After joining the Navy, Weed High School graduate Omar Fernandez finished Submarine School and Apprentice School and to become a Machinist Mate. In August, 2010 he received orders to serve on the USS Topeka, "The Defender of the Heartland," a nuclear-powered fast attack submarine.
Like many high school seniors, Omar Fernandez, son of Enedina and Salvador Fernandez, began thinking about his future during his last year at Weed High School. During his senior year, he completed the 67-hour Basic Wildland Fire Training course at College of the Siskiyous and joined Weed’s volunteer fire department. Initially he hoped to work for CAL FIRE, but felt it would be difficult to get hired due to the economic situation of the state. So, before his high school graduation in 2009, he decided to enlist in the Navy.
He started boot camp in January 2010 and graduated in March with a promotion for outstanding work and leadership. He was promoted again for high performance and leadership after finishing Submarine School and Apprentice School to become a Machinist Mate.
Fernandez says he received orders in August 2010 to serve on the USS Topeka, “The Defender of the Heartland,” a nuclear-powered fast attack submarine “I was a non-qualified fresh non-nuclear mechanic starting at the bottom steps of a tall ladder. On submarines you are not a trusted one until you qualify and get your Submarine Warfare pin, also know as Dolphins.”
Qualifying for the pin requires “getting familiar with firefighting, all damage control equipment, and how the ship works as a whole,” Fernandez said. It’s a process that usually takes 12 months.
“I started qualifying in October of 2010 and was pinned with my Dolphins in May of 2011. I worked hard and qualified in a little over seven months with also finishing my machinist mate rate,” said Fernandez.
His current rank/rate is Fireman Machinist Mate Submarine qualified Omar Fernandez.
Earlier this year, Fernandez deployed for top-secret operations on the Pacific. He explained that submarines are a “whole different Navy and do missions that no one ever hears about. Subs are almost to be forgotten that they even exist.”
“I’m always asked what I do and all I can say is, ‘I’m a mechanic.’” He said he likes to joke saying, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you,” a familiar quote by Tom Cruise from the movie Top Gun.
Fernandez said life on a submarine is about brotherhood. “We take care of each other to make sure we accomplish the mission and get home safe to our friends and family,” he said.
Because they can be submerged for months, Fernandez doesn’t get to see the sun much, so on leave he spends as much time outside as possible. He said that watching movies, playing board games, and resting are primary activities during their off time on the sub. The food gets old, “but we have wonderful desserts every day.”
The high points of Navy life for Fernandez are “seeing new places I thought I would never see, learning so many things for free, and the best part is making new friends all over the country.”
Friends and family are important to Fernandez. July 6, Fernandez returned home from deployment for a while.
“I’m glad to be home again safe and to spend time with my family and friends,” he said, adding he feels he is successful due to his background in Siskiyou County, “a small community that cares,” and from all that he has learned from his “best teacher” – his father, and at WHS, “especially the welding and woodshop classes.”
In high school, Fernandez was an outstanding soccer player. He was team captain his junior and senior year. During his senior year he led the Cougars to the playoffs and earned the Offensive MVP award. He enjoys hunting, fishing, ATV riding and woodcutting with his dad.
After completing his four-year contract with the Navy, Fernandez plans on using his Montgomery GI Bill to pay for college. He still plans on becoming a firefighter or attending the CHP Academy and perhaps he’ll start playing soccer again, he said.