“It’s like a family.
You know everyone on the sub,” said Ciha. “You
have very little privacy, so you’re forced to get close
The 26-year-old spent his first ship tour, which generally lasts
three years, aboard the USS Cheyenne (SSN 773). The sailors aboard
a submarine must eat, sleep, and work together for up to six
months at a time when it is submerged. Ciha explained that the
submarine’s commanding officer and the executive officer
get their own rooms. The other officers bunk three to a room,
but each has his (or her, in the new Navy) own bed. The enlisted
crew must share beds because there isn’t enough space aboard
the sub for all the weapons, equipment, supplies, and living
Ciha said that on the submarine, sailors live on 18-hour days
instead of the usual 24. The days are broken down into three
six-hour shifts. During the first shift, he would have to stand
watch or supervise other sailors. Ciha would normally attend
training sessions during his second shift. If there is no training
scheduled on a particular day, he is free to watch a movie, exercise,
or read his e-mail. The third shift is for sleep.
A meal—consisting of soup, salad, the main course, and
dessert—is served during each shift change. Ciha said he
tries hard not to eat all of his food at every meal. “We
have the best food in the Navy because we have it the toughest,” Ciha
said, referring to the cramped and regimented working conditions
aboard the submarine.
Everyday on a submarine is like a training day, explained Ciha.
The training done during the sailors’ second shift routinely
drills them on how to deal with fires or flooding while submerged.
You train so much, that you’re pretty much ready for anything,” said
Ciha. “It becomes like instinct.”
After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2003, Ciha said
with a laugh, he was “forced into a high-paying job” by
the Navy. On top of the good pay, Ciha enjoys the fact that he
gets to travel a lot and has made many close friends from all
over the country.
ComSub (for Commander Submarine Forces) U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman
Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis said the Cheyenne is the newest of the Los
Angeles- class attack submarines. It is about 360 feet long and
travels at a speed of more than 20 knots, equivalent to about
23 miles per hour. It is armed with missiles and torpedoes and
carries a crew of about 13 officers and 121 enlisted members.
Davis said many people probably think that submarines are only
used for tracking and destroying enemy ships, but it isn’t
really like that.
“Subs can do some pretty cool things that they couldn’t do a century
ago,” said Davis. “They can go on intelligence missions…and
do jobs with the Navy SEALs, …because they’re able to go where no
other ship can.”
According to Davis, 17 nuclear-powered submarines are home ported in Pearl Harbor.
He said the Navy plans to increase the number of submarines in the Pacific due
to increased strategic attention on the Asia-Pacific region.
Just this summer, Pearl Harbor was host for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises,
during which allied navies from all over the Pacific region gathered to practice
war games. Ciha said that the Pacific Fleet submarines such as the Cheyenne often
participate in war games like RIMPAC. He explained that they also participate
in smaller exercises with other countries like Australia, whose ships run on
diesel fuel rather than nuclear power. This allows U.S. sailors to gain experience
in dealing with different types of ships.
Ciha is from Ohio, and his father and grandfather were also in the Navy. Aboard
the Cheyenne, he was the assistant department head for the weapons department.
Currently he is enjoying two years of shore duty at Pearl Harbor.
Of his future in the Navy, Ciha said: “We’ll see where it takes me.”