Vail native Amanda Gray helps keep America’s nuclear adversaries at bay
August 16, 2018
SILVERDALE, Washington — A Vail native leaped from "The Nutcracker" to helping deter nuclear war, and is telling the stories of the people who are part of it.
Petty Officer 1st Class Amanda Gray is a 2003 Battle Mountain High School graduate and Vail native. She's serving in the U.S. Navy as a mass communication specialist, with a ballistic missile submarine group in the Pacific Northwest. Officially, it's Commander, Submarine Group Nine, based at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Washington, not far from Seattle. COMSUBGRP NINE provides administrative control for ballistic missile submarines.
Gray grew up in Vail and was a star performer with the Vail Valley Academy of Dance.
"I learned respect, professionalism, dedication, commitment at the Vail Valley Academy of Dance," Gray said. "But more than anything, in Vail I learned the value of living life to the fullest, and to seize opportunities," she said.
Boomers beneath the waves
Gray works with the Navy's ballistic missile submarines, often referred to informally as "boomers." They are undetectable launch platforms for intercontinental ballistic missiles. They are designed for stealth, extended patrols and precise missile delivery. They are the only survivable leg of the nation's strategic nuclear forces, which also include land-based missiles and aircraft.
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As a mass communication specialist, Gray is responsible for telling the Navy's stories. She's the Kitsap-Bangor base's assistant public affairs officer, handling stories, photos and media inquires for any of the submarines in the Pacific Northwest.
"There is a camaraderie among the submarine force that I've never seen anywhere else in the Navy, and I really enjoy being a part of that. I am honored to be able to tell their story," Gray said.
Gray and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes.
"The Navy has allowed me the opportunity to try so many different things and to increase my education and hone my skills," Gray said. "They've supported me, helped develop me as a person, and I've been able to see the world."
Updating the fleet
As effective as the Ohio-class submarines have been over their decades-long lifetimes, the fleet is aging and the oldest submarines are now more than 30 years old, well past their planned service lives, the Navy said.
The Navy is designing and fielding a more advanced ballistic missile submarine that it says will provide sea-based nuclear deterrence into the 2080s and beyond.
The most vital component of the submarine force is the sailors, said Rear Adm. Blake Converse, Commander, Submarine Group Nine.
Submarine sailors are some of the most highly trained people in the Navy. Each crew has to be able to operate, maintain and repair every system or piece of equipment on board, regardless of their specialty.
"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," Converse said. "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."