Clinton native keeping America’s nuclear adversaries at bay

Bill Steele

Chief Mass Communication Specialist Navy Office of Community Outreach


SILVERDALE, Wash. – A 2012 Clinton High School graduate and Clinton, Illinois, native is presently engaged in a critical mission for the security of the United States: deterring nuclear war.

 Petty Officer 2nd Class Ethan Sherman, an electrician’s mate (nuclear) is servingaboard one of the world’s most advanced ballistic missile submarines, USS Kentucky. Based at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Washington, not far from Seattle, USS Kentucky is one of 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines in the Navy’s fleet. 

 As an electrician’s mate (nuclear), Sherman is responsible for providing electrical distribution and propulsion and maintaining all electrical equipment aboard a submarine.

 “I like the variety of maintenance that we do, no day is the same for us,” Sherman said. “One day we could be working on a motor, the next we could be doing switchboard maintenance. You know way more about everyone onboard than you would on any other type of vessel, you know a lot more personally. We have a better work environment, which translates into getting work done easier.”

 Sherman draws from lessons learned growing up in Clinton.

 “I baled hay for five years in Clinton and that taught me a strong work ethic,” Sherman said.

 The Navy’s ballistic missile submarines, often referred to informally as “boomers,” serve as undetectable launch platforms for intercontinental ballistic missiles. They are designed specifically for stealth, extended patrols and the precise delivery of missiles, and they are the only survivable leg of the nation’s strategic nuclear forces, which also include land-based missiles and aircraft.

As long as nuclear weapons remain in the hands of potential adversaries, the nation’s nuclear forces provide a safe, secure and credible deterrent to the threat of nuclear attack. The Navy’s continuous at-sea deployment of submarines like USS Kentucky provides the ability to mount an assured response.

As effective as the Ohio-class submarines have been over their decades-long lifetimes, the fleet is aging, with the oldest submarines now more than 30 years old, well past their planned service lives. 

 A new and effective successor is critical to national security, and the Navy is well into the process of designing and fielding a more advanced ballistic missile submarine, which will provide the necessary sea-based nuclear deterrence into the 2080s and beyond.

  Submarine sailors are some of the most highly trained and skilled people in the Navy. The training is highly technical, and each crew has to be able to operate, maintain, and repair every system or piece of equipment on board. Regardless of their specialty, everyone also has to learn how everything on the submarine works and how to respond in emergencies to become “qualified in submarines” and earn the right to wear the coveted gold or silver dolphins on their uniforms.

 “The men and women from across our nation who volunteer for military service embody the fundamental values of honor, courage and sacrifice that are the bedrock of our Republic,” said Rear Adm. Blake Converse, Commander, Submarine Group Nine. “They protect and defend America from above, below, and across the world’s oceans. The entire nation should be extremely proud of the hard work that these sailors do every single day to support the critical mission of the Navy and the submarine force.”

 As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Sherman and other sailors 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.


“Serving in the military means commitment to something better, something bigger than myself,” Sherman said. “It’s been something I will carry with me the rest of my life.”

Video News
More In Homepage