USS BOXER -- In the Marine Corps, as a department of the Navy, Marines have always studied and learned about their strong naval founding and traditions even though it is something that a majority of Marines will never experience.
But for the ones that do end up spending time on a naval ship, many Marines agree that it is a big adjustment from typical Marine Corps life that is not always an easy one to make.
The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit recently embarked on the USS Boxer for their first at sea training exercise this year, and though many of the Marines in the unit have deployed on a ship before, getting back on a ship still takes some getting used to.
“You basically have to live your life on ship according to one big schedule,” said Sgt. Fred Pollick, Supply Admin Chief for the 15th MEU Command Element.
“There are only certain days and times when you are allowed to do your laundry, go to the gym, get a hair cut or go to the ship store-so you really have to utilize your time management skills throughout the day,” he said.
Even if you do find the right time to get things done, it may not always be easy to get your task accomplished.
“The Navy is always doing training drills in different parts of the ship which blocks off some of the passageways causing you to constantly find alternate routes,” said Lance Cpl. Diego E. Garcia, an infantryman with the 15th MEU’s Maritime Special Purpose Force.
When a unit such as the 15th MEU embarks a ship, enlisted troops live in berthing areas where they will fit up to 120 service members into a single room.
“Everyone has to hygiene a lot when we live in the berthing,” said Garcia.
“When you pack an entire platoon of Marines into a single room, naturally the smells can get overwhelming so we are constantly cleaning ourselves or our living area to keep it looking and smelling nice,” he said.
Along with the physical hurdles that service members have to overcome on ship, there also comes hurdles that challenge the mind and resolve of each individual.
According to Garcia, almost all communication with life outside the ship is cut off, and when it is available it is not always easy to get through.
“The ship’s phones don’t always work,” said Garcia. “And when they do work there is usually a long line and you have to buy an expensive phone card to use them.”
Although there are computers all over the ship with email capabilities, due to security precautions, access to these computers is sometimes restricted.
“Email access is extremely limited, and when it is available it doesn’t always work, or works very slow,” he said.
Despite the challenges, Marines find productive ways to keep their minds and bodies occupied. Due to small gym space, you can often find Marines either running on the flight deck or doing sprints up steep ramps leading from the well deck all the way to the flight deck.
At the end of the work day service members return to their berthing where many Marines bring personal computers to watch movies and play games on. It is also an opportunity to get some reading done, often reading military related books, or completing Marine Corps Institute classes.
Throughout all the difficulties of living a ship life, Marines and sailors around the world do what they need to, to remain combat ready and answer the call for battle, wherever that may be.