NORFOLK, Va. - In early January 2018, officials with the Navy put out a call to media across the country, asking if a small number of us wanted to land on an aircraft carrier, spend a day there and do a story on it.
In addition, we would be sailors for a day and learn what it's like to be a sailor.
We would also fly in a Navy helicopter and tour Oceana, where the FA-18 jets are kept, and get a general sense of what it’s like to be in the Navy.
The first order of business was to get a uniform, which we would wear throughout our four days of “sailorhood.”
After a quick tour of Naval Station Norfolk and an up-close look at the USS Abraham Lincoln – the ship we would be landing on in a few days, once it got out to sea – we learned how to look like a sailor.
“Pretty much today we're going to get you in uniform, going to pick out some Navy uniforms here, make sure everything is up to code and up to standard, and we're going to be good,” said Brandon Holland, a graduate of Roanoke’s William Fleming High School.
He is now an aviation mechanic, but hopes to fly the jets someday. The Navy assigned him the task of getting me in ship-shape.
Holland showed me a sea bag and everything you put in it, from your boots to your skivvies. He explained that when you are deployed on a ship, there isn’t room to bring much more than what you can fit in the bag, and the Navy pretty much fills it with what they want.
I didn’t get the whole sea bag – just a pair of coveralls and a belt.
The Navy told me to arrive wearing black work boots, which I did.
Holland helped me struggle through the various details of looking like a proper sailor, like establishing a gig line – that perfect alignment of your buttons and belt buckle.
After a few minutes, we got it figured out. The Navy even had a patch with my name on it. Once affixed, I was ready to go to the dreaded next step:survival training.
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