It was a rare treat for Tim and Janet Hubbard, Berger, to have all seven of their children home for a weekend last month to attend a cousin’s wedding. Most days, the seven are spread out across the country — from California to Maryland, and the youngest now in Italy with the U.S. Navy.
The Hubbards have gotten used to not seeing all of their children in the same room for very long ever since their oldest son, Austin, joined the Navy straight out of high school.
After that, one by one the Hubbards’ other children followed suit, with all but the second youngest enlisting in the Navy — and right now he’s seriously considering whether or not to join.
The last time the children were all together before this visit was for another cousin’s wedding and before that, they shared an hour or so together on a New Year’s holiday, said Janet Hubbard.
The Hubbards aren’t sure what the record is for the number of siblings serving in the military, but six certainly puts them in limited company, especially outside of the draft and war years.
Janet Hubbard laughs when she thinks how her oldest son, Austin, started the family trend. When he was a sophomore at Hermann High School, he was trying to score the lowest he could on the ASVAB or or Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test because he knew he did not want to serve in the military and didn’t think his score would matter.
“I tried to answer every question wrong and ended up scoring in the bottom 1 percent,” said Austin.
In fact, he got every answer wrong, said Janet Hubbard. Which caught the recruiter’s attention.
Turns out, someone who doesn’t know any better and just guesses answers wildly ends up getting around 9 percent correct, she explained.
“The recruiter recognized that Austin had to know what the right answer was to avoid it,” said Janet. “His plan backfired.”
Regardless, Austin insisted he still wasn’t interested in joining the military, but halfway through his senior year, the recruiters had him retested, and Austin scored in the top 3 percent in the country.
“The next day they had signed him up,” Janet said, recalling how mad she was initially.
But when she learned he was going to be a “nuke” or someone who works on nuclear powered ships in the Navy, she knew it was all for the best.
A “nuke” is a term used to describe any job in the Navy that has specifications in the nuclear field, according to the U.S. Navy website, www.navy.mil.
“Nukes make up both the enlisted and officer force. Enlisted nuke jobs include electronic technicians (ET), electrician’s mates (EM) and machinist’s mates (MM).
“Sailors with these qualifications and ratings are employed onboard nuclear powered ships to maintain the control subsystems, the machinery and the piping in nuclear reactors. Some nuclear MMs receive additional specialization in health, physics and maintaining reactor chemistry.”
“The Navy needs those nukes, and they have to be smart,” said Janet. “Very few people actually qualify to work on nuclear reactors. To go through the nuclear power program in the Navy, it’s one of the hardest in the country.”
Out of 100 nukes who sign up, maybe 10 finish, said Austin.
‘If Austin Can Do It . . . ’
Austin, who is now married with five children and works for Tesla in California, said when he was deciding which branch of the military to join, he selected the Navy because it was the only one that would guarantee him the position for which he enlisted.
“I also just picked it to be different. In Missouri, nobody goes into the Navy,” he remarked.
Austin served as a nuclear mechanic in the Navy, assigned to the U.S.S. Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, before it was decommissioned. He worked in the bottom of the ship, where it was around 120 degrees with 100 percent humidity.
“Yeah, it was hot,” he said. “When the ventilation would go out, it would jump up to 140 or 145 . . . we had to drink a lot of water.
When Austin’s sister, secon-born Nina, followed him to the Navy, she wasn’t just following in his footsteps, but their maternal grandfather’s as well.
“Grandpa always talked about the Navy,” said Nina. “He taught me how to do the alphabet with the flags when I was 6.”
She also jokes that, knowing her older brother had made it through the Navy’s Nuclear Power School, it seemed like an easy path.
“After I came to visit you in Virginia, I saw how all of your friends were super pale and miserable and told me how hard it was, but I thought, ‘If Austin can do it, how hard can it be? I can do it,’ ” said Nina.
She served as a nuclear engineer and laboratory technician aboard the U.S.S. Roosevelt. Now as a civilian, she lives in Kansas City and works for the City of Oleatha, testing and treating the water for the city.
Third, Fourth, Fifth . . .
A couple of the siblings had enrolled in college before deciding to enlist.
Third-born Elissa wanted to study languages and two weeks before her classes were set to begin at the University of Minnesota, she decided to join the Navy and study linguistics at the Defense Language Institute in California. It was a more affordable option to have the Navy provide her schooling, but that wasn’t her only motivation.
“I knew I would be getting the experience and all the training instead of just going to college, and I can still go to college later,” said Elissa, who is currently serving as a linguist in the Navy.
Logan, the fourth-born sibling, studied a semester at St. Louis College of Pharmacy for a semester before realizing how expensive his full education was going to be. Comparing that with the education his siblings were getting for free through the Navy, he decided to enlist himself. Like Austin and Nina, Logan signed up to be a “nuke” as well.
He is stationed out of San Diego, Calif., aboard the U.S.S. Roosevelt (which was Nina’s ship too) as a nuclear engineer and lab technician in Navy.
Jessica, the fifth-born, had been wanting to enroll in an expensive acting program in California, but the family convinced her to enlist instead.
“She chose the Navy and the GI Bill instead,” said Janet Hubbard.
Although Jessica autoqualified to be a “nuke” based on her ASVAB score, she chose to be an aviation electronics technician on aircraft, P3s and P8s. She is now a civilian living in Maryland, where she works for Dynacore as an aviation electronics technician — still working on Navy planes, only now as a civilian.
Colten, the sixth-born, was a top athelete at Hermann High School and after graduation, he attended East Central College on the A-Plus program before moving out to California to work as a technician at Tesla. He’s now home in Berger and seriously thinking about following all of his siblings into the Navy.
“If I join, we’re bound to get our own ship,” he joked.
Michaela, the youngest of the seven siblings, spent her first few months after graduating high school traveling. She enlisted in the Navy last October and began basic training in January. After completing her Navy schooling, Michaela left last month for her first command as a logistics specialist.
The Hubbard siblings grew up running around and playing together on a 50-acre piece of property in Berger and working together at the family store, Village Market in Hermann. Today they are a tight knit group, often joking around and teasing each other.
Having nearly all of them serve in the Navy, even though it was at different times, was stressful for their parents.
“When they’re out at sea, you can’t contact them, you don’t know where they are, they can’t tell you, they can’t send you anything, because that gives away where they are, so everything is kind of hush, hush,” said their mom, Janet. “It’s the not-knowing that’s really scary. When will they be back? They can’t give you a date . . . ”
But at the same time, she knows it’s a special experience. The siblings agreed. They share a great bond by having all served in the same branch of the military, many in the same role.
“It puts us all in this clique together,” one said, speaking for all.