CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An F-14 Tomcat fighter jet falls into the Pacific Ocean. You have to go get it.
Most people would be relieved to hear that challenge directed to someone else, but Navy Counselor First Class Brian Fields grabbed it with gusto.
Petty Officer Fields, a Charleston native, handpicks the best and the brightest for the U.S. Navy. He's very selective because the people he brings in harness nuclear energy to power military vessels like submarines and aircraft carriers.
Fields knows what it is like to shoulder heavy responsibility. He applied for and was selected to serve a tour in San Diego as the lead electrician for a Super Scorpio ROV (remotely operated vehicle). Many people will recognize the Super Scorpio ROV as the same submersible technology featured in the opening scene of the 1997 film "Titanic."
In 2004, when he was 25 years old and working with the Deep Submersible Unit, he was responsible for retrieving an F-14 fighter jet that had fallen into the Pacific Ocean off Point Loma. The jet was worth $62 million and a priority for the U.S. military; the Navy needed to investigate what caused the crash as well as to retrieve any classified information. At the time, it was one of the Deep Submersible Unit's biggest jobs in the past eight to 10 years.
Fields grew up in North Charleston, attended Stonewall Jackson Junior High School and graduated from Capital High School. "When I was in high school I thought I'd be the last person to join the military," he says.
Despite that early reluctance, he found a calling in the Navy. Something inside him woke up when he started to see how a career as a sailor could change his life.
By 18 he realized how driven he was to, in his words, "see things and explore life." A recruiter convinced him that the future he wanted was in the Navy and Fields began his career nearly 15 years ago as part of the sonar division. He qualified to the level of Master Sonar Technician and served on the submarines USS Rhode Island and USS West Virginia.