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New Sailor Finds Focus, Direction in Joining Military

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

HONOLULU, Sept. 16, 2007 – Members of Scott Harpley’s Ringgold High School graduation class in northern Georgia probably wouldn’t recognize the driven young sailor squeezed into seat 51F on an airplane yesterday headed here to his first duty assignment.

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U.S. Navy Fireman Apprentice Scott Harpley, age 22, heads to his first duty assignment in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where he will serve aboard the Navy submarine USS Pasadena, Sept. 15, 2007. Defense Dept. photo by Donna Miles

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

At age 22, U.S. Navy Fireman Apprentice Harpley is much more – and in some cases, much less – of a man than the one who took more than four years to finish high school because he so often simply didn’t show up.

“I was bored,” said Harpley of his high school days. He said he spent a lot more time in front of the TV than in the classroom, and packed on so much weight the military wouldn’t consider taking him.

After high school, Harpley bounced from one job to another, dishing up fast food, working retail, stocking warehouse shelves and even driving cross-country selling magazines. Nothing kept his interest for long.

But yesterday, as he prepared to begin his first military assignment, as a weapons mechanic aboard the Navy submarine USS Pasadena, Harpley said he thinks he’s finally something he’ll be able to stick with for the next 20 years.

Harpley dropped 170 pounds over a year-and-a-half to join the Navy. He started by eating just a single granola bar each day but started to get sick. So he reverted to a regime of healthy eating and demanding workouts while pulling 10-to-14-hour workdays in construction.

“I’m a lot more active now,” said Harpley, whose 6-foot-2-inch frame now carries 212 pounds, about half its former bulk.

Since enlisting into the Navy submarine force in January, Harpley’s performance has demonstrated a dramatic turnaround, too. He’s excelled at everything he’s done. He was the top graduate in his boot camp class at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Ill., then earned the Number 2 spots in both his basic mechanic and “A” schools.

His class standings earned him the chance to choose a coveted first assignment aboard a sub homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Already, when his Honolulu-bound plane had barely left the U.S. mainland, Harpley was setting his sights on what he wants to accomplish when he arrives. The first order of business, he said, will be to earn the submarine warfare pin that means he’s a fully qualified submariner.

Although the qualification process typically takes about nine months, Harpley’s committed to finishing it in six months, max. “It’s another step in my training. I know I can do it if I set my sights on it,” he said. “I’m quick.”

Not yet with his unit, Harpley said he has “no idea” when he and his crewmates will deploy together. He said he’s ready to go and anxious to see as much of he world as the Navy can show him.

“I’m looking forward to going and doing my job and do the things I’ve been training for months to learn how to do,” he said.

“I’m going to give them the hard work they want, and they’re going to do a lot of things for me too,” he said. He rattled off the long list of benefits that will come with his service: medical and dental care and educational benefits, among them.

“I’m going to go as far as I can until I retire or they kick me out,” he said with a smile. “I’m ready to go.”

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