Wednesday, March 7, 2012

An Interview With a Sailor - The Navy Life From His Eyes

I asked a few friends what they would want to know about the navy life from a sailor's point of view. Then, I decided to interview my husband on what it's like to be a sailor. Mainly for the fun of interviewing my husband (lol) but also to inform some people who might not know very much about the Navy and what they do for our country and our other service men. I asked him to answer each question as if it wasn't his wife asking them and he did a pretty good job and took it seriously! I myself even learned a few things! So here it is, an interview with AT3 Shultz :)

What is the Navy's general operation?: The purpose of the navy is to keep the seas free and to provide assistance to troops on the ground.

Why did you join the military and why the Navy?: I joined the military to serve my country, to be part of something bigger than myself, and for job security. I chose the navy for the opportunity to travel the world.

Tell me about your basic training experience: Basic training sucked when it was happening. But looking back at it now it wasn't all that bad. I thought then that being away from home for 2 months was bad. Since then I've done one 7 month deployment and am currently on an even longer one. Basic training was hectic. There was always somewhere to be and something to be doing. We woke up, showered, ate, and worked out at the same exact time every day. As long as you did what you were told it was actually a breeze. Those who didn't do what they were told were constantly being yelled at and IT'd (intensive physical training). It was basically 2 months of learning how to follow orders and instructions.

How did you get through it?: I pretty much just got into a routine, the days went faster than you could imagine. The thought of getting out and going to the fleet and making a
steady paycheck got me through it.

Please describe your rank, job title, and primary duties with the Navy: I am a Petty Officer Third Class (E-4 paygrade) Aviation Electronics Technician. I am responsible for fixing the electronics that come out of the planes. As an AT you can be placed in many different shops on board that work on many different types of electronics from the planes. I work out of the Electronic Countermeasures shop. We work mostly on the ALQ-99 systems that are used on the EA-6b Prowler aircraft. It is used for jamming enemy signals such as radar. I also work on the ALQ-144 system, flown on the MH-60R SeaHawk Helicopter. It is Infrared Countermeasure. Used to protect the Helo from incoming missiles. Along with my primary duties as an AT I also have shop Collateral Duties. We have many programs that we must follow. I currently manage the Calibration program and several other shop programs, on top of my normal work.

Please explain the differences and how your duties have changed since becoming a PO: Since becoming a PO the biggest difference is my pay, which is a lot better. But mostly I've just taken on a few more responsibilities. Once making third class I became the shift Production Supervisor. So I am responsible for making sure the shift runs smoothly and placing personnel on equipment to run. I no longer do some of the shitty jobs I did as an airman, such as taking out trash or taking the laundry to ships laundry. All in all not a whole lot has changed. The jump from third class to second is a lot bigger.

Will you reenlist and why?: Yes I plan on reenlisting to do my shore duty. The economy is terrible and it is nice to have a reliable income. I plan on getting a degree in Electronic Engineering while I'm on shore duty so I have better skills to find a job when I get out of the navy.

What are your goals while still in the Navy?: My goals before I get out are to make first class petty officer and to earn a degree in electronics engineering.

How long is a typical work day and does that change when deployed?: In port the typical work day is 6-8 hours, Monday through Friday, depending on whats going on. We also have duty every 8 days where we have to stay on the ship for 24 hours. While deployed we work 12 hours days, 7 days a week. We have 2 shifts, daycheck from 7am-7pm, and nightcheck from 7pm-7am.

What is the work environment like and how it is different being deployed?: When you first check in its very overwhelming. You don't realize how big an aircraft carrier really is until you actually step foot on one. Its hard to find your way around, but after a few weeks you get the hang of it. When we are deployed the environment is completely different than when we are in port. In port there are no aircraft on board. Underway there are many aircraft throughout all the hangar bays. There is a lot going on all the time. You have to keep your head on a swivel and constantly pay attention to what you are doing. Just last month a friend of mine wasn't paying attention to where he was walking and hit his head on an aircraft wing and ended up with 5 stitches. The biggest thing is to make sure you don't become complacent. Once we are out for so long everyone starts to get lazy and not follow procedure or pay attention because they have done it for so long, that's when accidents happen.

Please describe a typical day on the ship: I work the daycheck shift from 7am-7pm. I wake up at 6am. Brush my teeth, wash my face, and go to the shop to inventory all the tools before shift starts. At 0700 I report to production control for the production meeting. We go over what every shop has going on for the day and anything the chain of command wants to put out to all the crew. After the meeting I usually go smoke then from 0800-0900 we have cleaning stations. For one hour everyone cleans all the spaces that belong to their shop. We have to dust, sweep,
wipe down walls, etc. cleanliness is important, this isn't just where we work, its where we live. After cleaning stations we get to work on any gear that we have. I usually eat lunch around noon. Dinner around 5pm. I get off shift at 7 pm. After shift I shower and read a book, play video games, or watch something on my laptop. Then go to sleep around 11 and do it all again the next day.

What's going through your head when you're about to leave for deployment?: Geez theres a lot going through my head right before we leave. I try not to think about it mostly. The biggest thought is being away from my wife for so long.

What's it like seeing nothing but water around you?: At first its kind of cool. But after a few days it gets old. Looking out at the same exact thing every day. No matter where we are in the world, whether it be off the coast of California or in the Persian gulf, the water all looks the same.

What's it like sleeping in a rack and sharing one berthing with several
It's cramped. Its only tall enough for you to be able to roll over, you cant sit up in it. There is a reading light in the rack so that's nice. I'm lucky where I sleep because I only have one other person who sleeps above me and a wall across from me. most of the racks are set up in cubicles of 6. 3 on each side. I sleep in a bottom rack. It's a pain trying to share the heads with everyone. Sometimes you have to wait for a shower to open up or for a sink so you can brush your teeth.

