Meet the Crew ... SSN 796 The USS New Jersey

MMA3 Marcos Briones, third from left, back row, is photographed with SSN796 crew members MMNC Steven Newton, MMN2 Matthew Baker, MMN1 Nick Herrin, YNSN Charles Miller, LT Cdr Nicholas Tuuk, Monmouth County Commissioner Lillian G Burry, and MAST cadets LCDR Aislinn Crowe, Battalion Commander, LT James Abbes, deputy battalion commander, LTjg Mary Catherine Harvey, training officer, and LTjg Jenna Lewandowski , drill commander.

Photo by Michael J.Colarusso

The friendliness, attention to detail and enthusiasm of the students at MAST, the Marine Academy of Science and Technology at Sandy Hook, led to at least one Sailor turning the tables and asking questions about them rather than students asking him about himself, when SSN796, the submarine New Jersey crew came to the Garden State last week.

Machinist's Mate Auxiliary Petty Officer Third Class (MMA3) Marcos Briones, one of six crew members of the sub New Jersey who toured a number of historic and educational sites in Monmouth County during a recent familiarization tour aimed at sharing information on the Navy’s newest sub and the first to be named New Jersey, told the cadets at MAST he was from Kansas.

He shared stories, as did each of the crew members, of their time on the boat, why they decided to be submariners, the good and bad sides of their choices, and dozens of other things about life in the Navy and why they wanted it.

The cadets, most of whom are from towns along the coast and none further than 50 miles or so from an ocean beach, laughed when he explained he was from “Kansas, we’re landlocked, and I never got to see anything!” Briones said that was a driving reason for joining the Navy because he had heard “Join the Navy, see the world,” and he wanted to see the world.

He told the cadets he has seen a good part of the world, was aboard the USS Hawaii, was in Guam, and loved everything about it. “The Navy can take me anywhere,” he said with a broad grin, “I’m good!”

He also said he didn’t know much about New Jersey…coming from Kansas, you know. All he had ever heard about was “the Jersey Shore!” So he was happy to be here, and the cadets were happy to welcome him and all the crew of the soon to be commissioned submarine.

It was only after spending time with the cadets, touring Fort Hancock and seeing the gun barrel at Hartshorne Woods from BB62, the retired Battleship New Jersey, that the Sailor approached me to ask something about MAST.

Polite, courteous, intelligent, eager for information, Briones wanted to know how many students were at MAST and how many of them were in NJROTC (Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps). When I told him every student at MAST is in NJROTC and it’s a requirement of the entire student body, he broke out in a broad grin and said, “Wow! I never heard of anything like that! That’s awesome!”

When I explained it isn’t easy to get into MAST, even though it is a public high school, every student has to pass tests to be selected, his grin got even wider. “No wonder why they were all so great!” he enthused.

Then Briones told me it was NJROTC that helped him make his decision to join the Navy. He was in it at his hometown high school in Kansas and loved the discipline, the drill, everything about it. It was an option in his school as well as at every other school he knew that had an NJROTC program.

Then the proud, good looking young Sailor ticked off all the awards and accomplishments his NJROTC unit had accomplished, the national competitions they had entered and won, the accolades they received along the way. But he was still awed by the students at MAST.

“I’m going to tell my mom to start looking for articles in the papers about MAST,” he said, “because this is really awesome!”

“We were so honored to be able to welcome Petty Officer Briones and the other members of the crew of the sub New Jersey and we were proud to show off our beautiful campus and our incredible cadets,” said Commander Tracie Smith-Yeoman, the retired Navy officer who is the Senior Naval Science Instructor at MAST. “The cadets loved to hear their stories of travel and excitement, and we are really hoping to be able to meet more of the crew in the future.

But it was his last remarks, before shaking my hand and thanking me for all the information about MAST, that convinced me I was talking to a Sailor who would one day most likely in command of his own submarine. Enthusiastic, with a love of the Navy and a strong desire to create a happy, healthy and secure future for himself, this Sailor said there was another great thing about being in NJROTC…. if you join the Navy after high school, with that on your record, you get an automatic promotion once out of boot camp. “So already I was ahead and on my way to even more!” MMA3 Marcos Briones said proudly.

Want to learn more about the New Jersey? Visit SSN 796


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