The Day in the Life of a Navy Sailor

The United States Navy provides a wide range of services to ensure the safety and security of our nation’s citizens. From search and rescue operations in remote locations, to protecting aircraft carriers from enemy attack, it is responsible for more than 200 missions each day. This article gives you a glimpse into just one day in the life of a U.S sailor

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We’re back with another installment of our So You Want My Job series, in which we speak with guys who work in coveted positions and ask them about the realities of their employment as well as tips on how men might achieve their goals.

We’ve already discussed males in the Air Force and the Army. Dan Smith, a US Navy sailor, is our guest today. Dan is a Combat Systems Coordinator and Departmental Leading Petty Officer, and we appreciate his sharing his insights with AoM readers about his career. Dan has a blog where you may discover more about him.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself (e.g., where do you come from?). What is your age? Describe your job, including how long you’ve been doing it, and so on.

Girard is a little town in Southeast Kansas where I grew up. I’m 31 years old, married to a wonderful woman, and the parent of two wonderful children. I joined the United States Navy in 1996 and completed my 13th year in May of this year. To address a query from one of your readers, I plan to remain for the long haul and retire after 20 years.

2. What attracted you to a military career, and why did you pick the Navy over the other branches?

I decided to join the Navy because I wanted to make a difference in the world. I wanted to give back to my nation. At the very least, that’s part of the solution. When I delved a bit further, I discovered that I want to be a hero. Coming from a little Kansas town, there weren’t many chances to be large and significant. That’s what I expected from the Navy.

I also joined because I couldn’t afford college and didn’t have any skills that would be marketable. One of the reasons I like the Navy is because of this. I now have skill sets, a college diploma, and a sense of accomplishment!

In terms of why I chose the Navy over the other services, I believe the answer is in my DNA. I used to study my father’s old Navy records and look at images he took during Vietnam when I was a kid. I saw his destroyer and aircraft carriers, and it was rather lovely. I’ve always been drawn to the water. The truth is that I never gave the other services a second thought. I mean, when other kids were sketching dragons and tigers, I was drawing sketches of Gearing class destroyers (which is what my father sailed on). It was simply a part of who I was.

3. What type of training should a guy pursue before enlisting in the Navy?

You’ll need to be in good physical condition. I’m not talking about joining the Marines or anything, but when you join the military, you must pass a body fat test. When you graduate from boot camp, you must be able to run 1.5 miles and do a set amount of push-ups and sit-ups, so get started as soon as possible! Another thing to concentrate on is learning as much as possible about the heritage. We sailors have a strong sense of nostalgia. Everyone has a sea story, and you don’t really belong until you understand what that means. Start working on it now, and you’ll be able to integrate into the culture much more quickly.

 

4. You work as a Combat Systems Coordinator at the moment. What exactly does the position entail?

While on the go, this is my main watch station. On all things Combat Systems, I report directly to the Tactical Action Officer or the Commanding Officer for a five-hour shift. This means that I am in control of everything from the different radar systems to the guns and missiles, as well as ensuring that they all operate in the event that we need to use them. In addition, I’m in charge of developing suggestions for how our air defense system should be used. To put it another way, I provide recommendations on how to best employ whatever weapons system to tackle a certain danger.

5. You’re also the department’s Chief petty officer. What exactly does the position entail?

I have the honor of supporting and advising 51 Sailors as the Departmental Leading Petty Officer for the Combat Systems Department. I’m not in control of them just because I have a job. Instead, three divisional Leading Petty Officers who are direct supervisors have been appointed. I am a support system. I also work as an assistant to the Leading Chief Petty Officer, who is in charge of all of those sailors.

Mentoring Sailors and ensuring those Sailors I don’t personally mentor have access to other mentors are among the responsibilities that come with that rank. I also serve as the department’s administrative assistant, keeping track of staff and equipment losses. I’m in charge of the Combat Systems Officer of the Watch review boards and the weekly Tag-Out Audit since I’m the senior point of contact for all things Combat Systems. Finally, I’m responsible for everything my supervisor assigns to me, but I’m sure that’s true of any job!

6. Do you get to pick your own employment in the Navy, or are you assigned to a certain position? Do you change jobs often during your career?

When a civilian joins the Navy for the first time, he or she will be offered employment alternatives based on their performance on the entrance exam (called the ASVAB). I had the option of choosing between meteorology, radar (fire-control), and something else I can’t recall. Fire control radar was my choice. After a civilian picks a career, it becomes his or her “rating” until he or she completes technical school.

