Nov. 22, 2005 — -- "Good Morning America" host Robin Roberts will broadcast live on Wednesday from the U.S.S. Scranton, a nuclear submarine. On Tuesday, she trained in the "dive room" at the U.S. Naval Station in Norfolk, Va. It is the first time TV cameras have been allowed in the facility.
The two biggest risks for a submarine are leaks and fires, so submariners must train rigorously before they deploy. They undergo 145 degree fire drills. Roberts visited a wet trainer, where submariners are trained in emergency repair. Trainees are subjected to a constant barrage of 65 degree water as they make the repairs.
Roberts met Vice Admiral Charles L. Munns, the commander of the Submarine Force of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, and of the Submarine Allied Command in the Atlantic. Munns has spent his entire career on submarines and estimates he has been underwater a total of 12 years. His favorite deployment was traveling under the ice of the Arctic.
The U.S.S. Scanton is just larger than a football field, which made Roberts wonder about claustrophobia. But Munns assured her it's not a problem for submariners.
"Everybody volunteers for the submarine force, I think it is self-selection," he said. "You are in a small space. It is a team, so you are down there with 140 of your friends, and you don't feel very claustrophobic."
Many countries allow women to serve on submarines, but the U.S. forces, only men can serve.
"For the submarine service we deploy for six months, the countries you talked about deploy for two weeks," Munns said. "The living space on a submarine is [the size of] a three-bedroom house, with 140 people in that space. It is a matter of privacy."
The men endure the cramped quarters to play an important role in national security.
"We can participate if there is an action to take," Munns said. "In the early part of the Gulf War, 30 percent of the missiles launched came from submarines."
"What we do day in and day out is that we are the scout for the force," he added. "We go where others can't go quietly and persistently to listen, watch and report. And that's what our country needs."
The weather in Norfolk was a little rainy, but Munns called it a "great submarine day."
"It is not great for riding, but for hiding, and that's what we do," he said.