Susanville native trains next generation of U.S. Navy submariners

Petty Officer 1st Class Jacob Aston, a Susanville native and 2010 Lassen High School graduate, is teaching sailors the skills needed to operate aboard submarines so they can successfully complete missions around the world. Photo by James Green, U.S. Navy, Special to Lassen News

A Susanville, California, native is training sailors to continue a 123-year tradition of service under the sea. Submariners play a critical role in carrying out one of the Defense Department’s most important missions: strategic deterrence. As an instructor at Navy Submarine School, Petty Officer 1st Class Jacob Aston is teaching sailors the skills needed to operate aboard submarines so they can successfully complete missions around the world.

“I joined the Navy to not work in the private sector,” said Aston. “I wanted to work in small teams where profits were not the driving incentive.”

Growing up in Susanville, Aston attended Lassen High School and graduated in 2010. Skills and values found in Susanville are similar to those required to succeed in the military.

“My parents lived a lifestyle that had them waking up before 5 a.m. each day,” said Aston. “Waking up early is important because there is a lot of change in the Navy. Your bosses will change, your mission will change and your schedule will change frequently, however, it will rarely be before the sun rises. Therefore, if you are waking up early, at least you will have some consistency with your life.”

These lessons have helped Aston while serving in the Navy.

Known as America’s “Apex Predators,” the Navy’s submarine force operates a large fleet of technically advanced vessels. These submarines are capable of conducting rapid defensive and offensive operations around the world, in furtherance of U.S. national security.

There are three basic types of submarines: fast-attack submarines, ballistic-missile submarines and guided-missile submarines.

Fast-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; conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions; and engage in mine warfare. The Virginia-class SSN is the most advanced submarine in the world today. It combines stealth and payload capability to meet Combatant Commanders’ demands in this era of strategic competition.

The Navy’s ballistic-missile submarines, often referred to as “boomers,” serve as a strategic deterrent by providing an undetectable platform for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. SSBNs are designed specifically for stealth, extended patrols and the precise delivery of missiles. The Columbia-class SSBN will be the largest, most capable and most advanced submarine produced by the U.S. – replacing the current Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarines to ensure continuous sea-based strategic deterrence into the 2080s.

Guided-missile submarines provide the Navy with unprecedented strike and special operation mission capabilities from a stealthy, clandestine platform. Each SSGN is capable of carrying 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles, plus a complement of heavyweight torpedoes to be fired through four torpedo tubes.

“Our mission remains timeless — to provide our fellow citizens with nothing less than the very best Navy: fully combat ready at all times, focused on warfighting excellence and committed to superior leadership at every single level,” said Adm. Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations. “This is our calling. And I cannot imagine a calling more worthy.”

Serving in the Navy means Aston is part of a team that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on strengthening alliances, modernizing capabilities, increasing capacities and maintaining military readiness in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“The Navy is important to national defense because it allows us to trade freely with every country that we want to,” said Aston.

With 90 percent of global commerce traveling by sea and access to the internet relying on the security of undersea fiber optic cables, Navy officials continue to emphasize that the prosperity of the United States is directly linked to trained sailors and a strong Navy.

Aston and the sailors they serve with have many opportunities to achieve accomplishments during their military service.

“My proudest accomplishment is my work-life balance with my spouse,” said Aston. “The Navy is extremely difficult at times. It’s hard for those to understand the commitment when it wasn’t theirs to begin with, so I am proud of that.”

As Aston and other sailors continue to train and perform missions, they take pride in serving their country in the United States Navy.

“Serving in the Navy means that I can serve my country without camping out in tents,” said Aston.

Aston is grateful to others for helping make a Navy career possible.

“I want to thank my cousin Donald Scott,” added Aston. “He retired from the Army, so I want to thank him for his rational perspective when it comes to working for the government.”