Navy Tabs SMHS Grad for Prestigious Post


A St. Maries High School graduate was one of only a handful of individuals to be selected for the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program (NUPOC).

Nick Cordell was accepted to attend the Naval Nuclear Power School after an extensive interview process, which ended with him interviewing with Admiral John Richardson, the director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion program.

Nick Cordell

Following his graduation from St. Maries High School in 2011, Mr. Cordell chose to study at Boise State University where he is currently in his fourth year studying mechanical engineering.

Mr. Cordell had planned to complete a minor in mathematics and then pursue his master’s degree.

“I had planned on going into the aerospace industry,” he said.

However, a conversation with a recruiter at a career fair during his sophomore year changed his plans.

Mr. Cordell said he talked with Navy recruiters about the potential to enter the NUPOC program during his second year at Boise State University.

“They had talked to me about a career working with submarines or on the surface, but I never ended up going with that,” he said. “Then, last winter, I was contacted again by them and they told me about the instructor position and I ended up deciding to go with that.”

To even be looked at for the program, potential candidate must maintain a 3.5 or higher grade point average and scored well on tests.

Mr. Cordell said the process to be selected for the NUPOC program began with an extended version of a basic job application.

“You had to list your previous employment and where you had lived previously for the last five to six years,” he said. “Once all of that paperwork was filled out, then you had to include a letter of intent. Then, a case worker comes by and goes through all of that with you to complete a formal background check.”

Following the background check, Mr. Cordell had to go through the military processing standards.

“They want to make sure you are physically and mentally fit,” he said. “They make sure you are who you say you are.”

From there, Mr. Cordell was interviewed via telephone by a lieutenant from the Naval Reactors, which is the U.S. government office that has responsibility for safe and reliable operation of the United States Navy’s nuclear propulsion program.

Mr. Cordell said during the phone interview he was asked basic calculus questions to show he could apply the knowledge he had learned.

“Then, once you pass that they will sign off and say this guy is ready to go to Washington D.C. to finish the interview process,” Mr. Cordell explained.

Those brought to Washington D.C. were primarily studying a facet of engineering or mathematics. Mr. Cordell was in Washington D.C. Sept. 14 through Sept. 16. All the applicants were interviewed at the Washington D.C. Naval Yard.

As an instructor applicant, Mr. Cordell was required to complete two interviews, which the majority of were technical. Following the two interviews, Mr. Cordell along with 23 others was then sent on to be interviewed by Admiral Richardson.

“Admiral Richardson is in charge of the entire nuclear program,” Mr. Cordell said. “My interview with him was very brief and to the point. It took all of three minutes.”

Shortly after his interview with Admiral Richardson, Mr. Cordell learned he had been accepted into the program. He was sworn into the United States Navy Sept. 16.

Mr. Cordell said the process was very stressful, but he is very excited to be a part of the program. He will graduate from Boise State University next fall. He will not be considered an officer until after he finishes his college degree.

Once he does, he will then be sent to Rhode Island to undergo officer training. Following that he will attend classes at the Naval Nuclear Power School in Goose Creek, South Carolina.

“I will be taking an accelerated version of the course and after about four months I will then begin teaching students math, physics and the mechanics of reactors,” Mr. Cordell said. “I will be teaching there for four years.”

Mr. Cordell said the idea of teaching had never occurred to him until the opportunity presented itself.

“After I learned about the program, it intrigued me,” he said, “and I decided to pursue it.”

Mr. Cordell will receive pay while he is in school and the Navy will pay for the remainder of his time at Boise State University.

Mr. Cordell said he would encourage other college freshmen or sophomores to attend career fairs and to start looking for employment early on,

“I was pretty happy to get this,” he said, “and this is something I had not planned, but I came across it at a career fair.”

Mr. Cordell said he does not know what he will do following his four years of teaching at the Naval Nuclear Power School. He said he does have plans to eventually pursue his master’s degree.

Nick is the son of John and Danette Cordell of St. Maries.

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