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Diary of a Sea-Going Sailor

Life Aboard a U.S. Navy Ship


I am Sonar Technician (Surface) First Class Long. The short version of that is STG1 Long. At the time of the writing of this article, I have 19 years, 6 months, and a scattering of days of U.S. Navy service at the time I write this, and am assigned to USS Porter DDG-78. (For those unfamiliar with the designation, a DDG is a Guided Missile Destroyer).

The simple question posed as the title doesn’t have a simple answer. It depends upon the class of ship (I have no experience with an Aircraft Carrier, nor submarine, as an example), the current schedule or mission the ship is on, and so on. Also, upon first use of a term that has an abbreviated form, I present it at “Sonar Technician, Surface (STG)”. Thereafter, I use only the abbreviations. So pay attention – even if there isn’t a test at the end.

 Usually, when on a ship, I write home in a newsletter format to my friends and family. I thought that slightly modifying one would be an idea to submit to Rod Powers for his U.S. Military site on About.com. He agreed, and I received clearance from my Public Affairs Officer (PAO) to do so. I decided not to adapt one of my newsletters, but thought it would be more fun to start from scratch. It turned out to be more fun than I thought. A caveat or two – where I make the statement “most ships”, I mean most ships that I’ve had personal experiences, either stationed aboard, or visited. Even 19 years isn’t enough to visit all the ships in the fleet.

I decided to start this from the date I was to report on board, and proceed from there. There’s rambling, sidetracking, and just plain meandering. And so…

I was to report to USS Porter on 16 January. I pulled to the front gate of Naval Station Norfolk and asked for direction to the ship. I was directed to report to the Transient Personnel Unit (TPU), as my ship was out to se for training. This happens from time to time, and is nothing to fret about should it happen to you (provided, of course, that you do join the Navy). I was put into a barracks for a few weeks, and given a work assignment – I ended up a member of the boat crew for the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, working aboard Wisconsin - until it was determined whether I would have to be flown to the ship, or wait for it to pull back into port.

 The word ended up being – I fly.

And so, the day before the flight, I packed up my civilian clothes (except for the one set I would wear to travel), and shipped them out parcel post to the ship (turned out that they got to the ship three weeks later). Then, I placed my vehicle into long-term parking (not a bad deal at $15 a month, I thought), notified the insurance company where it was, and walked back to the base to catch a nap.

 At 0200 that morning, we (oh, maybe 50 of us, going to different ships) mustered at TPU to be bussed to the MAC terminal for a 0400 flight. Should you need to do so, travel as lightly as you can. One seabag (everything you were issued in Boot Camp – and maybe a couple extra pair of coveralls), one garment bag, and a carry-on (the carry-on is for your records and orders – you do not want them following you on a later flight if baggage is delayed. Ship ahead, or store, those items that you won’t need immediately or that it won’t matter if they are delayed a bit – such as that extra pair of dress shoes, etc. With a refueling stop in Florida, we proceeded to fly from Norfolk to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. Gosh, it was hot – almost immediately the jacket and flannel shirt came off.

And then we waited for word on when (or if) we would be flown to the ship, or to the carrier for further transfer. And we waited some more. And waited…

It came to be that we weren’t going to be flown out that day, so we were bussed, with our luggage, to billeting to get rooms for the night. I paid $8.00 to sleep in a four-man room.

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