(NewsNation) — 5,000 sailors. Each one different. Each one important.
Together, they make up the crew of the USS Nimitz — the flagship of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier fleet.
The USS Nimitz is the oldest carrier and the mothership of the Navy fleet.
NewsNation had the chance to get a behind-the-scenes look into what it takes to make a ship as big and important as this one run smoothly to protect our country.
“The nation seems appreciative, but I don’t think they understand how much we ask of these sailors,” said Deck Department Head Lt. Clint Tergeson.
It’s true. Most civilians have no idea what it’s like to live 24/7 on an aircraft carrier.
The intensity of the moments, the tight quarters and the isolation of the open sea, NewsNation was granted behind-the-scenes access to it all.
Sailors leave their families and head to the Pacific Ocean to master their duties before deployment.
For five weeks, the sailors will be out at sea: training, earning their qualifications and testing out their heavy artillery.
Every job in the civilian world likely exists on the Nimitz. Doctors, mechanics and ministers are a few occupations seen aboard.
Bataha Wesley, a 20-year-old from Lake City, South Carolina, is a proud culinary specialist in the galley.
“We have to make sure it’s real tender,” said Wesley, who spends his hours every day preparing meals for around 2500 sailors, “If the whole boat is hungry, hungry people can’t do their jobs, you know.”
Autumn Branch, 20, and Kenlee Courtney, 21, are two of about 1,000 women on board the Nimitz. If it weren’t for their skills on the flight deck, the intense jet fuels from the fighter jets could destroy the ship and seriously injure someone.
“This is one of the most dangerous jobs … ever,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Courtney.
Sailor’s must be careful at all times on the USS Nimitz. The ceilings are low, the staircases are steep and everything is just bigger on a 1,000-foot-long ship.
An everyday U.S. Navy chain, responsible for holding the anchor, weighs in at nearly 300,000 pounds and is more than 1,000 feet long.
Practice is the key to keeping these sailors safe.
Helicopter pilots earn qualifications by landing during the day and night, and flight deck airmen take turns locking in jets before they catapult into the sky.
While life at sea can be tough, the sailors are glad they are with each other, their “adopted family,” and are proud to be defenders of our country.
“I have no regrets. I like the choices that I make and I feel like if I didn’t make those choices, I wouldn’t be the man I am today,” said 20-year-old Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Khary Murphy-North, who is from Youngstown, Ohio.
Aircraft Structural Mechanic Khattabi Vanlerberg, 19, from Huntsville, Alabama told NewsNation, “It’s very satisfying work knowing that I am doing something bigger than myself.”
The USS Nimitz is expected to be retired in 2025, marking a full half-century of use protecting our seas.
A new class of aircraft carriers are now in production to take over.