NORFOLK, Va. – Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Rapacon, an American Canyon native and 2010 Vintage High School graduate, is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard one of its fast-attack submarines.
Rapacon is a machinist’s mate (nuclear) aboard the Norfolk-based USS John Warner, one of only 16 Virginia-class fast-attack submarines in the Navy’s fleet. He is responsible for maintaining chemical and radiological control of the submarine.
“Working on a sub, I appreciate everything that goes into making it move,” Rapacon said. “I have the opportunity to work on expanding my knowledge and working with content I’m not used to.”
Rapacon as a senior helped Vintage reach the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section boys basketball playoffs for the first time in a decade. He credited success in the Navy to many lessons he learned from his father, Chris, a longtime American Canyon High football and basketball assistant coach, and his mother Simi.
“My parents taught me the importance of hard work and dedication,” he said. “This attitude shows I’ve been able to promote faster and my positive work ethic is seen by others. I believe my hard work encourages junior sailors.”
With a crew of 130, the USS John Warner is 377 feet long and displaces approximately 7,800 tons. The submarine’s nuclear-powered propulsion system helps push the submarine through the water at more than 25 mph and to depths greater than 800 feet.
A key element of the Navy’s mission is tied to the fact America is a maritime nation, according to Navy officials, and 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.
“Our submarines continue to provide access with influence,” said Vice Adm. Chas Richard, Commander, Submarine Forces. “Our elite force is charged by our nation with exploiting unique undersea advantages to provide the United States influence, especially far forward where other forces cannot complete the mission, and where persistent undersea concealment provides unique access.
“We use that access and undersea concealment to provide unique intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in support of national interests and, if necessary, we are ready to use our undersea advantage to conduct strike warfare ashore, conduct theater and unit-level anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, and perform other missions such as employing special forces.”
The USS John Warner returned from an overseas deployment in July that included combat operations in April, launching Tomahawk cruise missiles in targeted strikes against Syrian military facilities.
During this maiden deployment, sailors sailed more than 30,000 nautical miles and conducted port visits in Greece, Scotland, Spain and the United Kingdom. The crew also sailed above the Arctic Circle.
“Being the commanding officer of one of our nation’s submarines is the honor of a lifetime,” said Cmdr. Will Wiley, commanding officer of John Warner. “I come to work every day with a smile on my face because of the outstanding men and women I have the opportunity to serve with on USS John Warner who all volunteered to keep our country safe.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Rapacon and his fellow submariners 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.
“I love working with my division,” said Rapacon. “They are a great group of sailors. We feel like one big family.”
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Rapacon is most proud to have received his first Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal after deployment.
“It’s nice to see that my leaders and peers noticed my hard work,” he said.
Submariners are some of the most highly-trained and skilled sailors in the Navy. The training programs are highly technical to ensure each crewmember is able to operate, maintain and repair every system and piece of equipment on the submarine.
“Serving in the Navy has given me more flexibility and drive,” Rapacon added. “My lifestyle has changed for the better during my time in and I believe I’m a part of something bigger than myself.”
With only 130 elite sailors assigned, submarine crews build strong fellowship, are highly motivated and quickly adapt to changing conditions. A career as a submariner is a life of specialized work, unique missions and some of the most advanced training in the Navy.