Below is a picture of Nick receiving the Navy Achievement Medal for “demonstrating extreme calm in the presence of danger, [taking] decisive action [and] undoubtedly prevent[ing] any loss of life during an extremely dire situation". Read the ridiculous story behind the award below.
As recounted by Nick himself:
I had been interested in the navy since I was in middle school, so I applied and was accepted to the US Naval Academy my senior year, 2004. Fast forward 4 years and I graduated in 2008, and had service selected Submarines. By chance, I got the opportunity to attend the Navy Diver "A" School or Second Class dive school immediately after graduation. This school was 3 months of surface supplied diving (hard hats with hoses leading back to the surface), SCUBA diving, and learning the basics of rebreathers (closed circuit diving). It was hard work but fun. After that summer vacation came a year of learning Navy Nuclear Power. By Feb. 2010 I arrived at my first ship, the USS Louisville, in Pearl Harbor, HI. In April 2010 we left on my first 6 month western pacific (WESTPAC) deployment. August 2010 was when that incident occurred.
We were getting underway from Okinawa, Japan and it was raining and storming but we had no idea this storm was going to be that bad. Okinawa has a pretty open harbor, so there was no protection from the sea. By about 10am, we had about 8ft seas while still tied to the pier. We were taking waves over the back of the rudder and into our aft escape trunk (which was open and had shore power cables, 450V). After we had our reactor started up, we now had to take the cables out of the escape trunk. This was a rough task because the guys topside were getting hit with huge waves. I was still down below at this time, I was not needed topside at the moment but was dressed and ready to go just in case. From our periscope video,
I watched our Chief of the boat get hit with a wave and washed off the back of the boat into the harbor. Another diver topside jumped in without hesitation after him. Miraculously, the next wave washed both of them back topside. It was amazingly lucky. The diver and the chief of the boat came back below, the diver was cut up pretty bad (we were only in those sweet shorts) so I went topside to take his place.
Now I was topside on the back of this submarine, constantly taking huge waves over the back of it with nothing to tie me to the boat. I was wearing an inflatable vest, my shorts, a knife, mask and fins, and a rope around my waist that I would hand to someone if I had to jump in. There were only about 6 people left topside.
The shore cables were removed but we were still tied to pier with our mooring lines. These were 4" diameter with thousands of pounds of tensile strength. The forward lines came off no problem but the back ones were under water most of the time and difficult to remove. There were guys trying to free them, but the water was preventing easy removal, and I am trying to watch and warn everyone of waves and be ready to jump in if someone goes overboard. I distinctly remember being lifted off of my knees by a wave and feeling myself head towards the edge of the boat, towards the water and reaching down and getting a deathgrip on the safety track with one hand to stay topside. I was almost washed overboard a few times.
Our Captain was in the bridge communicating with the tugboat drivers (japanese guys) to get the ship away from the pier, because we were getting pushed pretty good and it was rough near the pier. The forward tug was attached and began pulling the front of the ship away from the pier. We told him to stop, but he kept pulling. We were still moored with the aft lines to the pier, so front of the boat goes away from the pier, back end goes towards the pier. I watched the rudder go under the pier and felt that we hit the pier. Oh shit. But now, we are being pulled out to sea, while still connected to the pier via mooring lines. They started stretching, straining and groaning (the lines groaning is a horrible sound). These are going to break, and Ive seen videos of guys being cut in half when a mooring line parts and snaps back. Its like a rubber band but way more powerful. These lines part, luckily no one is hurt and we finally get out to sea away from the pier. We spend 3 days riding this storm out on the surface until the storm calms down. We found lots of damaged equipment from all the sea water we took down the hatches.
But there was unknown damage to stern of the ship, so as soon as we pulled back in, we were sent into the water to perform an inspection of the damage from the collision with the pier. Being the senior diver (i had been onboard for 6 month), I went in first and what I saw was pretty bad. We had damaged stern planes, there were multiple large gouges and scrapes in the metal. A tip was broken off of the screw (worst damage, it affected the stealth of the ship), and all the mooring line that parted and we dragged behind us got wrapped around the screw, the outboard motor and got tangled up in the rudder. I photographed the rudder and stern planes damage and then spent about an hour or so cutting out all of the mooring line from under the ship. I finally got to use the knife I always carried. This was all underwater in nasty Okinawa harbor water. It was pitch black under the water, and super hot topside. Damage assessed we left and headed to Guam for a new propeller."
Thank you Nick, from everyone here at Chubbies HQ.