Joining the Navy was not unexpected for First Class Petty Officer Shaun Kwasniewski when he graduated from high school in 2005. His mother, father and both grandfathers were sailors.
He said his mother, Renee Kwasniewski, retired from the Navy in 1995 after 20 years service. She cautioned him to talk to all the service recruiters before making a decision. He had completed the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program in high school near Jacksonville.
Kwasniewski said his father, Tom Kwasniewski, was ambivalent about his joining the military. He wanted him to go into the family trade, bridge building. His dad was drafted in 1971, and served on the U.S.S. Simms as well as a tour in Vietnam.
The third generation sailor admits he doesn’t know a lot about his grandfathers’ — Frank Munn and Frank Kwasniewski — service in the Navy, except that one was an aviation mechanic and the other a radio operator.
During high school, Kwasniewski said, he was interested in becoming an architect, but didn’t know how he would pay for college. Then one evening he told his mom he was thinking about going in the Navy.
“The next morning there were two Navy recruiters at our kitchen table having coffee with us,” said Kwasniewski, who is now a Navy recruiter himself. “When I made up my mind, she made it happen...
“From the very beginning, I knew I wanted to be a submariner. I thought it would be great to say I lived on a nuclear submarine below the ocean.”
He said despite what people think, he is exposed to less radiation in a month on a sub than he would in the sun every day for a week.
The 26-year-old sighed when he said has trouble describing the feeling he gets working and living under the sea.
Kwasniewski has been a Navy recruiter in Hinesville since July. It’s a three-year tour, he said. As a recruiter, he said he’s now able to see Navy service and opportunities from a different perspective. He said it’s actually fun being a Navy recruiter in an Army town where other family traditions are deeply rooted, but he added that his office is not having any trouble meeting its recruiting goals.
He said he spent five years at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia and three years at Naval Submarine Base in Kingsland. Kwasniewski, who is also an ordained, nondenominational minister and amateur photographer, said he is about to get married. He grinned as he said he’s already warned his fiancée that being the wife of a submariner is the hardest job in the Navy. Submariners spend long months under the sea and little shore duty, he said.
“I was born and raised on a river,” said Kwasniewski, who was also raised near a naval base. “I was always on a boat. I could swim before I could walk... Now I’ve lived in 13 different countries. I’ve operated in every ocean on the planet. I’ve even gone under the polar ice caps.”
Kwasniewski said he has an older brother Thomas and younger sister Kayla. Thomas chose the Marine Corps, rather than the Navy, he said.