PEARL HARBOR – Modern attack submarines are the most technologically advanced and capable undersea warfighters in the world. Operating these highly complex submarines require sailors from the U.S. Navy’s submarine community, also known as the ‘Silent Service.’
Petty Officer 2nd Class Frank Huftalin, a 2012 Rochelle Township High School graduate and native of Malta, has served for five years and works as a Navy machinist’s mate serving aboard one of the world’s most advanced nuclear-powered submarines, USS Illinois, homeported at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
As a Navy machinist’s mate, Huftalin will operate and maintain Naval Nuclear propulsion plants and associated equipment; supervise and administer naval nuclear propulsion plant operations; thoroughly understand reactor, electrical, and mechanical theory involved in the operation of the nuclear reactor, steam plant, propulsion plant, and auxiliary equipment; operate and repair systems associated with reactor plants, propulsion plants, and auxiliary support systems.
Huftalin credits his service in the Navy to the many lessons he learned in Malta.
“My upbringing taught me to take responsibility for everything I do, and to do everything to the best of my ability,” said Huftalin. “That is how I try and live out my service today.”
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.
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.
Though there are many ways individuals can serve their communities and country Huftalin considers his Naval service as his biggest accomplishment.
“My grandfather served in the Army at the end of the Korean war,” said Huftalin. “I’m continuing that tradition to honor his service by being the best sailor I can be.”
Being stationed in Pearl Harbor, often referred to as the gateway to the Pacific in defense circles, means Huftalin is serving in a part of the world taking on a new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances, and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.
“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”
The Navy has been pivotal in helping maintain peace and stability in the Pacific region for decades. The Pacific is home to more than 50 percent of the world’s population, many of the world’s largest and smallest economies, several of the world’s largest militaries, and many U.S. allies.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Huftalin and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, one that will provide a critical component of the Navy the nation needs.
“Serving in the Navy means that I am part of a strong team of professionals who know their jobs very well and that I can count on them to have my back when the need arises,” added Huftalin. “Seeing everyone work together and seeing all the people back home supporting us reminded me of how important our work is for the country.”