Machinists Mate Nuclear 2rd Class Lance Dickens stands watch while working at the USS Alaska Gold off-crew building on Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. Originally from Brandon, Fl., Dickens, stationed aboard USS Alaska (Gold) SSBN 732 constantly prepares with his unit during in-port periods to remain qualified and prepare for upcoming deployments and tactical exercises at sea.

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Bryan Tomforde,

A native of Brandon is serving the U.S. Navy as part of a crew working aboard one of the world’s most advanced ballistic missile submarines.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Lance Dickens joined the Navy in 2016 and is a machinist’s mate (nuclear) aboard the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Alaska (SSBN 732). 

“I am a mechanic and I get to work on the submarine’s piping valve systems,” said Dickens, who works in M-division aboard the submarine. 

A machinist’s mate (nuclear) is responsible for the electrical power and propulsion to the entire submarine. Measuring 560 feet long, 42 feet wide and weighing more than 16,500 tons, a nuclear-powered propulsion system helps push the ship through the water at more than 20 knots. 

“I have a lot respect for the camaraderie that submarine Sailors have,” said Dickens. “I never expected to serve with such a tight-knit group of people and we have really become a family.” 

Dickens is part of the boat’s gold crew, one of the two rotating crews, which allow the boat to be deployed on missions more often without taxing one crew too much. A typical crew on this submarine is approximately 150 officers and enlisted sailors. 

Coming from a large family, he was inspired by both his brother and uncle who are both U.S. Army infantry soldiers. “Deployment can last a while and overall, I love it,” said Dickens. “Sailors form close relationships with one another and we are all encouraged to do our best, and that helps us achieve the mission.” 

“I really enjoy underway, but I do miss being able to just message my family and when we return, I am excited just to see sunshine again,” he said. 

“Becoming a ‘nuke’, from school to prototype, is the stream of events leading up to finally becoming a part of a submarine crew,” he said. “The whole process can take a year-and-a half. After all of that training, it was a relief to be in the damage control and firefighting trainers. I really enjoyed that part of my training.” 

Dickens has long-term plans to graduate college with a medical degree and is uncertain at this point in his career about whether he might stay in the Navy or try to be selected into an officer program. 

“Really, my most proud accomplishment at this point is just having been selected to serve aboard Alaska gold crew,” said Dickens.