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Garden Island, Australia (February 27, 2023): In this photo courtesy of the Australia Department of Defense, Sailors assigned to the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Asheville salute the national ensign after arriving at Royal Australian Navy Stirling Naval Base. Sailors volunteer to serve aboard America’s submarine fleet, an undersea world of cramped spaces, no sense of time, and shared bunks in a 24 hour a day operation. Aboard the Asheville, Sailors spend six months at sea with each deployment and must endure constant shift work while working at incredibly close quarters with their comrades.  Life beneath the waves has certain unwritten rules of behavior to keep the peace on long voyages.  The primary rule is avoid making loud noises, such as slamming hatchway doors, which is strictly forbidden as someone is always sleeping.

As one can imagine, space aboard a submarine is extremely limited. One third of the vessel contains the nuclear powerplant leaving precious little room for the crew who will spend six months trying to get along with their fellow Sailors. Every space is designed for multiple uses and sleeping space is at a premium. In fact, a sub has more Sailors than beds which means shared bunks and rotating sleep cycles around the clock.

Like a Las Vegas casino, there is no sense of time aboard this cramped, windowless vessel while Sailors work an endless series of eight-hour shifts. To keep a sense of sanity, the mess rotates breakfast, lunch, and dinner every few days so the late shift isn’t stuck eating meat and potatoes for breakfast.

Despite all of the hardships, submariners are proud of their role in the “silent service" beneath the waves. Perhaps the sense of shared sacrifice bonds each crewmember to the other as they patrol the seas defending America.