You get to select a new employment site after a Sailor has been in for a long, normally around four or six years, although it usually has to do with your rating. Those of us who don’t do so are assigned to special duty assignments, such as recruitment and so on. This is referred to as “getting out of rate.” There are benefits and drawbacks to this. In any case, although the Sailor does have some control over the process, it is closely managed to ensure that the Navy’s requirements are satisfied.

 

7. What are the benefits and drawbacks of living aboard a ship?

Advantage:

Travel. I’ve yet to meet a Soldier, Airman, or Marine who has seen as much of the world as I have. Although I haven’t gone on a leisure cruise, I have visited around ten nations, eight of which were due to my onboard duties. And for those Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines who have traveled farther than I have, there are countless Sailors who have traveled further. I’m prepared to guess that the typical Sailor has visited more locations than those in the other services.

Disadvantage:

I’ll be gone from my family for a while. Even during my “off-deployment” years, I spend around five months of the year on the road for workups, training, anti-drug activities, and other duties. When you include in the amount of duty days, when I’m on board for a 24-hour shift, it’s easy to understand how I wind up spending a lot of time away from my family.

8. What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?

Travel is one of my favorite aspects of my career. I joined the Navy with the goal of seeing exotic locations throughout the globe, and I’ve done just that! I’ve visited Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Australia, and a slew of other locations.

But maybe the most enjoyable aspect of my work is leading younger sailors. I’ve been mentored by some fantastic Sailors throughout the years, and I believe in the mentorship program because I know it works. I have experiences that younger Sailors may benefit from, and I try to share as much as I can with them. And it’s a triumph when it sticks…when a young Sailor “gets it.”

Young boy waving to Navy sailors.

9. What is the most difficult aspect of your job?

Pulling away from the dock for a deployment. It’s rather ironic. I like traveling and the excitement of a deployment. But how can a guy who values his family argue that the trip is more important than his family? The portion of my work that I despise the most is the one when I have to leave.

10. How do you strike a balance between job, family, and personal life?

Some days are easier than others. Because I arrive at work early, I am often able to pick up my son from school or even leave a little early to spend time with my wife and daughter before bringing him up. In addition, I am able to serve at my church and my son’s school on a regular basis. That’s something I’m thankful for.

No one, on the other hand, can replace six-month chunks of my son and daughter’s life at a time. During deployments, I make a special effort to call at least once a week while on the move, if technology and operations allow, and I record voice messages that I transmit through email. I also email photographs from port visits and send goods home on a regular basis. Sure, it’s challenging, but we manage to make it work.

11. What is the most common misunderstanding about your job?

 

This is a fantastic question! One of the common misunderstandings about my profession is that police do all of the crucial tasks. Officers yelling commands, punching buttons, and saving the day are shown in films like Top Gun and others. What those films don’t depict is that the Sailor performing such activities is often an enlisted guy or woman.

When we’re in CIC and I’m on watch, I normally report to a junior officer with a lot less experience in the military than I have. This difference is no longer valid since I (and many other Sailors) have degrees. Despite the fact that cops get specific training to assist them understand how to make judgments, my expertise allows me to come up with the solution before they do in many circumstances. That’s why it’s the Combat Systems Coordinator’s (CSC) role to offer recommendations to the Tactical Action Officer about which weapons to use. When a choice to fire is reached, a 20-year-old 2nd Class Petty Officer, not a commissioned officer, is generally the one who fires.

I understand that sailors have a reputation for being rabble-rousers and unpleasant (which is sometimes justified), but the fact is that we are as professional as any other military personnel, particularly when it comes to Sailors who have served for a long period.

12. Do you have any other advice, ideas, or stories to share?

My best suggestion is to locate a solid mentor, particularly if you’re presently in the Navy. Find someone you admire who has what you want and go get it from them. And if you’re a sailor with a lot of experience, find someone to share it with… It’s one of the most satisfying activities you may engage in!

 

 

A “U.S. Navy Sailor” is a person who serves in the United States Navy and is a member of the U.S. Naval Service, which includes the United States Marine Corps and the United States Coast Guard. They are responsible for operating and maintaining ships, submarines, aircraft, and other naval equipment. Reference: what does a u.s. navy sailor do.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is it like being a Navy sailor?

A: I am an officer in the United States Navy and serving my nation by ensuring that we have the most up-to-date intelligence on any incoming threats. It is a rewarding career, but it can be difficult to juggle all of your responsibilities at once.

What is life on a Navy ship like?

A: Life on a Navy ship is usually not too different from life in the United States. As with most jobs, you get up early, go to work and come home at night. You might have military drills scheduled throughout your day that require you to stand very still or sit in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time.

What is the life of a sailor like?

A: The life of a sailor is hard. They have to sleep on the wet floor, never see their family because theyre away for long periods of time and do not get to enjoy anything as much as other people.

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