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Cedar Rapids native and Washington graduate stationed in submarine USS Providence

U.S. Navy

Seaman Recruit Justice Niehaus, a 2016 Washington High School graduate, stands next to the USS Providence, where he serves as a sonar technician.
U.S. Navy Seaman Recruit Justice Niehaus, a 2016 Washington High School graduate, stands next to the USS Providence, where he serves as a sonar technician.

Just two years removed from Washington High School, Justice Niehaus is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard one of the world’s most advanced nuclear-powered submarines, USS Providence.

A 2016 graduate of Washington, Seaman Recruit Niehaus works as a sonar technician serving aboard the Groton, Conn.-based submarine in the U.S. Navy.

A Navy sonar technician is responsible for listening to sounds underwater and describing what they are to the supervisor.

“I was taught to be truthful and that has kept me from doing things I should not be doing,” said Niehaus. “I have also learned to ask questions to make sure I am doing the right thing and to be kind.”

Jobs are highly varied aboard the submarine. Approximately 130 sailors make up the submarine’s crew, doing everything from handling weapons to maintaining nuclear reactors.

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 U.S. Navy submarine force has one of the highest operational tempos in the U.S. Navy,” said Brian J. Nowak, Commanding Officer, Naval Submarine Support Center, New London.

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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. Regardless of their specialty, everyone 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.

Given the unique operating environment, members of the submarine community 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.

“Serving in the Navy means protecting my friends and doing my part to make sure we stay safe and make it home,” Niehaus said.

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