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Grounded with Gaming When Deployed on an Aircraft Carrier

Written by SaltyVet23, U.S. Navy Veteran

As one can expect, being in the Navy is a… unique experience. For those who don’t know what the experience is like, imagine taking your entire high school and making it float at sea. On the “big decks,” as sailors call them, aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships, your average ships company sailor manning is roughly 1,200-1,700. “Ships company” are the personnel assigned directly to the ship and are the essential personnel making all movements of and about the ship possible.

The total bodies on board for a full deployment typically range about 4,500. The other roughly 3,300 personnel are made up of Marines, Squadron personnel, and Beach Landing personnel, as applicable. Now, in port, at the pier, these additional personnel are not on board. There are no aircraft or beachcraft, so none of the support personnel are required to be there either. Once the ship gets underway, these additional personnel and their respective equipment are either flown or floated out to the ship.

As you can imagine, all of the different branches, departments, and divisions are made up of very different individuals. Sometimes, these individuals get along together, and sometimes, there’s… friction.

At the end of the day, though, we’re all stuck aboard 90,000 tons of freedom with nowhere to go. Being underway, things can be stressful. For instance, the Marines on board are primarily ship riders, personnel along for the ride with their equipment from point A to point B, and yes, this makes the Navy the largest and possibly most expensive Uber. Unfortunately for the Marines and some additional personnel, being ship riders, they are not allowed into the word centers throughout the ship. This restricts them to the common access areas such as the gym, laundry services, galley/mess decks, hanger bay, and random passageways as they are not allowed to hang out in their racks during working hours to they have to try and find places to be out of the way as best as possible.

So here we are: 9+ months of floating around with all these people seeing them day in and day out, unintentionally getting in the way going as long as three or more months before being able to pull into port and get some free time away from each other. This is where gaming and streaming became a huge part of my, and a lot of other members, life. Now, when we pulled into port, it was never guaranteed how long we would be there. There was always the knowledge that at any moment, the ship could sound its horn and recall everyone back at a moment’s notice. Or, maybe we’re in the middle of a mission, and we’re only pulling into port for supplies, meaning we’ve got possibly three to four hours before heading back out to sea.

At this point in gaming, I had seen online streamers before but was unaware of the specific names of any large streamers. When we pull into port, depending on your job, some personnel are able to depart immediately, but some have to stay behind and finish preparations for receiving supplies and get the process started. Upon departing, most people went into town to get “real” food and drink. I, however, would go over to the base Recreation Center. Here, they had various consoles that could be rented, computers for checking email, pool tables, and sometimes a bar/restaurant. If there was a wait for the consoles, I would typically call my wife in the interim, but once able, I’d hop on an Xbox and game with my wife, best friend, and the rest of our crew. There was usually a time restraint on how long one could be on any of the rented equipment, and everyone made the most of it.

For that allotted time, nothing else matters. The crummy ship conditions, the food, sleeping accommodations, inability to have any kind of privacy, constant overwhelming workload, being away from home, and missing the ones you love. Especially if you’re deployed over any kind of major holiday or major life event, birth of a child, or death of a family member. For that set time, you could forget about it all and just have fun. While the rest of the world has moved on and time has continued to pass for you, it seems to stand still. This is your chance to regain some normalcy, even if it is but for a short amount of time.

For a lot of us, this time is what saved us. What kept us grounded. What helped us push on through anything and everything thrown at us. What gave us a sense of normalcy no matter how minuscule it seemed compared to everything else we dealt with daily. This is why my mission statement is as such: 

“Nine-year United States Navy Veteran, girl dad, husband, affiliated late-night variety streamer on Kick & Twitch, and all-around goof. Why late nights? Because for those forward deployed or stationed overseas, it’s early, roughly seven hours early. I remember being there. I remember when I had five minutes to log in and watch a streamer, and if I had time to make it to the Rec. Center, I’d hop on and play, and for those few minutes, I’d forget the Hell I was in. For those that wonder and ask why? This. This is why I will always be a late-night streamer. …” 

To this, I will hold true. I currently have quite a few regulars who have told me, “Hey, I missed your streams on your off days, but I always hop on, if I’m able, to check just in case you are on.” I know I’m making a difference. I know when I was in, the difference it made for me. I will not give up. I may not be, or become, a big-name streamer, and that’s okay because those who need to know who I am do. And I know those who already know will share with those who don’t and may need it.

We may not always be able to physically be there to talk to, comfort, and help our service members currently serving, but with the constant advancements in technology, streaming gives us a new outlet to make a difference no matter the time zone, no matter where around the world, no matter what. We will be here. Always ready.

In collaboration with Stack Up. For global mental health resources, visit ‘Find Help’.