ROSEVILLE — In 2010, a former Roseville High School graduate decided to follow in his family’s footsteps and joined the U.S. military, and he soon found himself under the water.
Petty Officer Alan Harris, a 1997 graduate of Roseville High School, enlisted in the Navy in 2010, at the age of 31, going straight into the submarine service from the start. He said via email that he made the decision both for personal reasons and for his family.
“The reason I joined has two parts,” Harris said. “The economy in the Detroit (area) was less than stellar at that time, and I needed to make a decision that would provide stability and security for my family. The other major reason for me enlisting is that I come from a large military family, and I didn’t want to look back on life and have any regrets.”
He said his family and friends were shocked due to his age, but supportive since they knew he was entering for “the right reasons” and would make the most of the experience.
Harris said his family’s history of military service goes back generations, from a pair of great-uncles who served in World War II — one as a Navy pilot, and one who stormed the beach at Normandy — to a grandfather who served in the Korean War and a father who was a Marine reservist. His younger brothers both served in the Navy, and one of them was a member of a construction battalion who did two trips in Afghanistan.
Harris went on to submarine training, eventually graduating and finding his way to the USS Alaska, a nuclear-powered Ohio-class missile submarine based out of Kings Bay, Georgia.
According to a press release from the U.S. Navy, submariners are selected after a rigorous process due to the stress of the environment and the technical training required. Everybody who serves on a submarine must learn how everything works on it in case of an emergency.
Harris said he attributes the success he has had to the team of people he has worked with from boot camp to serving on the Alaska itself. He also said he appreciates having experienced submariners tell him what to expect from the start.
“I was fortunate enough to have two submariners as recruiters who offered me a lot of insight,” Harris said. “Some people who enlist become bitter with their recruiting experience, but everything they told me to expect was spot on. I’m very grateful for their honesty.”
As submarine crews usually spend 77 days at sea at a time, with 35-day breaks in between, Harris said he does not get to see his family as often as he would like to, nor talk to them nearly enough. He said they are able to keep in touch through email, though being away from them is the hardest part of the job.
On the flip side, he added that his submarine crew is very “family oriented.” That makes them a very tight-knit group.
“Being a submariner makes you part of something special. Every crewmember is self-sufficient, yet knows that he can count on others,” he said. “The part that amazes me the most is how this exists from the most junior enlisted to the commanding officer.”
Rear Admiral Charles A. Richard, commander of Submarine Group 10 in Kings Bay — which includes the Alaska — said in a statement that he takes great pride in Harris’ willingness to raise his hand and serve his nation.
“The importance of our sailors is immeasurable,” Richard said. “People like Petty Officer Harris are crucial to ensuring our submarines are operating at their best and the mission is flawlessly executed. I’m so very proud he is on our team.”
Harris himself said that while the job of the submarine crews may be overlooked, it still has a vital role in national defense and peacekeeping.
“When I joined the Navy, it was the best choice for me and my family,” he said. “And I stand by that today.”
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