Graduate spotlight: From Bethel High School to nuclear submarines

Mason Wood

For most of us the thought of a nuclear submarine conjures images of Cold War spy movies or Tom Clancy novels, but for one Bethel High graduate it’s just another day at work.

Since graduating BHS in 2013, Mason Wood’s life has been filled with learning and adventure. The 23-year-old has moved from coast to coast and now lives in Virginia, where he serves as an enlisted nuclear machinist mate in the Navy.

Wood was always good at math and science, but the idea of working on nuclear submarines didn’t even occur to him until he was studying biology at Pierce College.

“Once I finished my first year at Pierce College studying biology I was talking to the Army about enlisting for Special Forces when I walked by the Navy and happened to walk in to check it out,” he said. “Once I saw the words ‘nuclear power’ I made my decision.”

Wood spent much of the next year going through the Navy’s testing and enlisting process. After earning two associates degrees, he officially enlisted in the Navy and headed east for boot camp. He then went on to nuclear training, where he learned about reactor theory and design, nuclear physics, water chemistry, material science, and heat transfer, among a host of other things.

He’s now stationed in Virginia, where he works on the USS Montana, a 377-foot Navy submarine that is currently under construction and is expected to be commissioned in 2020.

Wood credits the education he received in the Bethel School District for preparing him for a career in the Navy. He says the district’s teachers deserve praise for their dedication to students. He singled out BHS English teacher Andrew Shoot, who led a yoga club Wood attended. Wood called Shoot a great influence and said the teacher pushed him to enjoy his life while caring for his health.

“Teachers don’t get the thanks they deserve,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the people in my life I may have never cleaned up my life and who knows where I would be. I could be debating the best way to make a pizza instead of nuclear chemistry. To all the teachers out there, thank you.”

Wood’s mother, Deb Wood, never imagined her son would be working on nuclear submarines, but she couldn’t be prouder of him.

“I’m just amazed. He never makes a bad choice and he does everything he sets out to,” she said. “But beyond that, he’s just such a kind and articulate person. He loves the arts and culture and travel. I don’t know how I did it, but he turned out to be an amazing person.”

Once he leaves the Navy, Wood plans on taking some time to backpack across Europe before returning to school to study chemical engineering.

His advice to current high school students is to focus on what they love and pursue it every day.

“Today in my life I focus on growth instead of where I am currently,” Wood said. “As long as I am growing I consider myself successful. I recommend every day taking steps toward your goals.”

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