of a school such as Yale, Stanford, Harvard ... but I thought it was more like drinking water from a firehose," Farmer said. "We had to learn a lot of information, as you could imagine, in a short period of time."

"I loved my job in the military," Farmer said. "I found something I was really good at. When people ask what exactly it was that I did, I tell them I was behind the steering wheel of a five-story nuclear reactor, driving a 100,000 ton of ship, filled with 6,000 people. And, not to boast, but I was darn good at it, too. During my two deployments, I was able to visit places like Greece, Dubai, Southern France, London, and a few other places."

Having received an honorable discharge after serving in the Navy for six years, Farmer is currently living in Chesapeake, Virginia, attending Tidewater Community College with plans to transfer to Virginia Tech to pursue a bachelor of science degree in electronics engineering.

"School is much better this time around," Farmer said. "I am very happy with where I am now. After you serve your time in the military, you earn a GI Bill, which pays for a college education for four years of school, and even helps stipend your income while you are taking classes."

Farmer spoke more about life in and out of the military.

"The people I worked with while serving became my best friends," he said. "We all became so close and experienced something so large all together. That creates a bond few will ever know. Even those who I did not serve side by side with, we will have a connection, a brotherhood. I am proud of all of them."

"Every single person I know who has served or is still serving has a different reason for signing on the dotted line (or scanning your fingerprint now)," Farmer continued. "Most need a direction in life. Some do it for pride of family, or country. Others will join because they want the experience and education provided, depending on what job you are able to get."

Farmer expressed gratitude for the experiences he had, as well as the opportunities provided by the military.

"I will always be grateful for what I have received from my time in the service," Farmer continued. "More than just a job, benefits, or seeing some pretty cool places, but the connections I made and the life experiences I now have that few can say they have done. Who else can say they have emergency shut down a nuclear reactor and brought it back to operating power in less than 10 minutes? Or saved an aircraft carrier that was on the brink of losing all electrical power?"

Standing in front of Stonehenge. Farmer said his time in the Navy has taken him around the world to Greece, Dubai, Southern France, London, and more. - submitted photo

" Life in the military and outside of it are two vastly different things. Now that I am a bit older and going to college with a bunch of kids right out of high school, I see huge differences in us. I miss my job and the friends I worked with, but I do not miss the military. It was good to me, but I was ready to move on."

Farmer feels that the United States treats veterans very well, and that there are numerous benefits and opportunities for those who served, but added that many vets don't know how to take advantage of those opportunities.

"I know that if I ever was struggling for any help, I could get it somewhere as a vet; I just have to look hard enough," Farmer said.

He had advice for anyone thinking of joining up: "You will only get out of the military what you put into it," Farmer said. "Also understand that you need to do what you're told the first time, every time. Just doing simply that will put you miles ahead of the rest and make your experience more than worth the ride."

Farmer made one last point.

"To those currently serving and who have served, give 'em hell and I'm proud to stand beside you."

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