Beneath the Waves
Life on a Submarine
Electronics Technician 2nd Class (SS) Joshua Craig pauses for a moment to think about the question, the steady hum of machinery filling in the silence.
"Anything but normal," he says, chuckling.
The question he was answering was simple; what does a normal day onboard a U.S. Navy submarine look like?
The Navy's submarine force is unlike any other community in the military, a small, tight-knit group of approximately 20,000 active-duty and reserve Sailors who spend months at a time sailing deep below the waves. Between their secretive missions and their lack of contact with the outside world, the submarine community is often a mystery to those on the outside.
"Life on a submarine is unique," said Electronics Technician 1st Class (SS) Timothy Palowski, a submariner assigned to the ballistic missile submarine USS Wyoming (SSBN 742). "You live inside a biodome that's built for sinking."
Being hundreds of feet underwater and packed into a small vessel with approximately 150 other people at any given time, submariners say personal space is almost nonexistent. Small berthings are spread out throughout the submarine, with some staggered between missile and torpedo tubes. Some submariners are even forced to "hot-rack" due to lack of space - a practice where multiple Sailors must split time between the same bunk to get sleep.
Working hours onboard are also unique; there is no day or night, only a series of eight-hour rotations: eight hours of standing watch, followed by eight hours of working, maintenance, or studying, followed by eight hours of sleep.
"You have to get used to not seeing the sun; when you're in your rack, that's your night time," said Palowski.