For an outdoor enthusiast who prefers hiking to Xbox and collects and restores Jeeps, Cory Kennedy’s career as a submarine electrician might seem off the beaten path, but it works for him and his family.
Kennedy’s love for nature led him to the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout, a tradition he hopes to pass on to his young sons, 3-year-old Hunter and 18-month-old Parker. He looks forward to getting involved with the Boy Scouts again as his boys grow up.
After graduating from Valpo High School in 2002, Kennedy dabbled in secondary education but immediately felt it wasn’t for him.
“I wanted a career for my future, so I talked to the Navy recruiters and it went from there,” Kennedy said. “When I went in, I wanted to be a photographer. But the tests showed that I would be of better service as a nuclear electrician, so I took that opportunity instead.”
Kennedy has a lifelong passion for photography, and his service overseas allows him ample time to pursue his interest.
“While on deployment we don’t take photos because of the classification of info within the sub,” Kennedy said, “but when we pull into foreign ports, we get a week or so to explore the area and I get to take a lot of photos around the world that way.”
“I do photography a lot in my free time, but I was interested in being an electrician when I was younger,” Kennedy said. “I enjoyed working with wires and fixing components.”
Now 13 years in to what he expects to be a 20-year career in the Navy, Kennedy works to keep the USS North Dakota habitable for 6-month deployments.
“We’re on a nuclear powered submarine, so we go under and stay under until we need to surface. We make our own electricity, oxygen, fresh water. The major limiting component is food,” Kennedy said. “One of the unique parts of the service is you’re under water. People aren’t designed to do that for long periods of time. You have to fix things that break because the people around you depend on that for safety.”
During training, they can send and receive email by going to periscope depth and putting up an antenna. Depending on the mission, Kennedy can go two months at a time or more without communicating with his family.
“The hardest part is not being able to talk to the family, since you can’t see them either,” Kennedy said. “My wife Tracy deals with it, but it’s tough. She’s able to get some information about what’s happening, but direct communication is put on hold until we pull into port.”
“Some days are harder than others,” Kennedy said. “You’re with the same 135 guys and you just don’t have a place to escape to relax away from everybody. We watch movies, play video games, and do a lot of reading and studying.”
“I don’t get too much outdoors under water,” Kennedy said. “There’s no fresh air or sunlight the whole time.”
When he returns home to his wife and kids, he’s happy to find adventure on land. “I’m happy to be outside with my family, finding ways through the woods and building things.”
Kennedy’s story is a great reminder of everything that our service members sacrifice. From family time to personal passions, heroes like Kennedy deserve our deepest gratitude.