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by Liane Nakahara, student writer

 

“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 to people.”

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 space.

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.”

 

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