By Kristin Schultz
For more than 40 years, Niskayuna resident Evan Love served his country, both on active duty and in the Navy Reserve. Now that he’s retired, he intends to keep giving of himself, volunteering with veterans.
Not many people were signing up to join the military in the mid-1970s. The war in Vietnam ended in 1975 and Cold War tensions between the United States and the USSR were escalating.
“I had virtually no prospects for college at that time,” Love said. “It was the result of not planning or maybe my parents weren’t as involved as they could have been, but I felt that I needed to have some level of direction, some action.”
His father had served in World War II in the Merchant Marine and talked with his son about his experience. Love decided to take an entrance exam for the Navy’s nuclear program in 1975 and scored well enough to qualify.
This turned out to be a perfect fit for Love: It offered the direction he wanted while (unbeknownst to Love) setting him on the engineering path that he still walks.
“The Navy nuclear program is so structured,” Love said. “There is two years of technical training and then four years on a submarine or aircraft carrier. I chose submarines because it’s predictable, stable and certain.”
Missile submarines, like the ones on which Love served, kept a regular deployment schedule — a few weeks out, a few weeks back — and, being that a submarine cannot hold a large number of troops, gave him a sense of belonging to a small family.
It was also an exciting time in U.S. military history as international tensions and technological advancements developed at a rapid pace. One of Love’s most memorable moments aboard a submarine was the day it fired the first C4 Trident I Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles off Port Canaveral, Florida.
“We launched eight dummy warheads in 1979,” Love said. “That was a big deal. The ship got a meritorious unit commendation. I was privileged to be on board. [Launching missiles from a submarine] felt like an airplane with a slight turbulence, a slight drop.”
During his time in the Navy, Love recognized the importance of a college education. Upon discharge from active duty in 1981, he enrolled in community college, then transferred to RPI. He was also working part time to support his wife and small child and was in the Navy Reserve.
“Nuclear training enlisted personnel got a real academic focus because Navy Nuclear Power School was so intense,” Love said. “They were teaching us nuclear physics at age 17.”
The academic focus and training formed the foundation from which Love would successfully graduate from RPI and pursue both engineering and a career in the reserves, doing intelligence work. He had been interested in intelligence history and was keen to pursue the field as a commissioned reservist.
“I thought it would be intriguing and it was,” Love said. “The things that I learned and what I was able to contribute to, especially after 9/11.”
Although he likes a good spy novel or television show, Love’s intelligence work involved more analytics than made-for-TV covert operations and brush passes.
“As an intelligence officer, you’re not so much in an active pursuit role,” he said. “It’s a more academic role, a research and delivery role.”
Love has found all the roles he has filled in the military to be rewarding in different ways.
“I really enjoyed being a reactor operator on a missile submarine in the Cold War,” Love said. “The fact that the Navy trusted me and put that responsibility in a teenager, that was a feeling of pride and responsibility at a very young age.”
Love found fulfillment in being a commanding officer of an intelligence unit and took great pride in his one year of active duty in the Defense Intelligence Agency after 9/11.
Though he retired from the service, Love continues to work in engineering at Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corp. (best-known as Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory or KAPL) in Niskayuna as he has for the last 32 years.
He hopes to spend time with his family, including all five grandchildren and contribute to veterans causes.
“I’m going to be doing military outreach volunteer work,” Love said.