Life on an Aircraft Carrier
During the United States War in Iraq (April 2003), we landed for a few days on American aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman, who sailed in Mediterranean waters somewhere off the Syrian coast.
|Harry S. Truman|
We wanted to be impressed by how more than 5,000 men and women in this flooding town functioned for months on end in loneliness, disconnected from the home environment, family, and friends.
Airplanes took off all the way to Iraq, thousands of people were busy with their missions, and we roamed the narrow, elongated "streets" of the huge ship, descended and climbed between its floors.
The aircraft carrier is capable of satisfying its needs for an extended period of time, from the almost unlimited cruise capacity provided by its two nuclear reactors to high-quality food, entertainment and leisure services, as only a developed Western army offers.
The ship has, for example, dozens of dining rooms and buffets, a department store, postal services, telephone and internet, gyms, a showroom, cinema, clubs, clinics, a hospital and even a prison.
How does one feel about such a system, disconnected from land and the home environment he grew up in and accustomed to all his life?
"We try to give everything the home has to offer - a place to sleep, good food, a shower, a phone, entertainment, the Internet," says Steve Marcum, a senior officer in charge of personnel and well-being, among others.
"The crew members go through an early adjustment period on the aircraft carrier before embarking on an extended mission," adds Dana Casper, our escort officer.
Walter Lowry, the ship's psychologist, "the image of a 'small town' does not really fit what is happening to us.
If I quarrel with someone in the city I can avoid it. Here the situation is different." It is therefore surprising to find that only in the last six years have psychologists begun to serve on naval ships.
Despite this, it turns out, customers are in no hurry to arrive. Over the past nine months, Ware has treated only 130 people. He said, "None of them had particularly serious problems beyond feeling depressed and reasonably stressed."
Lowry reiterated the preparations before and the early acquaintance with the place. "Every ship," he says, "has its own personality. Our pre-cruise preparations allow people to know this world well before they settle in for a while."
And what do the crew and sailors say? Not much. One of the young sailors shows us where he holds the family's small photo album; Another shows his favorite PlayStation game, as if suggesting the ultimate solution.