One Submariner’s Extraordinary Family Heritage
It’s always a wonderful sight when the Navy, Marine Corps, Army, and Air Force can get together to mentor future generations. That’s exactly what’s happened in Yeoman First Class (Submarine) Suraya Mattocks’ family.
Mattocks has a family history of military service to include her mother, father, uncle and grandfather; each serving in a different branch of the military. And recently, she discovered another grandfather who served in the Submarine Force.
Mattocks joined the military to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Monique Douglas nee Goupil, who was a Staff Sgt. in the Women's Army Corps (WAC), which was created as a women’s branch of the Army and accepted into active duty status July 1, 1943. The unit was disbanded and integrated with male units in 1978.
Her mother’s influence, however, wasn’t the only reason Mattocks became one of the first enlisted women to ever serve aboard a U.S. Navy submarine.
“For me, I joined the Navy because I wanted to serve like my mom, but my dad, Richard La Pierre, was also a Sgt. in the Air Force; my uncle Normand Goupil, was a Sgt. in the Marine Corps; and my pepere (grandfather), Robert Estes, was in the Navy,” Mattocks said. “I love the ocean so I thought the Navy would be better for me than the other branches.”
“My pepere showed me photos of submarines as a kid and the one I remember the most was a boat breaking through the ice,” Mattocks said. “When I was 9 or 10 my dad took me to the USS Albacore museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which is 15 minutes from where I grew up in Dover, New Hampshire. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen and I would imagine what it would be like to live under the ocean with the whales. Looking back, it’s definitely not the same as I'd imagined as a kid!”
Those images of submarines burned a lasting memory with Mattocks and ignited a fire to serve aboard a submarine.
“I remembered those photos and how much I enjoyed touring Albacore with my dad, and I thought why not me? Better to apply and have the Navy say no than to always wonder what if,” Mattock said. “So I applied, and I was selected in the first group of 36 women to go to subs. I reported to the Basic Enlisted Submarine School in June 2016, reported to USS Michigan (SSGN 727) in September 2016, and qualified Submarine Warfare July 4, 2017. It was over a year later when I found out I had unknowingly followed in my Grandfather's footsteps. Life is funny like that sometimes.”
"My mom grew up in foster care after the death of her parents at a young age," Mattocks said. "In 2018, she took an Ancestry DNA test and learned that her biological father was Everett S. Jordan. He was Engineman Chief Petty Officer."
As it turns out, Jordan, like Mattocks, was also a submariner. He was assigned to the USS Growler (SS 215) during her 4th war patrol and later served aboard USS Argonaut (SS 475).
For those unfamiliar with some of the extensive history of Growler during WWII, on her 4th war patrol she rammed the 900-ton Japanese ship Hayasaki. Jordan’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Howard Gilmore, was mortally wounded during the attack and sacrificed himself for his crew.
He was awarded Medal of Honor post-mortem. The following excerpt is from Gilmore’s Medal of Honor Citation:
For distinguished gallantry and valor above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of USS GROWLER during her Fourth War Patrol in the Southwest Pacific from 10 January to 7 February 1943. Boldly striking at the enemy in spite of continuous hostile air and anti-submarine patrols, CDR Gilmore sank one Japanese freighter and damaged another by torpedo fire, successfully evading severe depth charges following each attack.
In the darkness of night on 7 February, an enemy gunboat closed range and prepared to ram the GROWLER. CDR Gilmore daringly maneuvered to avoid the crash and rammed the attacker instead, ripping in to her port side at 11 knots and bursting wide her plates. In the terrific fire of the sinking gunboat’s heavy machine guns, CDR Gilmore calmly gave the order to clear the bridge, and refusing safety for himself, remained on deck while his men preceded him below.
Struck down by the fusillade of bullets and having done his utmost against the enemy, in his final moments, CDR Gilmore gave his last order to the officer of the deck, ‘Take her down.’
The GROWLER dived; seriously damaged but under control, she was brought safely to port by her well-trained crew inspired by the courageous fighting spirit of their dead captain.
Naval History and Heritage Command)
Mattocks is still trying to find out more information about her grandfather, but takes comfort in hoping he would be proud of her submarine service and recent selection for the 2021 Master Chief Anna Der-Vartanian Leadership Award. The award, which has been presented annually since 1987, recognizes the inspirational leadership of those whose ideals and dedication foster cultural inclusiveness and reinforce the integral role that women play in the Navy.
“It's crazy to think that it's been four years already since I qualified in Submarines. I wish my grandfather was around,” Mattocks said. “Although he passed before I ever got to meet him, I hope I've made him proud and I wish I could have heard some of his sea stories.
“I am humbled yet excited by my selection,” Mattocks said. “Being of service has always been my purpose in life and what better way to do that than to guide and support the amazing Sailors in our Navy! It means so much to know that I have continued on the legacy of a trailblazing woman like Master Chief Der-Vartanian.
Mattocks is currently serving as administrative officer, command educational services officer and regional Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocate at Submarine Group EIGHT Representative Northwood, UK. As a Yeoman, she is qualified Submarine Warfare, Aviation Warfare and Fleet Marine Force.