Submariners are a rare breed; it is an assignment requiring a special set of skills and a special kind of both physical and mental toughness.
“You take a little steel tube, pack a nuclear reactor and high power steam propulsion plant with high pressure and temperature steam. You also use the steam power plant to produce high voltage un-grounded electricity which you route throughout the boat in exposed cable bundles. You pack in 24 intercontinental ballistic missiles and the rockets that propel them out of the submarine (just 1 stage of 1 of these rockets is enough to liquify the submarine internals) that can each potentially be armed with up to 8 ballistic nuclear re-entry bodies that each by themselves can potentially be 20 times as powerful as those dropped on Japan in WW2. You route high-pressure air and hydraulics throughout this tube to operate all this large machinery required to move the tube around. You pack in up to 40 ADCAP Mk 48 torpedoes who have an auto-catalytic fuel that could utterly destroy your tube (see Russian submarine Kursk) and pack it full of high explosives. You pack all of these extremely dangerous things into that small metal tube, climb inside it with 120 people you love to hate (the feeling is mutual too), seal it up, drive it out thousands of miles into the middle of the ocean, and sink it.
If a fire burns for longer than 15 seconds without an extinguisher on it, it begins to grow rapidly and in as little as 2 minutes can render the entire space untenable. The loss of any 1 space on a submarine is likely a loss of the ship. There are a lot of things on a submarine that wants to burn or start a fire. And a lot of things on a submarine will explode when exposed to high heat. As such, every single person on a submarine has to know how to combat a fire by himself and call for assistance. On no other platform in the military is the success and survival of the whole ship dependent on the individual performance of each sailor as it is on a submarine.
This is all backdrop to some of the nation’s most vital clandestine operations (just 1 of the large number of missions a submarine can perform) which you never read about due to the nature of the missions. The stakes are high, and there is no room for error. It is a lot of stress. It is also a lot of pride.
Other than Seals, no other community asks more of its men and women than the submarine service. And as such, being a submariner is a certain badge of honor that is respected by the other communities and services. It is an arduous, thankless, and dangerous job.
So, what would attract one to this assignment? It is far and away the people. The shared responsibility for each other and the shared experience forges an extremely tight bond between the crew of a submarine, one that can only be rivaled by marine/army combat units, and even then it is still a different type of bond as each man is just as important as the one next to him. It is less steeped in the rigid structure of the rest of the military, and lines of rank are blurred more in submarines than anywhere else. This appeals to certain types of people and not to others.
So when you ask a submariner what it is he misses about submarining once he’s gone, he will always respond “I miss the people.