A Day in the Life: Navy

A Day in the Life: Navy

Mar 25th 2018

Like all services, the life of a Navy sailor is varied. We'll focus on the most common type-- a sailor deployed on a ship at sea. 

Ships and Deployments:

Normally, ships deploy for six month deployments around the world. As the budget has tightened and the demands on the Navy have increased, these deployments now can go as long as a year. Normally, have a home port (like Norfolk, VA or San Diego, CA) and deploy to different regions, like the Middle East or the South China Sea. On those deployments, ships are usually out at sea for between 14 and 30 days without a port call. Sometimes it can be substantially longer. Once in port, the sailors are given about half of the time off to explore whatever country they visit, or to rest up before going back out at sea.

The Daily Routine

On most ships, a Boatswain's Mate will pipe Reville at 0600. This song signals to everyone that it's time for breakfast, and to "heave out" of your rack (rack is the Navy word for bed) and get going. Breakfast is usually from 0600-0700, with morning "quarters" at 0700. This is when the divisions on the ship get together and outline the work to be done that day. Each sailor does something different-- they are referred to as having different "rates." Some work on things like hauling line, driving the ship and cleaning the decks (those are the Boatswain's Mates). Some work with engineering equipment that keeps the ship running (often Enginemen or Repairmen, to name a few). Others work with weapons systems (like Gunner's Mates or Fire Controlmen). There are hundreds of different rates, and they all perform specific jobs. 

Usually, meals are served at set times by the Culinary Specialists, but on bigger ships like aircraft carriers, there is often being food served around the clock. Meal schedules sync up with when sailors get on and off watch.

During the work day, from 0700-1700 (5:00 p.m.) people are usually expected to be working. There's never a shortage of things to get done, and the work day is the time to do it. Many times, there are drills and training routines built in during this time. This allows sailors to stay sharp. After the work day, sailors are generally free to do as they wish-- they'll often work out at the gym on the ship, or they'll try to relax by watching a movie, reading a book, or catching some much-needed sleep.

Watch Rotations

Overlapped on the work day is a rotating watch schedule. Depending on the size of the ship, there are anywhere from a dozen to hundreds of watches every day. Some members stand watch monitoring engine spaces; others stand watch for safe navigation; still others stand watch to protect the ship from potential enemies. Watches are usually 5 hours long and rotate through the day. On smaller ships, sailors spend a lot of time on watch (sometimes up to 12 hours a day) because there are fewer sailors. On bigger ships, sometimes sailors only stand watch every few days. These watch rotations are hard because even when not on watch, other work still needs to be accomplished. Work days can stretch to be more than 20 hours at a time.

What Navy Sailors Like

Of course, you're probably wondering what to send a deployed Navy sailor. Lots of basics are available in the ship's store. On big ships, these are the size of a 7-11. On small ships, they're just a window that sailors can walk up to. They have toiletries and basic snacks, so don't worry about sending the basics. Five Hour Energy drinks are a hot commodity and anything local is always great. We recommend our own Java Time Care Package to help make that shipboard coffee taste better. We also like The Pub, because there are few things Sailors love more than sitting in a pub and playing cards. And while there's no alcohol on the ship (or in this care package!) it's nice to feel like you're relaxing anyway.

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