Andy Karam joined the US Navy in 1981, enlisting for submarine duty in the Naval Nuclear Power Program. An honor graduate from Machinists' Mate school in Great Lakes, Illinois, Andy reported to duty for Naval Nuclear Power School in Orlando, Florida and then to a land-based reactor prototype unit near Saratoga Springs, NY. Graduating with honors again (from a two-year program with an 85% attrition rate), he was offered a position as staff instructor, an honor reserved for the top 2% of all students.
Following his two-year staff rotation, Andy attended further training, specializing in radiological controls and radiochemistry controls. He reported to the USS Plunger (SSN 595) in early 1986, where he was to spend the rest of his enlistment.
Flying to Japan to meet the San Diego-based fast attack submarine, Andy immediately went to sea for a 70 day 'special operation' off the coast of the Soviet Union. During this 'spec op', Andy qualified almost all of his watch stations in just two months, something that typically took nearly two years. In fact, his qualification process was so rapid that, during the oral board for his Submarine Warfare pin (the coveted 'dolphins'), the Board Chairman devoted nearly five hours to ensuring that Andy had actually earned all of the signatures on his qualification checklist. By comparison, most such boards took only two hours. At the completion of this deployment, Andy was awarded a Letter of Commendation from the Commodore of Submarine Squadron 3, the first of three such letters he would receive while onboard Plunger.
During the next three years, Andy completed three more spec ops, earning, in addition to his letters of commendation, the Navy Achievement Medal and participating in winning a Battle Efficiency Award, the esteemed Marjorie Sterret Award, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and a Naval Unit Commendation. Advanced to a leadership position in 1987, Andy qualified as an Engineering Watch Supervisor, the senior-most enlisted watchstander with responsibility for supervising the operation of the reactor and propulsion plants.
In addition to his duties in the engineering spaces, Andy served as the ship's periscope photographer and battle stations periscope assistant for nearly three years, for three spec ops. Not content with this, Andy qualified as Chief of the Watch, the non-nuclear equivalent of his EWS qualification 'back aft' (as the engineering spaces were called), which made him the only person in the Pacific Fleet to qualify both of these highly technical and responsible watches.
Leaving the Navy in 1989, Andy was advanced to Chief Petty Officer in the Naval Reserves, becoming the youngest CPO in a five-state area. He attended college, completing his bachelor's and master's degrees and becoming board-certified in radiation safety while working full-time in this field. He has continued working in this profession since leaving the Navy, writing over 30 scientific and technical papers. Andy is currently the Radiation Safety Officer and an adjunct member of the faculty at the University of Rochester and continues work on his Ph.D., which he is earning through the Ohio State University's Environmental Sciences Graduate Program. These experiences have given Andy a unique perspective on submarine life and operations, which he shares through his writing.