Topping excels on Navy sub

Published 1:14 am Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Shaquan Topping

At the age of 21, Shaquan Erastus Lucas Topping knew he wanted to travel. He wanted to see the world.
He made it happen by enlisting in the Navy three years ago, going to boot camp and getting stationed aboard the USS Charlotte as a yeoman, third class, submariner based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Two years later, he’s added hero to his list of accomplishments.
Topping was recently awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for saving a life while aboard the submarine, when he prevented a fellow crewman from choking to death during a meal.
“We were eating chili dogs. … I guess he bit off more than he could chew,” said Topping during a phone call from his Hawaii base. “I thought, ‘This doesn’t look good.’”
Topping said he jumped over a table to help the other man, performing the Heimlich maneuver, and receiving the gratitude of his crewmate and a medal in exchange.
It’s not the first time Topping has received commendation from the Navy. Last year, he was singled out by Capt. S.M. Robertson, commander of Submarine Squadron 1, for his superior ship-handling skills as primary helmsman/planesman aboard his vessel and consistently performing his duties in an exemplary manner.
“Petty Officer Topping’s outstanding professional performance and total dedication to duty reflected credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service,” reads the commendation.
The USS Charlotte is a Los Angeles-class submarine named for Charlotte in Topping’s home state of North Carolina. A native of Belhaven, Topping was studying at Beaufort County Community College when he decided to make a major life change.
“He was studying to get his electrical-engineering degree, and he realized that none of his peers were really doing much here,” said his wife, Jewel Lodge Topping. “He wanted to see the world, so he met with a recruiter.”
The inspiration to join the armed forces did not come from out of the blue. Topping’s mother, Doretha Palmer, was in the Army, and a cousin from Hyde County, Angel Maldonado, had the set the bar by joining the Navy.
Though Topping is stationed nearly 6,000 miles away, he still makes it home to eastern North Carolina whenever possible. Two leaves ago, he got engaged to Jewell Lodge. His last leave, over Christmas, he married her.
The two knew each other as schoolmates at BCCC and kept in touch when Topping joined the Navy. Now they’ll wait until Topping is assigned to his next station — either Arlington, Va., or Norfolk, Va. — before his wife and two stepsons, Treshon and Thyler Smith, will join him in September.
Until then, Topping will continue to use his off-duty hours realizing his own rewards — thrill-seeking hobbies like skydiving and swimming with sharks — in the time he has left stationed on the island paradise.