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Baltimore native serves aboard USS Columbia

Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Sunday Sawyer | 5/23/2014, 6 a.m.
A 2006 Woodlawn High School graduate and Baltimore, Maryland native is serving aboard a U.S. Navy attack submarine, the USS ...
Petty Officer 1st Class Johnathan D. York, an electrician’s mate serves aboard the Hawaii-based boat, a Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine. Courtesy Photo/United States Navy

A 2006 Woodlawn High School graduate and Baltimore, Maryland native is serving aboard a U.S. Navy attack submarine, the USS Columbia (SSN 771).

Petty Officer 1st Class Johnathan D. York is an electrician's mate aboard the Hawaii-based nuclear-powered attack submarine.

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 also conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, mine laying and support special operations.

As a 25 year-old with numerous responsibilities, York says he is learning about himself as a leader, sailor and a person. He added that he joined the Navy for the normal reasons of education and travel but there was more.

"Sure, I wanted to see the world and take advantage of the education benefits," said York. "But I really love that I have a job that I know helps keep my mom safe."

Columbia, along with all other U.S. Navy submarines is manned solely by volunteers from within the Navy. Because of the stressful 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. The training is highly technical and each crew has to be able to operate, maintain and repair every system or piece of equipment on board. Regardless of their specialty, everyone also 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.

Although it is difficult for most people to imagine living on a submarine, challenging submarine living conditions actually build strong fellowship among the crew. The crews are highly motivated, and quickly adapt to changing conditions. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches, and drills.

York says he is very proud of the work he is doing as part of the Columbia's 130-member crew, protecting America on the world's oceans. Imagine working and living in a 361-foot long, 33-foot wide, three-story building with no windows and surrounded by technology. Then lock the doors, submerge beneath the surface of the ocean and travel silently underwater for months. This requires a tremendous amount of skill, knowledge, personal discipline, and teamwork.

“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."

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy's most relied upon assets, York and other USS Columbia sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.

“The Navy is the opportunity for you to excel,” said York. “My greatest accomplishment this far is that I made petty officer 1st Class in four years and I earned my dolphins in three months.”