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What Is It Like Living On a U.S. Navy Warship

ByAllen Czermak


If you’re considering joining the United States Navy it would be beneficial to know what it’s like to live on a 21st century behemoth warship. Unlike U.S. military bases speckled throughout the globe, for warships and submarines there is lots of video footage out there that gives you a glimpse of what life is like out at sea. The concern of enemies using the video footage of a marine vessel against a United States is quite small due to the constant movement of the ship or submarine as opposed to a military base which is static and the exact location is kept highly classified. 

As for someone who wants to see what it’s like to live on a U.S. warship we will be resourcing an interview that was done with Fire Controlman First Class Petty Officer Bright by The Oregonian. The walk through was done about three years ago on the Navy combat ship USS Jackson. The ship is undergoing repairs in Florida and will return to its port home in San Diego, CA. We will also be referencing the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan CVN-76 which is currently docked at the US Navy Yokosuka port in Japan. The United States has been increasing its Navy presence in the complex area where the East China Sea, Yellow Sea, and Sea of Japan meet to send a message to China and other non-allied countries. As for this article we will stay out of geopolitics and gain a glimpse of daily life aboard one of the 480 U.S. Navy vessels.

Why Are Journalists Allowed On United States Navy Warships?

The United States government is well aware of 21st century media exposure and will use it to its advantage as long as the safety of the sailors and fleet are not jeopardized. Unfortunately there are many bad people navigating the beautiful blue waters of the world. If footage of a U.S. vessel is revealed, it’s intended to send a message that there is a sheriff out there at sea that you do not want to mess with. Many areas of water along the African coast are monitored by Somali pirates who look to take over ships and claim the booty on board or collect a ransom. Many of these pirates are young teenagers who have no future in Africa and will do pretty much anything to make some money. When people all around the globe get a glimpse into the power of the U.S. Navy’s fleet, they are more hesitant to engage in illegal marine activity. At the same time the presence of a fleet of warships sends a message to countries all around the world that the United States is ready for a good old battleship dog fight at any moment. 

It is for that reason that there are a handful of opportunities where the U.S. Navy will allow a videographer one board to document what goes on a daily basis. Though we can’t delve into all what goes on these ships, we will try our best to give you a small glimpse to whet your appetite if you are possibly looking to be a sailor on one of the U.S. Navy ships.

Most Of a U.S. Warship Is Actually Empty Space

That’s right, most of a warship is left empty due to the fact that each mission will determine how the ship is configured. Though the outside and deck of the ship does not change, the inside of the ship is pretty dynamic and can be built according to each mission. This space is referred to as Mission Bay and has the same feeling as being in an empty massive warehouse when the ship is not on a mission. Each mission will bring with it its own model that will use the space in the Mission Bay. Almost 40% of the ship remains empty until put into commission (command + mission) to be able to have the most flexibility for fitting the next mission’s module. There is plenty of room to launch a multi mission vehicle or inflatable boat while the vessel is cruising at high speeds. Should there be a need to load shipping containers on and off the ship there is a portable yet compact crane called the Mobicon. It can load and unload any standard shipping container or anything on a platform similar to a container. When the ship undergoes repairs at a shipyard the space is left empty as the vessel is being worked on. The empty space on a warship gives endless options as to what the ship can be used for both peaceful and hostile missions. 

What Is The Flooring Like in the U.S. Warship?

Due to the marine environment and high moisture levels it’s vital that the ship is equipped with flooring that does not absorb water. The upper deck of a warship is covered with multiple layers of non-skid deck paint to give the ultimate grip to the seamen and equipment. This is very important when it comes to aircraft carriers where you want every aircraft to be grounded as much as possible. Besides for a waterproof and non-skid deck, jet fighters and helicopters are anchored to the deck with strong cables when not in use. The first thing the crew does after a landing is complete on a warship, is secure the cables that ground the aircrafts. 

Other areas of the warship’s flooring consist of commercial vinyl composition tile (VCT) that is pretty much the standard for places like schools and hospitals. VCT is a neat looking option that provides solid waterproofing for the main cabin area where the seamen live. Since there are many areas on the lower deck such as birthing modules, mess hall, ward room, infirmary, and disinfection stations it’s important to have a good footing between each station. This is accomplished by placing a matting on the VCT tile made of PVC interlocking floor tiles. The interlocking rubber floor mats have a coined top that allows for the ultimate grip just in case any residue is on the bottom of a seaman’s boots. This ensures that as each member of the ship goes from one compartment to the next there is no slippage. 

Serving The Crew & Keeping Them Well Fed

Keeping sailors happy and not hungry is essential for the warship’s morale and that’s why a commanding officer is put in charge of the galley (or better known as the kitchen). The size of the crew will determine how many meals are cooked per a day. Each day a hearty and healthy meal is served for breakfast, lunch, and supper. Grilling is preferred over frying as the United States Navy is making sure to avoid extra saturated fats for its sailors. 

The food is made by the sailors and each must take part in cleaning up after they are done eating. No plastic is used on the ship to limit the trash and help the environment and that means each sailor must wash their tray and utensils after they are finished with their meal. At that point the galley is well into preparing the next meal for the ship. There are snacks and coffee available at any given moment to stage off hunger craving until meal time. It’s essential to have coffee available at all times especially when you are commanding officer that runs a shift at night. 

As for the amount of food that is held on the USS Jackson (LCS 6), the ship is designed to hold enough food for a 21 day period. As the food stock depletes the United States Navy has food deliveries that are dropped via helicopter on the ships deck to replenish the missing ingredients in the galley. Once the shipment is received above deck it is placed into three huge refrigerators to maintain freshness. 

The Engine Room: What Makes These Hunks Of Steel Move?  

Deep in the heart of the USS Ronald Reagan there is one of the most advanced engines known to mankind. The ship has two uranium powered nuclear reactors which boil water to create enough steam to spin three huge turbines which make the ship go. As for the USS Ronald Reagan, it is powered by itself and requires no fuel and can reach up to 30 knots. The only fuel that is needed on this ship is for the aircrafts that litter the upper deck. The size of each warship will determine if it will be powered by a nuclear reactor. Along with a sun hot nuclear reactor comes a highly sophisticated cooling system which is monitored by the crew. In order for the ship to operate, the cooling system needs to be working at full capacity.

Final Words

It is quite amazing to be able to get a glimpse into what it is like to be on a United States Navy warship. There is a lot of video footage out there that the Navy would like its adversaries to see and send a message that they are locked and loaded. We all hope that we never need to use them but as President Ronald Reagan once said in a famous speech; “We cannot shirk our responsibility as leaders of the free world because we are the only ones who can do it. And therefore the burden of maintaining peace falls on us. And to maintain that peace requires strength. America has never gotten into a war because we were too strong.

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