Marie Darnell, 51, born on February 26


Commanding Officer of Washington State Naval Shipyard


She must make life-and-death choices that will have a direct impact on national security. After the initial quake, her response was centered around trying to get the shipyard stabilized and back to full-operation as quickly as possible. Once the Hammer hits, she realizes that a world-altering event has just transpired: now she must focus on containing the emergencies in priority, while trying to avoid as much loss-of-life as possible.

Ultimately, she splits responsibility for handling two crises that impact national security with her second-in-command, Trevor Flowers. She focuses on containing contamination from the U.S.S. El Paso catastrophe, while Flowers must deal with the issues getting the shafts back to the carrier U.S.S. Halsey before the dry-dock floods beyond control.

She learns the true and horrible price of being a military commander.


She’s fully aware of the horrific consequences of making poor decisions. On the one-hand, she must contain a nuclear crisis. On the other, she is duty-bound to get the navy’s assets out to sea safely. Being a childless divorcee, her motive is about the fear of failing her shipyard employees, vice an immediate family. The longer she deals with the issues caused by the disasters, the more she gets to witness great Americans stepping up to the horrible tasks.


She knows that the release of contamination must be avoided at all costs. She has to separate her emotions from the decisions, knowing that she will cost people their lives. She reflects on conversations with those employees in the past to draw the strength she needs to achieve the impossible.


She had a good staff and civilian workforce – the obstacles are all just disasters that were created by the natural disasters. People in her career path were not prepared by the Navy to make combat-style decisions—it is a skill she must develop out of necessity.


She learns what it means to lead people to their death and the feelings that come with that.


It is another day of metrics meetings and retirement ceremonies when the quake hits. As the highly-trained workforce evaluates what has happened, the big-one hits. People are dying, and the threat to the submarines and ships are very real. Captain Darnell has to perform at the top of her game for weeks, as her workforce fights to save a carrier and contain the contamination from destroyed submarine.


Born and raised in Houston Texas, she went to Texas A & M University, obtaining a BS in Chemical Engineering. She worked at an oil company south of Houston for two years while concurrently pursuing her master’s degree in Chemical Engineering, but she was not happy with her life. She applied for the Nuclear Officer Propulsion Candidate program and was accepted on her first try.

She attended OCS in Newport, RI for 12 weeks, and then went to nuclear power and prototype school in southern Idaho for 6 months. At that time, women could not serve on submarines, so she was assigned to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Carl Vinson. She trained as an engineering duty officer. Her first non-sea tour was an assignment to the Naval Postgraduate School, where she received a second master’s in Mechanical Engineering. She was the recipient of the NPS Superior Service Award. Her next duty station was back to a carrier, this time the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln to cover a billet for an assistant chief engineer who was medically retired unexpectedly. Her next shore duty billet was to Norfolk Naval Shipyard to work in the naval reactor’s representative office. Her performance there earned her the honor of being only the second woman to obtain submarine qualification in both diving officer and engineer, when she was given a special 2-month “TAD” to the U.S.S. City of Corpus Christi out of Guam. Next, on the John C. Stennis she earned medals for supporting both OIF and OEF as the chief engineer. She earned another shipyard tour, this time as the production resources superintendent at Pearl Harbor, which earned her the promotion to become the second female Commander of Washington State Naval Shipyard.

Captain Darnell married a fellow officer early in her career. He decided to get out, and became an executive for an energy company on the east coast. They divorced in 2008, and she never remarried.


Two brothers back in Texas; she isn’t particularly close to them.


Marie is 5’ 11”, relatively fit, and kind of resembles Helen Hunt. No medical issues.


Firm and level voice. She has a way of chewing asses without raising her voice. She has the talent to make simple wise-cracks at retirement ceremonies, and such. However, she is always guarded about her reputation.


Career officer. Typical middle-aged female style. Likes to go hiking and has dabbled a little bit in panning for gold and gems in a few different states, mainly as a way of staying connected to her original passion of geology.


Lives in one of several Victorian-style houses for command-level officers. No pets. Has a Ford Explorer, but the catastrophes and her job mean she won’t be leaving the shipyard or base anytime soon.