Are you or have you ever been in danger?: Being on an aircraft carrier is dangerous. I myself don't work on the flight deck, where most of the danger is, so I myself am not in much danger. On the flight deck there are constantly jets turning and launching and landing. The guys who work up there have a lot to pay attention for. It's no joke. As far as danger from being attacked, we are a navy ship, theres always a chance someone could try to attack us. Will something like that happen? Highly doubtful.

What are you most proud of as far as your achievments?: The achievements I'm most proud of are becoming qualified as an Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist and an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist. It took a lot of hard work and I had to know everything there is to know about aviation and the ship.

What things has the Navy trained you for that you wouldn't normally be
certified in?:
I am a fully qualified firefighter. Twice a week we practice general quarters, where we train for scenarios of mass damage to the ship, such as fire or missile or torpedo attack, and things such as flooding or structural damage. Every sailor on board is trained on how to keep this ship afloat in the event of an actual casualty. I am fully qualified in first aid and CPR. I am currently working on getting my certification to teach CPR class.

What's the food like on the ship?: The food. Sometimes it's good sometimes it's terrible. For the most part its not to bad. It's no home cooked meal, but its still good.

How do you stay in touch with your family?: We have phones onboard that you can buy phone cards for but they are kind of pricey. The biggest form of communication is email. And it's always cheaper to make phone calls once we make a port call.

How do you deal with missing them?: I just remember that they will be waiting for me when I come home. That's enough for me. Some people have a harder time being away, I'm just good at
controlling it. I remember that no matter what happens I'll be coming home to them. I'm part of something way bigger than myself, and have too many responsibilities to let it get to me.

Do you feel pressure or stress?: Absolutely. What we do here affects our troops on the ground. There is always a lot of pressure to get the gear out. We need to make sure our
brothers on the ground have our support. And it's very stressful. There's always a lot going on. Theres always work to be done. If you aren't stressed out here there's something wrong with you. It's how you handle it that makes the difference. Some people handle it better than others. I think I handle my stress pretty well.

How do you entertain yourself in your free time?: We have a few satellite channels on tv and the ships media department plays movies all day so there's that. We have a big screen tv and 3 video game systems in my shop. I mostly like to read. I have a kindle which is the best investment ever. I use it just about every day, and finish a book every few days. I also have a laptop computer to watch movies and tv shows on. If there's a tv show or movie you want, someone on the ship has it.

What is the first you do when you hit a port?: The first thing I do when I hit a port is eat. Like I said the food isn't terrible out here, but it's nice to have a big greasy big mac or some taco bell.

What is your favorite port you've been to so far?: I;d have to say my favorite port I've been to isn't even a foreign country. I liked Hawaii the best. The place was just so amazing. Coming in at second would have to be Singapore. Hopefully we get to hit a European port this

How has your career in the Navy so far affected your life?: It's completely changed me. I'm much more responsible. Before the navy I never lived on my own, so that was a huge change. Ive lived in 3 different states since I joined, and I've been out to sea for months at a time. My life is nothing like it was before the navy.

What are your plans after the Navy?: I plan on getting a job as an electronics engineer hopefully designing some of the things I currently work on.

Deployments sometimes get extended. Has that ever happened to you?: Yes, we have already had 2 two month extensions added onto what was supposed to be a 5 month deployment. It sucks! But theres nothing I can do about it, and being angry or sad about doesn't make it any better. I know that there is a lot going on in the world right now and whether I like It or not we are needed here. What we do matters, we are saving lives, and providing support for our troops on the ground.

How did you feel when you got the news about the extension?: I felt angry. But I just stuffed It down and tried not to worry about it.

How do you feel when returning from a deployment?: It's the greatest feeling ever. Getting that first hug. That first kiss. It can't even be put into words.

Is it hard to transition back into a normal routine after a deployment?: I thought it would be. But no not really. Some things were different because my wife was not used to my messy ways, and used to dealing with everything on her own, but everything fell back into place pretty quick.

As a sailor, do you find it hard to obtain a healthy family life in
the military?:
Yes and no. Like I've said before it depends on the person. If you are really
a family, you can get through anything, no matter how long you may be gone. I don't find it hard, because I know my wife will wait as long as she has to. She might not like it, but she always supports the decisions I make.

How do you think your life would be different had you never enlisted?: Never really thought about it. But it would be completely different. I can't really come up with what it would be like because who knows what would have happened to me if I didn't join.

Do you think you'll keep in touch with the people you've met and
befriended in the Navy?:
Some of them yes, most of them no.

If you could do it all over again would you and would you still choose the Navy?: Yes I would and yes I would choose the navy again. I believe it was the best option for me at the time. It afforded me the opportunity to get out on my own and support myself and my wife. It has given me the opportunity to see things most people couldn't dream about.

Thanks to my husband for taking the time to answer all these questions!


katlupe said...

What a delightful and interesting post! Your husband sounds like he has wise goals and will be as asset to society. Excellent post!!!!

Sue said...

I was thinking of doing something like this with my husband! I love the interview :)

Megilon said...

What a great idea! It is always fun to get their side of Navy.

Anonymous said...

i love this idea!

Brittany Sommer said...

Can I just say I SERIOUSLY freaking love this?! My husband guest posted for me a while back and it was awesome. Speaking of guest posts, would you be interested in doing one for my blog?

Brittney Liann said...

I loved reading something about the navy from a husband's perspective! Your hubby did a great job and I couldn't agree more with what he said. If you are a real family, you really can make it through anything! :)

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