After graduating from Rochelle Township High School in 2018, Blake Albers attended Kishwaukee College to continue both his academics and his baseball career. A former three-sport athlete for the Hubs, Albers spent one year with the Kougars, and while he enjoyed his time with the team, he felt deep down that school wasn’t the right place for him.
Albers spent this past fall working multiple jobs, but an opportunity to find his direction arose when his father Brian approached him about enlisting with the U.S. Navy. Albers, whose grandfather Sherel Dean Albers was in the U.S. Navy, decided to move forward with enlisting, and after completing boot camp during the summer, Albers recently graduated from Basic Enlisted Submarine School at the New London Naval Submarine Base in Groton, Connecticut.
“It feels good to be called a submariner,” Albers said. “I left home in May and it’s been a long, hard process for me… I loved playing baseball at Kishwaukee and I made a lot of great friends there. I liked the coaching staff a lot, but I didn’t see college as my way forward. I worked two jobs during the fall, and then my dad asked me about visiting the U.S. Navy office and seeing what they have to offer, since my grandfather was a gunner’s mate for four years.”
Albers began his journey with six weeks of boot camp in the summer before starting BESS, where enlisted sailors are introduced to the basics of submarine operation. His training included three high-risk trainers: Damage control, where sailors learn to patch leaks and seal ruptured pipes, submarine escape, where sailors learn how to escape from a disabled submarine well under water, and firefighting, where sailors learn and practice containing ship and surface fires.
“We learn a little about everything because we always have to be prepared for any situation,” Albers said. “If there’s a break in the pressure hall or a fire, we have to know how to fix and deal with those problems. We learn about everything from the control room to the sanitary tanks… During boot camp, they tore us down and built us back up. We were doing something new everyday during boot camp, but we spent a lot of time in the classroom during BESS.”
With boot camp and BESS completed, Albers is currently in a waiting period before he will begin three additional months of accession training, also known as A School. There, Albers will receive training specific to his MOS, or Military Occupational Specialty. After A School, Albers and other sailors will receive their assignments and relocate to their designated stations.
“I’ve met a lot of great people during boot camp and BESS,” Albers said. “We’re with each other all of the time and we’re always there for each other if one of us is having a bad day… Whether it was during boot camp or BESS, we were always together and we made sure every person was doing well. Our instructors and commanding officers do everything in their power to help us out.”