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Navy Shipboard Life: Everything You Need to Know

Do you want to join the Navy? Do you sometimes wonder what life is like aboard a ship? Are you stuck between choosing the Army or Navy? If you have such thoughts then this blog post was created specifically to help you picture what type of life awaits you aboard a ship and possibly solidify your decision to join the US Navy. In this blog post, you’ll be having what I consider a sneak peek into the life of a sailor as you’ll come to learn everything you need to know about the Navy shipboard life.

Coming Aboard the Ship

Upon boarding the ship for the first time, you’ll be required to look clean and be dressed in complete uniform, carrying alongside your original orders. Asides from your original orders, you’ll be required to carry along a copy of page 2 (i.e., an updated Record of Emergency Data) as well as a filled out Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI) form. All the above documents will be needed by the ship’s office.

On your first day (which is the day stipulated on your orders), you are required to report no later than 0730. If the ship is still in port, Officers will report via the officer’s brow leading to the Quarterdeck while enlisted personnels will report through the afterbrow which is usually the ramp leading from the pier to one of the aft aircraft elevators or a sponson deck. It’s important to note that only large ships such as amphibious ships or aircraft carriers have two decks.

Have your orders and your I.D ready before reaching the Quarterdeck. When you get the Quarterdeck, salute and voice out the words “request permission to come aboard, sir.” Sometimes the individual manning the watch may be your junior or an officer but at that point, it shouldn’t matter to you because they represent the authority of the ship’s commanding officer, hence, the reason why you should call them sir. After saluting, hold the position until you receive permission to board the ship. Now step to the side and submit your orders to the Junior Officer of the Deck or Junior Officer of the Watch to sign your orders. Ensure that the original copy of your orders are signed with the date and time you reported aboard.

After your orders have been signed, a member of the Quarterdeck detail will contact the Reserve Liaison Officer (RLO) and the RLO will then act as joint initial contact and guide on the ship. That sailor will be responsible for accompanying you through the entire process of checking into the ship. Usually, the first step involves visiting the ship’s personnel office where your orders will be processed.

After processing and checking your orders at the ship’s personnel office, you’ll then have to report to the Officer’s Mess Office in order to join the mess and also receive your stateroom assignments.

Living Quarters on the Ship

On a ship, the area where you’ll be sleeping is referred to as the berthing area. The berthing is usually tight even in large ships, it has a storage area and an assigned rack for sleeping. Typically, junior officers usually have between one to five bunkmates although the number of bunkmates depends on your rank. In such a situation it could seem a little crowded especially for people who are used to owning their space. In such a case or situation, you’ll have to carry along Navy rack curtains to help create your own space separated from the rest of your bunkmates.

Meal Time 

The mess is an area on the ship where the sailors can socialize, eat, and in some cases live. Mess assignments usually vary from ship to ship. For a two-week period at sea, officers are expected to pay for their meals daily rather than actually buying a share of the mess. Your presence for each meal will be recorded by the enlisted Mess Specialist staff responsible for the ship’s wardroom(s) and at the end of your time at sea, the ship’s Administrative Officer will sum up your charges and show you your bill.


While you are aboard the ship, you get to stay fit as well. Ships usually have areas that are set up as a gym with universal machines or free weights, rowing machines and stationary bikes. Exercising contributes to your overall effectiveness and performance. If you reported to a carrier then as part of your exercise routine, you can choose to run on the fight decks during breaks between operations. While running on the deck, make sure you are aware of chocks and chains, wing pylons, slick decks, and turning engines. Asides from the flight deck, you can also practice running exercises in the hanger bay.

Television System and Entertainment 

On many carriers, you are likely to find a television set in some workspaces or recreational areas. Even though the television sets are part of the ship’s television system, they can be used as a form of recreation. In most cases, these television sets have three channels available that offer programming in a twelve-hour cycle.

The first channel usually carries recently released motion pictures, the second shows network programs while the third shows series and sitcoms. The third channel also offers or shows training programming and that’s where the sailors get to watch stuff on safety, enlisted rate training, damage control, etc., for the ship’s personnel.

If the ship has an onboard satellite dish then some extra channels could be hooked up to live CNN feeds with the help of the onboard satellite. 

Going Ashore

During your time at sea, there is a possibility that your ship may visit a port, it could either be a foreign or domestic port. Usually, sailors are not allowed to leave the ship of their own free will but if you’d love to go ashore, tradition requires that you request permission from the Officer of the Deck to leave the ship.

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