daily life, on a frigate

Saturday, August 8, 2009 |
I introduced my friend Mike the naval ensign, and continued featuring him in this post. Today’s entry carries on with my questions and his answers about life aboard the USS X, a frigate cruising somewhere in the Persian Gulf. The conversation is copy-and-pasted from our email exchanges.

Is there air conditioning at all?

There is AC. In fact we keep the ship super super cold. One, AC removes the salt and humidity from the air, which slows rusting. Two, the ship would smell something awful. Three, we have a lot of electronic equipment like radars and computers that generate a lot of heat, and would almost literally melt if not cooled.

Describe your quarters in detail. How big of a room is it? Do you share with lots of people (and if so, do any of them snore?)? What furniture do you have? What color is everything? Where do you keep your personal effects? How far away is the nearest bathroom?

The room I live in fits twelve people, although only nine live here at the moment. Our racks (navy for “bed”) are small: imagine sleeping in a coffin, only slightly smaller. About seven feet long, by three feet wide by maybe two feet high. So with my head on my pillow, I have about five or six inches of clearance. There is a blue curtain on one side to block out the light, and there are two straps that I can fasten to keep me from rolling out of the bed. The floor is blue, our racks are grayish… My bed is on a hinge so I can lift it up and I have compartments where I can put stuff. I also have a small locker, like the ones from high school… There is a “head” (navy for “bathroom”) just about ten feet away. Even though I am an officer, I don’t have a nice stateroom. We have way too many officers, so I actually live in the overflow berthing next to the enlisted guys. It’s easier to just use that one than go up a ladder (“navy” for stairs) and down the hall. So I share a head with about 90 other people. Four sinks, two urinals, three stalls, three showers.

Do you guys see wildlife, or are you too far out in the middle of nowhere for that?

I’ve seen about six birds. And two hundred Homo sapiens. That’s it. There is nothing out here at all.

I assume you get shore leave in [insert Asian port city here]? What's the first thing you do when you get off the ship?

Seriously… I’ll get to go ashore for two days. The last night I have duty. I don’t know what I’ll do when I get off. Some people wanna scuba dive and snorkel but that’s not me. Others just wanted to get terribly schwasted. I just wanna chill, find a nice bar and just hang out. Also, I generally like the other officers on the ship, however most are people that I would never hang out with outside of the ship. Maybe one is my type as far as friends go. Not that I’m choosing friends. Some are just too old, some are just too crazy party-wise, others are just too culturally different from me. And [port city] isn’t so much a “let’s go crazy and party port” but more like “lets relax on the beach.” Now our next port is, and that place I’ve heard is completely bananas. I’ve heard there is a Costco, so I’ll need to buy some snacks, maybe some new boots (mine suck), an iPod charger, energy drinks, etc…

When I sent Mike the transcript of my first blog post, I asked if there were any issues with it. He said:

I’d prefer you not put the name of the ship. In case I have any potential stalkers, lol. But it’s more of an OPSEC thing (Operational Security). In other words, even with family and friends I can’t be too specific about where we’re going and what we’re doing, even routine stuff. Especially with random people reading your blog. Like you may have noticed instead of saying “we’re pulling in to Jacksonville on July 1st and we’ll be there for five days until we leave for Pensacola,” I’m like “We pull in to Jacksonville in a couple weeks and we’ll be there for a couple days before we leave again. That first one would give you a ton of information about where we are, what we’re doing etc. Not that I think you’re a spy or anything. ;)

He also explained that his work had changed:

Now we’re in 3 watch sections. So instead of 5 on, 15 off, we’re 5 on, 10 off. So not including all of the other work I have to do, I’m automatically working almost 70 hours a week. Then when you add on studying, briefs, divisional work, paper work, special evolutions (evolution is the navy word for event) like UNREPS it’s even more. Right now I’m prolly sleeping more than I should (about 7 hours a day), but once I get completely used to the pace of deployment I’ll prolly be working anywhere from about 17-19 hour days.

I’m starting to handle more of the paperwork/administrative part of the division too. The actual AUXO knows he’s getting out in 2 years so he doesn’t really care all that much, so he’s really chill. So I’ve been picking up a lot of the slack lately. Which is cool with me. I don’t really mind cuz if I were the AUXO on any other ship I would prolly have to do everything by myself anyway. Although I would have a stateroom instead of living overflow so it would be easier to get the additional work done.

Next time with Ensign Mike: medical trauma, the morale of food, why Thailand is awesome, and sea rescues.


Steph Bowe said...

The stuff you post is so varied. I've never read about something like this before, so it's been very enlightening!

Heather G. said...

very enlightening and very interesting! thanks for filling us in! Awesome!

Marie said...

You must keep posting stuff like this! So interesting!!
I can't wait to read more.

Wow- I don't know if I could ever live like that- what a small bed!!!

Mandy said...

It's so neat that you're doing this!

Andrea said...

That was very interesting. Thanks for sharing this.

P.S. I have an award for you.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Back in the late 90s I was able to get a tour of the USS JFK when it was docked at Benidorm, Spain. It was very, very cool!

Nicole said...

I love this interview - what a cool inside look at being in the Navy!

vvb32 reads said...

no dolphins, whales or sharks about?

Unknown said...

Have you seen "Carrier"? It's a great PBS miniseries and it's on Hulu.

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