SAN DIEGO — A 2009 Tehachapi High School graduate and Tehachapi native is serving aboard the U.S. Navy’s only capable Undersea Rescue Command at Submarine Squadron 11.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Cody Blackburn is a Navy diver serving with URC.
A Navy diver is responsible for undersea research, salvage, underwater mechanic and special warfare operations.
“The best part of my job is being able to work with my hands underwater; not too many people get to do that,” said Blackburn.
Blackburn credits success in the Navy to lessons he learned growing up in Tehachapi.
“It's a very small town, everyone knew everyone, so you had to watch what you were doing because someone was always watching,” he said. “It taught me how to watch my actions and take a second look at what I'm doing."
Submarine Squadron 11 is home to the floating auxiliary dry dock USS Arco and Undersea Rescue Command. The squadron staff is responsible for providing training, material and personnel readiness support for all units. Arco is under the operational control of commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Submarine Squadron 11, commanded by Capt. Christopher Cavanaugh, also consists of five of the most capable fast-attack nuclear-powered submarines in the world; USS Pasadena, USS Alexandria, USS Scranton, USS Annapolis, and USS Hampton and are maintained by Arco.
“We go where others can’t” is the motto of SUBPAC and is perhaps one-of-the-most difficult and demanding assignments in the Navy. According to Navy officials, there is not an instant during their tour as a submariner that they can relinquish their responsibility thousands of feet below the ocean’s surface.
The most recent example was in early November 2017, when the URC received the call to mobilize its submarine rescue unit. For the first time in more than 15 years sailors were quickly loading equipment and systems onto military aircraft within 24 hours for a real-life rescue mission off the coast of Argentina where the ARA San Juan had lost contact.
The command constantly trains, both in the U.S. and with foreign navies, to be ready for what is a rare occurrence: the need to perform an undersea rescue. URC conducts its mission using deep submergence systems including a remotely operated underwater vehicle, submarine rescue chamber, pressurized rescue module and side scan sonar.
Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Blackburn, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Blackburn is honored to carry on that family tradition.
“I had a grandfather and great-grandather who served; they didn't push me to join but when I told them I had joined they were both very proud,” said Blackburn.
Blackburn’s proudest accomplishment so far was when he changed a propeller blade that was on the USS Stockdate on Christmas Eve and over the holiday.
“We changed it in three days, and they were able to meet their deployment schedule," he said. "At the time it was the biggest job I've ever done.”
As a member of the U.S. Navy’s silent service, Blackburn and other URC sailors know they are a part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, one that will provide a critical component of the Navy the nation needs.
“This is the only command in the world that does as much as we do,” said Blackburn. “I take a lot of pride in the jobs I do. It makes my family proud and I am truly privileged to serve.”
Bill Steele is a chief communication specialist with the Navy Office of Community Outreach.