A note from the editor.
Allen Katherman is a guest writer to mantanium.com this summer. He is a Poker personality, fashion enthusiast, nuclear engineer and a great friend. Be sure to follow him on instagram and check back for more.
The Tres Amigos and The Whale’s Vagina… Part 3
By Allen Katherman
“The Whale’s Vagina,” also known as San Diego, was a dream place to live. The weather was perfect, the women were beautiful, the beaches were close and the atmosphere was more relaxing than memory foam.
I had a few weeks of training in San Diego before I had to report to the ship so I made sure to take advantage of the time. During the week, I would frequent Pacific Beach and Gaslamp. On the weekends, I would go to LA and see my children. Every moment of every day was spent embracing the freedom that I had, as I knew that it was only a matter of time before I was to be deployed.
The weeks flew by and before I knew it, I was in my dress whites walking across the bow aboard the USS Carl Vinson. If you’ve never set foot on an active aircraft carrier, walking aboard for the first time is nothing short of breathtaking. The ship is the length of over three football fields and has towers 20 stories above the water. With the airwing attached, the ship has a company of over 5,000 sailors and is literally its own small city.
I remember walking across the hangar bay and wondering how anybody could find their way around the ship. I was in complete of awe of its structure and vastness. My check-in process was quick and I went home shortly after for Thanksgiving weekend. The next thing I knew, it was the night before deployment and I was tucking my kids into bed.
It was tradition for me to tuck my kids into bed like a “burrito”. I’d wrap them up tightly in the blankets and put “toppings” on them, which consisted of me tickling them, bouncing them or making funny noises. They absolutely loved it and I loved seeing them laugh and be happy. If there’s one thing in my life that doesn’t compare to any monetary or social gain, it’s the joy I feel when I see my kids so happy and loved.
After they fell asleep, my dad and I took the long drive to San Diego together, since he was taking care of my SUV while I was gone. We pulled into the base and parked. As we said our goodbyes, my dad ensured me that everything was going to be ok and that my girls were going to be well taken care of. He gave me a hug and told me to “kick some terrorist ass.”
It was a very somber feeling on the ship. Some people were crying, others stayed silent as the ship pulled away from the pier. I remember staying in the hangar bay as we waved goodbye to all the families on the pier and left the Coronado shore. As we pulled further away into the ocean, I stayed there watching until I couldn’t see land. It was a surreal feeling to say the least. One day you’re waking up in a bed and driving to work and the next, you’re on a giant warship and not expected to hit land for months.
We worked regular hours on the ship and every 15 hours everybody in Reactor Department would stand a four-to-five-hour watch. Watches consisted of maintaining the reactor plant’s temperatures, pressures and other parameters within specifications given the ship’s evolution. Whenever you weren’t on watch you were either qualifying for another watch, studying for upcoming exams and performing preventative maintenance. Outside of working hours people would either work out, play video games, watch movies or sleep. There were only so many computers on the ship and they were always in use as people constantly checked Facebook and their email.
Even though there was always work to be done or maintenance to perform, sometimes it was tough to keep the mind busy and not dwell on the fact that home was on the other side of the world. Aboard ship was an interesting place to meet people though, and shortly after we left for deployment, I met a guy by the name of Xavier Sanchez. We quickly hit it off and became great friends.
Xavier grew up in San Diego and reported to the ship shortly before I did. He was in a failing marriage and had a son on the way. Just like me, he went through a lot of marriage issues but he never let it affect his demeanor or his day to day life. After all, we were on the other side of the world with very little control of what was happening back at home. So he (and I) decided to keep the stress away by not thinking of the things back at home.
Our senses of humor were similar and unlike most the computer-nerd-magic-playing-no-social-life-having nukes onboard, we actually enjoyed working out, talking to women and having an active social life. He quickly became my best friend onboard. We tried to eat most of our meals together, and were also liberty buddies in every port. He would always tell me about what life was going to be like once we got back into San Diego, and about all the friends he had and people he grew up with. It wasn’t long after he and I became friends that a third guy by the name of Richie Galinato reported on board the ship. He shared the same interests as Xavi and I and the three of us became inseparable.
Deployment took a toll on everyone on board, with the heavy workload in our department and the daily struggle of being away from home. However, the three of us kept each other motivated and pushed each other in the gym. A little before we pulled back in from that deployment, Richie and Xavi both re-enlisted for $75k, half up front and all of it tax free, with no real financial obligations.
Our deployment had been tough and it was even tougher knowing that in just five short months we would be leaving again for another six-month deployment. However, by the time we pulled back in to San Diego Harbor, the three of us had six months’ worth of tax free money in our pockets and were in the best shape of our lives. It was our plan to have no regrets, no holding back and to live it up during our free time. Little did we know, it was about to be the most monumental summer that three single men in their mid-20’s could’ve ever experienced.
As always, to be continued…