I am a Naval Flight Officer and veteran. I served eight years on active duty and entered the Navy Reserve in 2010 after having my first child. My callsign is ODB (that’s another post) and the Being ODB series focuses on my time in the Navy as a short Jewish female aviator. This post originally appeared on The Purple Mama.
After finishing flight school and reporting to my squadron back in 2005, I stepped aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and life got even more interesting. This is an account of my first day on The Boat. Some of it may be a foreign language to civilians, so please let me know if you have any questions. I hope you enjoy reading it!
My First 24 Hours on an Aircraft Carrier
1130: Strap on four computers and about twice my weight in gear and head to the ready room….wherever that may be. (Heh. Strap-on.) Try not to panic when I have to walk aboard alone and clueless. Feel like I have a large blinking neon sign above my head saying HELP I’VE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE! Have no idea what to say to the Officer of The Deck. Find out I am supposed to say either “Request permission to board” or “Report my return aboard.” I say something like “Request permission to report my returning to board.”
1132: While carrying aforementioned gear, fall down the same ladder upon which a fellow squadron member broke his leg on the previous deployment. Get up with some bruises, mainly to my ego. (Really, Mom, I’m ok.)
1133: Realize that personnel ranging from Seaman Schmuckatelli to a Commander on ship’s company witnessed the fall. Freeze in horror. Unfreeze to avoid holding up the line of 1500 annoyed people behind me.
1200: Find out that my stateroom isn’t available yet, so I have nowhere to bring my gear. (Aside: The Navy calls them staterooms to make them sound luxurious. Most of you have bathrooms that are bigger.) Am told I have to wait until “later” to get a room. Plan to sleep in the ready room. Which is fine, really. That means I don’t have to negotiate any more ladders.
1200 – 1300: Hang around in the ready room trying to blend in with the walls so I don’t get tasked and have to risk another ladder anytime soon.
1302: Get tasked to do stuff and have to climb at least ten ladders trying to find goal of tasking. Get miserably lost, not solely because of lack of orientation, but also because all ladders seem to lead to the same place: nowhere. On the plus side, I don’t fall again. Yet.
1330: Finally realize that I have to figure it out and actually get started on my job. Find out that my job is going to be a bit more difficult because my month of prep work has been arbitrarily declared null and void. Right butt cheek and elbow start throbbing from fall.
1331-1600: Get the hang of the ladder and climb up and down five decks with computers while trying to set up the LAN and my users. Only get marginally lost and remain upright the entire time. Feel proud, and still bruised.
1600: Eat in Wardroom. Cloth napkins! Glass goblets! Buffet style cafeteria food! Fried goodness! Multiple desserts! Am in heaven!
1645: Flight suit will barely stayed zipped up. Have to work out three times a day every day now…Ugh, I don’t know if that was really chicken. Where’s the head?
1700: Go to S5 (Staterooms) office and stand in a line that snakes around the corner.
1730: Move up two feet.
1745: Move up three feet.
1800: Move back three feet.
1830: Get into the office and ask for a key to my room. He leaves the office muttering something about leaves. Or something.
1845: First person I asked is nowhere to be found. Ask another person for a key.
1900: Find out that original stateroom is still occupied. Get sent to the Ship’s Secretary’s stateroom, which is a 3-man that she has made into a 1-woman. Have nowhere to put my stuff and she has no interest in making room. I don’t blame her.
1930: Go back to S5 office and ask for a different room.
2000: Original person nowhere to be found. Ask another person for a different room.
2030: Get a key to an 8 man on the 0-3 level under the Jet Blast Deflector, or JBD. Original room was 5 decks lower in a very quiet space. Am sure that something called Jet Blast Deflector can’t be too bad, though.
2035: Resume ADP duties. Climb 13 more ladder wells, bringing the total this far to at least 5,132.
0030: Cannot put off bringing my seabag and duffel bag up 5 decks any longer. Make two trips. Eagerly anticipate sleep.
0040: Realize that my flip-flops, necessary for showering in the morning and getting around during the night, are at the bottom of my very tightly packed seabag.
0045: Unpack and realize that every single drawer and cabinet make a curiously loud whining sound when opening or closing. Am sure the five sleeping roommates don’t mind at all.
0100: Finish unpacking, brush teeth, wash face and hit the rack. Literally. Discover “mattress” is well-disguised piece of concrete. Ouch.
0105: Somewhat noisy, but think I can fall asleep. After all, it’s not so bad, much like my college dorm, which was not too OH MY G-D A TRACTOR JUST FELL THROUGH THE ROOF NEXT DOOR.
0106: No one is very concerned about fallen tractor. Realize it is aforementioned JBD when it happens again 2 minutes later. And every 2 minutes after that. For a very. Long. Time.
0108: Realize that Jet Blast Deflector is deflecting blast into my room. Try to find something peaceful and lulling about said blast.
0140-0800: Attempt something once known as “sleep.” Realize it will take time to adjust to this new definition.
0830: Proceed to female head to take a shower. Feel bruised but very excited about first full day aboard. Start the water and wait for it to warm up.
0832: Wait some more for water to warm up.
0834: Still waiting and trying to remain positive.
0835: Oh no. Please no.
0840: Huddle in corner of shower and soap up. Dread rinsing.
0843: Head back to stateroom, warmed up by rainforest-like atmosphere in passageway. Get dressed.
0915: Make it to ready room and start to get work done. Actually help a few new sailors with directions along the way. I think.
1130: Take a quick stroll in the hangar bay and appreciate the view of the ocean rushing past 50 feet below. Help a few more sailors with directions. Hopefully. Remain upright all the way down. Bruises not so bad. Things will be just fine…