Life in the military. For many U.S. Navy sailors it means plenty of time on board ships and submarines. I recently had a chance to spend time with local members of the Navy aboard the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier at sea.
The Truman is 100 thousand tons of nuclear powered u-s military might at sea. The carrier is the 8th Nimitz class aircraft carrier of the U.S. navy which was commissioned in 1998. "It's a series of restaurants, it's an engineering plant. But most importantly it's a symbol of U.S. national power, prestige and the values that we hold very dear as Americans." says Pennsylvania native Captain Nicholas Dienna.
The Truman's air wing is comprised of various fighter-jets, helicopters and other fixed wing aircraft. When all the aircraft and personnel are aboard, the Truman's population reaches well above 5000 people including several sailors from Central Pennsylvania. Ensign Greg Myers is a York County native. "You get to see a giant floating airport like this and travel anywhere in the world in a moments notice, and still be able to project the maritime superiority that we do. So it's not too bad you know. The food's not bad either!"
A sailor's workday on board the Truman is a long one. Many begin their day before the sun rises above the flight deck. "It's a long day from 7:00am to 7:00pm at night. But its a rewarding job." says Ethan Miller who graduated from Red Land High School in York County.
Day and night waves of airplanes and helicopters come and go from the flight deck. It's a team effort in every sense. Each sailor plays his or her part to make sure the mission is carried out time and time again smoothly and safely. Sailor Felix Rivera is a Lebanon County native. "I take pride in the work I do. So knowing that I'm helping to complete a mission in that we have in front of us. It makes me feel really good about it."
Amid long days of work, sailors do get a few daily hours of downtime. When they're not working many are working out. Pretty much anywhere and every where. Myers says, "Working out a lot. In he hangar bay there are lots and lots of different exercises from spin class to tobata to crossfit and all that kind of stuff." There is also limited television on board.. There are several movie nights, and games are a bit hit too. Rivera says, "we play card games. Lately we've been playing Uno because that's the big thing these days. We have fun though."
And to provide sailors a small taste of home there is a Starbucks on the ship. Not on each corner, but often times with a long line. Miller says, "It's a little touch of home. It's a a little bit of a different menu than you would expect see back at home, but it keeps you going. With those long hours it helps."
Long hours of training keep the crew sharp and ready for their next deployment. From the bridge Captain Dienna sees the dedication every day. "It's a privilege everyday to work with them. To see these young men and women who selflessly give of their time their energy and their service to protect their fellow citizens."
While this particular training exercise in the Atlantic Ocean will last several weeks, routine deployments typically last several months. And through the long hours and time away from families and friends, Myers says the pride never fades. "Whenever you see an aircraft taking off or landing it doesn't get old. The first time its 'shock and awe', and then it starts to build that this is normal. But at night you see a F18 take off in full afterburner, it doesn't matter how many times you see it the 'shock and awe' factor is still there."