By Erica R. Gardner
Chief Mass Communication Specialist, Navy Office of Community Outreach
A Callaway, Virginia, native and 2004 Oak Hill Academy graduate is serving at the U.S. Naval Submarine Training Center Pacific (NSTCP) in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Petty Officer 1st Class Dennis Crist has served for 10 years and works as a Navy electronics technician (submarines) and is serving within the U.S. Pacific Fleet area of operations. 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 Navy electronics technician (submarines), Crist is responsible for ensuring all external communications from combatant commander are received. He is also responsible for the communication security in dealing with cryptographic operations. Additionally, he is tasked with interacting and identifying enemy radars to ensure the submarine maintains a stealth and tactical advantage.
Crist credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Callaway.
“I grew up on a farm in southwest Virginia where I was taught about a hard day’s work and the importance of one’s word,” said Crist.
A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, according to Navy officials, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.
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.
Sailors learn engineering and tactical team training during their courses of instruction required to serve aboard submarines using the most advanced technology. Training is tailored to each ship’s specific needs to develop the skills and expertise required to support operations around the world in war and peace.
Being stationed in Pearl Harbor, often referred to in defense circles as the gateway to the Pacific, means Crist 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 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 Navy has been pivotal in helping maintain peace and stability in the Pacific region for decades.
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Crist is most proud of earning his dolphins.
“Wearing the submarine dolphins is an introduction to a brotherhood and that anyone wearing them I can trust with my life,” said Crist. “It is by far the thing I am most proud of in my time in the Navy.”
Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Crist, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Crist is honored to carry on that family tradition.
“My grandfather served as a captain in the Navy who passed away on active duty and the other one is a retired submarine chief yeoman,” said Crist. “Their hard work and dedication to everything they did is one of the things that has always impressed me. My decision to join was greatly influenced by them.”
According to Navy officials, supporting the high operational tempo and unique challenges of the submarine force builds strong fellowship and a strong sense of mission.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Crist and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.
“Serving in the Navy means putting others before myself for the greater good of the country,” added Crist.