A carrier typically holds anywhere from 3000 to 5000 people at any given moment (this is actually considered undermanned by regular society, but to the Navy it’s just enough to function). By all intents and purposes it’s a small town floating in the middle of the ocean with nothing to see except for water, aircraft, and the same exact people everyday of your life. We deploy at any given time without a moments notice and for extended periods of time. The ability to have a nice farewell with your family is a luxury in this sort of environment (one which I was not afforded as my last article explained). Some of us don’t even have a family to come back to anymore after deployment is finished. Truly the life of a sailor is one filled with much strife both at shore and sea (a deployment is hard on all the members of a family). But, there is a lot more than simply distance and time in our way, especially since our days are insanely monotonous.
A regular working day aboard the ships can be anywhere from 13-18 hours. This includes from the time we wake up anywhere from 0430 to 0600 down to whenever they (our leaders) determine we are secured (off shift). I usually wake up around 5:30 (since I am trying to sleep this nightmare away) and go to bed at 2100-2200. During these last few days I’ve been going through a check-in process in which all members that a new have to meet up with their current chain of command and also do the documentation in order to gain access to computers (I still haven’t gotten access to a computer and have not been able to get in full contact with my spouse as of yet. Lack of communication with the outside world has made me feel extremely isolated, and, when you’re in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight, despair can take a hold of you very quickly.
I can’t even do much work due to the fact that my job is mostly computer oriented. This has equated to countless hours of boredom, something which the typical human mind isn’t programmed to handle. I swear boredom has to be the main reason why people get fat in the military, too much time to snack. Yet, on the opposite side of the spectrum you also get the fact that sailors become easily malnutritioned and lose muscle/weight due to a lack of sleep and food (I might end up on this group). It seems like every person on the ship told me the environment is extremely fast paced, but from what I’ve seen thus far it’s actually a mixture of extreme movement or sluggish pace with no in between.
The interesting thing about this mixture is more along the lines of how the time is actually spent. We have several meetings throughout the day in which we discuss nearly every aspect of our deployment (these are almost daily). We also have to take care of the qualification which involve taking classes in different locations through the ship (once you reach the classroom you get a taste of what is called “death by powerpoint”. Surprisingly, you also get a few hours to do your actual job; and during this time everyone is scrutinizing you for actually spending time focusing on the task at hand instead of working on qualifications. The rest of the time is spent doing everything that your superiors assigned to you. Finally, you end the day with another meeting in which you brief the oncoming shift of all the accomplishments of the day.
In between these events, you have hour long lunches/dinners, a few workout classes in the hangar bay, and several smoking breaks for those who enjoy tobacco products. I’m thoroughly amazed that people in the boat actually get anything accomplished. This is because they actually pressure you to get everything done ahead of time, but they spend so much time doing other task aside from their job, they feel the necessity to pressure those who are doing theirs instead. I swear their demands nearly gave me a heart attack. Nobody should ever have to receive a broken program, and then hear complaints when they can’t fix it within the day.
But, the most impressive characteristic of this lifestyle is how quickly the day actually goes by when you’re actively working. Sure, the days were long and annoying filled with drudgery of the daily life, but people make it interesting. You meet some of the coolest people on board, and while some have your best interest at heart, others only care for themselves. They made the days go by much quicker, than in those days when I felt completely isolated.