Brooklyn sailor serving on nuclear submarine

A Brooklyn man is getting the chance of a lifetime, serving on a nuclear submarine as a member of the U.S. Navy, where he is realizing his leadership qualities.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephon R. Maynejackson, a 2009 graduate of Automotive High School in Williamsburg, is serving aboard the USS Columbia, a submarine currently based in Hawaii.

Maynejackson, 23, is an electronics technician aboard the attack submarine. Juggling numerous responsibilities, Maynejackson said he is learning about himself as a leader, a sailor, and a person. He said he joined the Navy after high school because he was not ready for college. "I wanted to go to school but I knew that I was not ready. I really wanted to get some life experience and see the world a little bit, then decide what direction I wanted to go," he said.

"I chose this job because it challenges me every day with something new. In the Navy, there is literally something for everyone, no matter what you are interested in doing," Maynejackson said.

Measuring 361 feet long, 33 feet wide and weighing 7,000 tons when submerged, the USS Columbia is one of the most versatile weapons platforms ever placed in the world's oceans, capable of long range Tomahawk strike operations, anti-submarine and surface shipping operations, surveillance and intelligence gathering, and special forces insertions, according to Navy officials. According to the Navy’s website, the submarine was christened in 1995 by Hillary Clinton.

Maynejackson is part of a crew of 130 that serves on the USS Columbia.

Attack submarines are designed to pursue and attack enemy submarines and surface ships using torpedoes. They also carry cruise missiles with conventional high-explosive warheads to attack enemy shore facilities. They conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, and support special operations.

The USS Columbia, along with all other U.S. Navy submarines, is manned solely by volunteers from within the Navy, according to officials. Because of the stressful environment aboard submarines, personnel are accepted only after rigorous testing and observation. The training is highly technical and each crew member has to be able to operate, maintain, and repair every system or piece of equipment on board the submarine.

While it might be difficult for many people to imagine living on a submarine, the living conditions actually build a strong fellowship among the crew, according to Navy officials. The crews are said to be highly motivated and able to quickly adapt to changing conditions.

Maynejackson said he is very proud of the work he is doing as part of the Columbia's crew, protecting America on the world's oceans. Living in a 361-foot long, 33-foot wide, three-story building with no windows, and submerging beneath the surface of the ocean to travel silently underwater for months requires a tremendous amount of skill, knowledge, personal discipline, and teamwork, Navy officials said.

"I'm very proud of all USS Columbia sailors and equally impressed with the type and quality of work that goes aboard the submarine each day," said Cmdr. J. Patrick Friedman, Columbia's commanding officer. "Our team is filled with highly qualified young adults, reliable, flexible, and ready to respond worldwide at any time. Their work ethic, enthusiasm, and esprit de corps are second to none and they are the backbone of the Navy's undersea war fighting capability," he said.