San Diego Native Serves as a Member of U.S. Navy’s ‘Silent Service’ in Pearl Harbor

Modern attack submarines are the most technologically advanced and capable undersea warfighters in the world. Operating these highly complex submarines require sailors from the U.S. Navy’s submarine community, also known as the ‘Silent Service.’

Seaman Apprentice Nicolas Ayala, a 2014 Monte Vista High School graduate and native of San Diego works as a Navy fire control technician serving aboard USS Chicago, one of the world’s most advanced nuclear-powered submarines, homeported at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

Ayala credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in San Diego.

“Living in a diverse community taught me how to navigate the various cultures that I encounter on a daily basis,” said Ayala.

As a Navy fire control technician, Ayala is responsible for the safety of the submarine by analyzing data, making recommendations, and if the situation requires offensive action, to utilize the boat’s weapon systems.

Jobs are highly varied aboard the submarine. Approximately 130 sailors make up the submarine’s crew, doing everything from handling weapons to maintaining nuclear reactors.

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; carry out intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions; and engage in mine warfare. Their primary tactical advantage is stealth, operating undetected under the sea for long periods of time.

Because of the demanding 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. Regardless of their specialty, everyone 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.

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Ayala is most proud of graduating fire control technician training school as the class leader.

“I upheld the highest standards of the Navy and acted as an intermediary between the instructor and the students,” said Ayala. “This evokes pride because I was able to rise to the challenge of being a leader.”

Being stationed in Pearl Harbor, often referred to as the gateway to the Pacific in defense circles, means Ayala is serving in a part of the world taking on a new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances, and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”

The Navy has been pivotal in helping maintain peace and stability in the Pacific region for decades. The Pacific is home to more than 50 percent of the world’s population, many of the world’s largest and smallest economies, several of the world’s largest militaries, and many U.S. allies.

The U.S. Pacific Fleet is the world’s largest fleet command, encompassing 100 million square miles, nearly half the Earth’s surface, from Antarctica to the Arctic Circle and from the West Coast of the United States into the Indian Ocean.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Ayala and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, one that will provide a critical component of the Navy the nation needs.

“Pearl Harbor has many perks, many of which are obvious, though my favorite is being able to travel between Hawaiian islands,” added Ayala. “Serving in the Navy means I have the opportunity to protect the greatest nation on Earth and further my education through its many benefits.”

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Originally from upstate New York, Dani Schwartz has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is thrilled to call Coronado home and raise her two children here. In her free time enjoys hitting the gym, reading, and walking her dog around the “island.”Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: