By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 27, 2009 - Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Korey Ketola recalled that he was uneasy when he embarked on his first submarine patrol in 1983. "I was scared," Ketola told reporters at Naval Submarine Base King's Bay, Ga., Feb. 18.
Yet, today, Ketola is the current holder of the coveted Neptune Award for having completed 35 strategic submarine patrols -- the most patrols among active-duty officers and enlisted members in the U.S. Navy.
Ketola, now the senior noncommissioned officer at the Trident submarine training facility at King's Bay, will retain the award until someone else surpasses his total or he retires.
All 35 of his patrols, Ketola said, were made aboard Trident strategic missile submarines.
Tridents are nuclear-powered, Ohio-class submarines. At 560 feet long and 42 feet wide, Tridents are the largest submarines in the U.S. Navy's inventory.
A Trident crew consists of about 160 officers and enlisted sailors. The original ballistic missile versions are nicknamed "Boomers," and they feature the designator SSBN. The Boomers are capable of carrying as many as 24 Trident II D-5 nuclear missiles. The vessel also carries Mark-48 torpedoes.
Ketola completed his first patrol aboard the USS Michigan. Later, he went on to serve aboard the submarines USS West Virginia, USS Wyoming and USS Maine.
The veteran submariner also earned the Neptune Award in 2005 by accruing 29 completed Trident submarine patrols.
The Trident submarine "is a fantastic machine, probably the second-most complex machine you have, next to the space shuttle," Ketola told reporters.