Aircraft carriers are gigantic floating cities that are both armed to the teeth and chock full o' jets. It's like everything awesome had a baby with everything badass, and it grew up to be radical. How could you not love working on one? Easy! Life on an aircraft carrier isn't nearly as cool as G.I. Joe led us to believe. At least, that's according to Nick, a yeoman who used to serve on the USS George Washington, and Brianna, who used to be attached to the USS Ronald Reagan. Here's what they told us ...
In the olden days, ships would have one sailor climb the highest mast and watch for other vessels, land, or single mermaids with low standards. Modern military ships do it all by RADAR, SONAR, LIDAR, or possibly even THUNDARR.
Brianna explains: "I got assigned to what's called the 'SNOOPIE' team [Ships Nautical or Otherwise Photographic Interpretation and Examination team, aka the longest and most unneeded name ever]. Our job is whenever they say 'away the SNOOPIE team away,' we drop everything and run up to the tallest part of the carrier (vultures' row) with tons of video cameras, binoculars, and cameras, and take information on whatever they called it for. Once you've taken all the necessary pictures, you run back down to a computer and write a report about it and email it to the Office of Naval Intelligence, where, if it's important enough, it will be sent to the president, although that rarely happens."
Yes, even with billions of dollars' worth of technology on our side, our primary form of naval reconnaissance is still "Go outside and look."
When facing down a war machine the size of a shopping mall, the last thing you think about is how much poop it puts out. You should probably continue doing that, if you ever want to have the courage to swim in the ocean again, that is.
"We empty the toilets into the ocean. With 6,000 people, those tanks would get full quickly. And in fact, in ports where we didn't have a sewer outlet, they'd often get pretty damn full in just a few days, so once we were out on the ocean again, out into the water it went."
But it's more than poop. "I once saw some fellow yeomen throw a copier overboard because it was broken and he thought it would be fun to dump it somewhere in the Atlantic," Nick told us.
"The Navy throws most things overboard, except plastic [which gets recycled], as part of normal routine. Compost and sinkables are thrown overboard as long as you're in international waters. By far, most of the trash is food waste and paper. There was a pulping machine that ground it all up into a nice chunky slurry."
"There were scheduled hours where 'the trash chute is open' would be announced, and all the departments would bring whatever sinkable thing needed to be thrown overboard there," Nick concludes.
Brianna adds: "I've seen chairs get thrown over, storage lockers, scrap metal, hazmat ... oh, and drugs. Due to expiration dates on meds, there are a lot of fish out there addicted to painkillers now."
So we've been supplying the fish with shredded naval documents and outdated hardware for decades, and now painkillers too? When the sea inevitably rises up against us -- sporting a well-equipped army that knows all of our secrets and feels no pain -- we'll have no one to blame but ourselves ...
Aircraft carriers are built with functionality foremost in mind, which means absolutely no thought was given to the crew's comfort. "Enlisted sleep in huge bunk rooms called berthings. I was in a smaller one with 30ish men for most of my time on the ship," Nick explains, omitting that an average bunk is maybe the size of a coffin.
Which is appropriate, considering that, at the very least, those accommodations should mean the death of your sex life. But logic and sex haven't been on speaking terms for a while. "People have sex all over the ship," according to Nick. "The most common places they do it are supply closets, maintenance spaces, ventilation junctions, and really, any dark, relatively inaccessible space on the ship. They weren't ever clean, and I highly doubt they were ever comfortable. Even still, they got caught often enough, making me think that there were a lot more who never got caught."
Brianna confirms that aircraft carriers are basically floating college dorms: "Sailors also go to 'fan rooms,' which are these mechanical facilities people rarely go in," but where a lot of them apparently come in. "Some people do it in their rack, though," Brianna continues. "We had a girl get caught screwing a guy in her rack, though I'm not sure how they did it. The racks are less than 6' long. I'm 5'4" and I had to assume the fetal position to sleep."
Why, that almost sounds like a dare ...
In love with the sea? As counterintuitive as it may seem, you shouldn't sign up for duty on an aircraft carrier then. You might never so much as see the water.
