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Life Aboard A Navy Submarine

Welcome to a deep dive into life aboard a Navy submarine, where precision meets the pressures of the deep. This page provides an insider's view into the operational and personal aspects of submariners who serve beneath the ocean's surface. Explore the dedication and resilience required in this extraordinary naval duty.

Daily Life

Sleeping Quarters

On Navy submarines, space is extremely limited, with crew members often sleeping in cramped quarters. Rooms no larger than a walk-in closet typically house several sailors, with beds stacked in tight configurations. To maximize space, submariners may employ "hot racking," where beds are shared between shifts, emphasizing the vessel's compact nature. 

 

Everyday life is constrained by the limited number of communal facilities. Dozens of crew members share just a few showers, toilets, and sinks, illustrating the challenges of personal hygiene and privacy aboard a submarine.

Meals and Cooking

The galley on a Navy submarine, though compact, is crucial for morale. It serves nutritious meals around the clock to accommodate the crew's rotating shifts. Culinary specialists onboard ensure a variety of meals to keep the crew healthy and spirits high.

Work Routine

Life on a Navy submarine is rigorously structured. Crew members perform a range of duties from navigation to the operation of nuclear reactors, if applicable. The demanding environment requires everyone to be proficient in several areas to support the various functions of the submarine

Sailors assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit Indiana (SSN 789) eat dinner in the crew’s mess while underway. Indiana is the 16th Virginia-class fast attack submarine and is scheduled to be commissioned Sept. 29, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialst Darryl Wood/Released)

Entertainment and Leisure

Downtime is important for submariners. Onboard entertainment ranges from movies and video games to books and board games. Special events, such as "steel beach" picnics when surfaced, provide rare opportunities for relaxation and camaraderie.

Sailors assigned to world’s largest aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) grill burgers, hot dogs and chicken for Sailors during a steel beach picnic to celebrate Independence Day on the flight deck, July 4, 2023. Gerald R. Ford is the U.S. Navy’s newest and most advanced aircraft carrier, representing a generational leap in the U.S. Navy’s capacity to project power on a global scale. The Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., allied, and partner interests. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David Kolmel)

Safety & Training

Emergency Procedures

Submariners are extensively trained in emergency procedures, including damage control and escape protocols. Drills are conducted regularly to ensure every crew member is prepared for potential underwater emergencies.

Submarine Escape Training

Training for escape from a submerged submarine is rigorous. Navy personnel are trained to use escape suits and other survival equipment, ensuring they can safely ascend from depth in an emergency.

Sailors assigned to Pre-Commissioning Unit Indiana (SSN 789) perform a systems status check and simulate torpedo launch procedures on the weapons launch console while underway. Indiana is the 16th Virginia-class fast attack submarine and is scheduled to be commissioned Sept. 29, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialst Darryl Wood/Released)

Operations

Navigation and Watchkeeping

The stealth and efficiency of a Navy submarine rely on expert navigation and constant watch-keeping. Using sophisticated systems, submariners track their position and maintain awareness of their surroundings, crucial for both tactical advantages and safety.

Communication

Communication from a submerged Navy submarine is limited and highly secure, utilizing systems like VLF and ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) transmissions. Operational security is paramount, preserving the silent service's stealth capabilities.

Lt. Michelle Moeller, a member of the Naval Oceanographic Anti-Submarine Warfare team, explains oceanographic features around the Hawaiian operational area. Ronald Reagan is participating in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 26 to Aug. 1, in and around the Hawaiian Islands. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2014 is the 24th exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Conor Minto/Released)

Health & Wellness

Fitness and Physical Readiness

Maintaining physical fitness aboard submarines is crucial but challenging due to the lack of traditional exercise spaces found on larger vessels. Submariners make do with what's available, often utilizing small, multipurpose areas for physical training. Equipment like resistance bands, compact stationary bikes, and portable weight sets are commonly used to facilitate exercise routines.

Mental Resilience & Community

The psychological challenges of extended undersea deployments are significant. Crew members must cope with isolation and the high-stress environment of a confined space. Command fitness leaders play a vital role in ensuring both the physical and mental well-being of the crew, overseeing exercise routines and providing support to maintain morale and mental health.

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Adapting to Limited Spaces

 Workouts and physical activities must be adapted to the confined spaces available. This might include using areas like the torpedo room or narrow passageways for exercise. Submariners creatively use every available inch for activities such as lifting weights, doing bodyweight exercises, or stretching. Quiet periods, essential for operational stealth, also require adaptations in routine to minimize noise, often focusing on low-impact exercises like yoga or using body straps.

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