In the Navy, there can be a lot of oddities: some good, some bad, and some heartwarming. On the Navy’s only two submarine tenders, a couple of officers bring a new meaning into the phrase, “Team Tender.”
Lts. Will Price and Stephanie Price work together as a married couple and as undersea medical officers (UMO) aboard USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) and USS Frank Cable (AS 40).
When Will Price and Stephanie Price met, they were in medical school at the Oregon Health and Science University and living together with 23 other medical school students. After medical school and marriage, the pair decided to try to go through the UMO pipeline together.
To become an undersea medical officer, a candidate will attend the Naval Undersea Medical Institute in Groton, Conn., and dive school at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Fla.
“I love challenges, doing triathlons and pushing my limits physically,” said Stephanie Price. “The idea of going to dive school and getting to become a Navy diver really interested me. You will have to ask my husband why he did it, but I would say that he did it so he could keep hanging out with me.”
UMO’s are the only Navy medical officers allowed to become qualified submarine medical officers.
“The challenge of dive school and the opportunity to practice an operational mission is what made me choose UMO,” said Will Price.
Being married in dive school bought them a lot of attention from the instructors. Will Price became “Un-sat (Unsatisfactory) Price” and Stephanie Price became “Sat Price.” They were the second married couple to ever go through the UMO pipeline together and the first couple to graduate together.
“Dive school, in particular, was one of the most stressful and biggest bonding experiences in our marriage so far,” said Stephanie Price. “I am a strong swimmer, and he is a good land athlete; he basically learned how to swim just so he could go to dive school.”
After dive school, they knew that they wanted to co-locate, and they ended up on Guam. Guam is home to four U.S. Los Angeles-class fast attack submarines and the U.S. Navy’s only two submarine tenders.
On the submarine tenders, they work as the assigned UMOs on their respective ships.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” both said.
They work as each other’s cover down for a lot of duties, and because they often work with a lot of the same patients, it can be challenging for them to schedule leave or vacation.
“Overall, we are using it to our advantage and letting it strengthen our marriage,” said Stephanie Price.
Being married in the same job can come with its own set of difficulties. They said they try to keep work and home separate, but it can be hard sometimes. Since they are working the same position, they consult each other and learn from each other’s experiences. They both expressed that they have learned a lot of lessons and it enables them to do their job better from the information they share with each other.
Working in the same designator helps the couple empathize with each other because they have similar stressors and roadblocks at work, so they can work together to troubleshoot solutions to their problems.
“He is my constant phone-a-friend,” said Stephanie Price.
After their tour as UMOs, the lieutenants are looking forward to completing training and moving on to residency for family medicine and orthopedics respectively.
“He and I are very different with different strengths and weaknesses,” said Stephanie Price. “Thankfully, I married someone that compliments me very well. Overall, I feel incredibly lucky to have married someone I get to share this experience with and can truly call my partner.”