"Some think that because they float above the water, it means most sailors see the ocean often. In reality, most sailors never have a reason to go topside, or are otherwise too busy to do so. Many have made the comparison that life on a carrier is a lot like life on a submarine."
It's not due to the Navy's fear of mythological sirens. A big part of it is safety: "You're never allowed on the flight deck without proper training, a life vest, and the clearance to do so," Nick says. "While the 'Air' department is the largest on the ship [about 500-600 people], and the Air Wing [all the squadrons that the ship supports] are large portions of the people on the ship [maybe 30 percent], the rest of the ship's company is more concerned with engineering, the reactor plants, sorting the mail, making food, and cleaning."
So no fresh ocean air, every screw is like a game of flesh-Jenga, and poop spews from every orifice of the ship. This is almost sounding like a bad time. Maybe that's why ...
The Navy is really un-chill about letting you skip out on your tour because you're, like, "not digging the whole vibe, man." Some folks simply can't deal with life aboard a carrier, and they take matters into their own hands. Well, "matters," and other things ...
"I saw all the paperwork that would cross the captain's desk where women (mostly very young women) would get pregnant intentionally while on board to get an 'easy out' from the Navy," Nick explains. "On any given month, somewhere between 10-30 women would get pregnant on the ship. Most of them were fairly early on in their Naval career, and a lot of them were also in administrative ratings, so they knew what the procedures and requirements were for getting out."
Of course, creating life is only one way to get off the ship. "To say that suicide in the Navy is high is putting it lightly," Brianna says. "Active duty military are 48 percent more likely to commit suicide than the national average. A lot of factors play into this. Some do it because they can't handle the stressful environment, or because they are in a hostile work environment and feel left out. A friend of mine attempted suicide a few months ago because he felt bullied and alienated by fellow shipmates."
If you think military service is all quiet honor and discipline, you have not met approximately 80 percent of humanity. Let Brianna introduce you: "Every little thing that could become a rumor eventually became one. A while back, an AE (aviation electrician) and I used to have a thing. This wasn't a problem until a certain helo squadron joined our ship, bringing with it my ex. Even more irony came when the AE was assigned to fix their helos and they ended up meeting. My ex was angry and told the guy I was talking to that I had something (spoiler alert: I didn't). But any guy would take a rumor like that seriously if he's screwing a girl."
Especially one working on an aircraft carrier, which have a history of singlehandedly funding portside STD clinics.
"Upon finding out about the rumor, all of the AE's friends started to harass me in the mess decks and tossing shit at me. It was a literal Mean Girls situation." Except on Wednesdays -- and all other days -- nobody wore pink.
Imagine not only encountering your bully daily, but working with, living with, and sleeping beside them. All on a small steel island in the middle of the ocean from which there is no escape. That sounds like a dystopian YA novel, but no, it's life in the service. Godspeed, sailors.
Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist, interviewer, and editor. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter.
Have a story to share with Cracked? Email us here.
Teachers: America's unsung heroes ... and secret drunks ... and all-around degenerates. To shed light on the dark side of this trusted occupation, Cracked Podcast host Jack O'Brien, along with comedians and the cast of truTV's Those Who Can't Maria Thayer (Abbey Logan) and Andrew Orvedahl (Coach Fairbell), will interview some real life (and probably anonymous) teachers who will share all the filthy, outrageous, and hilarious tales from this supposedly squeaky clean profession. Get FREE tickets to this LIVE podcast here!
For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Myths About the Military You Believe (Thanks To Movies) and 5 Reasons Flying a Fighter Jet Is Way Crazier Than 'Top Gun'.
Follow us on Facebook, and we'll follow you everywhere.
Last Halloween, the Cracked Podcast creeped you out with tales of ghost ships, mysteriously dead people, and a man from one of the most famous paintings in U.S. history, who years later went all Jack Nicholson in The Shining on his family. This October, Jack and the Cracked staff are back with special guest comedians Ryan Singer, Eric Lampaert, and Anna Seregina to share more unsettling and unexplained true tales of death, disappearance and the great beyond. Get your tickets for this LIVE podcast here!