Just a few months after Aidan Judd enters the Catholic Church at Easter, he will be heading to Nuclear Power School, where he will learn how to run nuclear reactors and prepare for the possibility of working on naval submarines that carry ballistic missiles.

Judd, who is a senior at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is a part of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) program and is an international affairs and history double major. He grew up in Wrightwood, California, a small mountain town, and was raised in the Episcopalian Church. During college, he started to investigate the differences and similarities between Christian denominations.

During his junior year, a Catholic student in his physics class put him in touch with Father Charlie Gallagher, who serves as the chaplain of GW Catholics and as the pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Washington, D.C. The two began to have discussions about what Judd had been thinking, and at the beginning of this academic year, he joined both RCIA and a Bible study.

Because of Judd’s interest in history, he said it stood out to him that the Catholic Church was founded at the beginning of Christianity, while other Protestant churches were not founded until much later.

“Catholicism has a direct line; it is the original thing,” he said, noting that every other church’s teachings come from someone like Calvin or Luther, but “ours come from Jesus.”

The unchanging tradition also appealed to Judd, who said he didn’t like how he saw some Protestant churches trying to change with the times, without taking much of a firm stance on anything.

“That is not the point,” he said. “Tradition doesn’t change. You can still have that tradition while being open to people.”

Judd experienced that openness firsthand in the welcome he received from the Catholic campus ministry at George Washington University, he said. Though he doesn’t always have time to go to the GW Catholic events because of his NROTC, RCIA and class schedules, he said no matter how infrequently he attends, there are always people saying hello and asking him how he is.

“The enthusiasm, the excitement for spreading God’s love is an inspiring thing,” he said, describing the campus ministry as “arguably the most accepting group of people on campus and in the city.”

“As long as you are coming with an open mind, you’re good to go,” he said.

When he thinks about his future military career in light of his faith, Judd admits that “there is potential for conflict between the two,” but believes that his faith will enhance his ability to do his job and weather whatever storms come his way.

In his leadership and ethics class, he said they read the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, which included a discussion of how taking no action can sometimes be as bad as an evil action.

“You have the obligation to stand up and defend people, defend goodness,” he said, adding that it is comforting to know, “in coming here to serve my country and protect the innocent, not only do I have the support of the nation…I have the support of God.”

The process of getting accepted to Nuclear Power School was difficult, including a long period of studying math and physics and doing interviews, on top of a normal college course load and ROTC training.

“I felt like I was called to it, so I said, ‘Let’s make this happen,’” he said, noting that he knew, “If I give it my all and do my very best with it, I can leave the outcome to God.”

After he graduates from Nuclear Power School, which lasts for a year, Judd will have the choice of working on either fast attack submarines or ballistic missile submarines. The fast attack submarines, which are designed to seek and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships, have longer deployments of about nine months. The ballistic missile submarines, which are designed specifically for stealth and the precise delivery of nuclear warheads, are deployed for two to four months. During that time, the people on board are not allowed to have any contact with people outside of the submarine, as the submarines are supposed to be undetectable.

Judd says the ballistic missile submarines act as “essentially the best deterrent from getting attacked,” which means they are mostly used as defense. But because he is not yet an expert on nuclear strategy, he still wonders, “If you are getting an order to launch the nuclear missile, how do you know it is the right thing to do?”

Because of this potentially difficult and isolated work environment, Judd said he is glad he will have faith to help him get through it.

“It is nice to have the reassurance of faith…it can be hard to get through it on your own,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the situation is – I know I have God taking care of me.”

Another member of NRTOC, Veronica Murdoch, will be Judd’s sponsor when he is Confirmed and receives First Communion at the Easter Vigil at Immaculate Conception Parish, and Judd said he has other friends from different areas of life, including someone who attends Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, who are planning to attend the service.

“That is the kind of people this Church is,” he said. “That is something you don’t often see.”

He said the thing he is most excited about for becoming Catholic is, “being able to go up to receive the Body and Blood of Christ – for real this time.”

“Throughout the entire process, it has felt like coming home,” he said.