The U.S. Navy has a unique division of combatants unlike any other: submariners. Encased within the steel walls and surrounded by crushing depths, this unique community of men and women voluntarily consign themselves to inhabit an alien world beneath the ocean’s surface. Miles away from any landmass, each individual requires physical resilience, mental fortitude, and an uncommon sense of camaraderie not only to survive but thrive.

Engineering Marvel

Submarines are marvelous feats of engineering. They are formidable military assets equipped with the latest sonar technology, nuclear power, advanced stealth capabilities, and deadly weaponry. Yet, what makes a submarine truly remarkable is its crew.

Submariners are a unique breed, living in a confined, constantly moving underwater habitat for weeks or months at a time. Space is at a premium, and every inch is used efficiently. Each crew member has a defined role but must also possess a working knowledge of other functions and submarine systems. After all, in a crisis, everyone must be ready to act, and redundancy can mean the difference between life and death.

Preparing Submariners for Life Underwater

Before submariners embark on their underwater journeys, they undergo rigorous training that encompasses both physical and mental preparation. They must be physically fit to navigate the challenges of confined spaces and perform their duties effectively. Additionally, they acquire in-depth technical knowledge about the submarine’s systems, navigation, weapons, and emergency procedures. Through simulations and drills that simulate real-life submarine conditions and emergency scenarios, submariners are well-prepared to handle any situation they may encounter. This comprehensive training ensures that each can respond swiftly and effectively in high-pressure situations.

Damage Control Training at Submarine School
Damage Control Training at Submarine School / Image source: DVIDS

Life and Routine Under the Waves

On a submarine, the work shifts are often split into 6-hour rotations, leaving the crew in a continual cycle of operation, including sleep, work, and precious free time. Their work is mentally demanding, requiring meticulous attention to detail, a comprehensive understanding of complex systems, and unwavering focus. It’s a unyielding rhythm submariners have to adapt to out of necessity.

Despite the high-tech surroundings, life aboard a sub is not without its challenges. There is no sunlight to distinguish day from night. The atmosphere is kept at a constant humidity to prevent equipment from corroding, a feature that makes the air feel perpetually damp. Exercise options are limited, and privacy is a LUXURY, not a right. For weeks on end, there’s no fresh food, only pre-packaged or canned meals. The sounds of the submarine, from the whir of the ventilation system to the distant hum of the reactor, become an omnipresent soundtrack.

However, what sets the experience of submariners apart is not the arduous conditions or relentless duty. It is the camaraderie born from shared experiences and mutual trust.