Below the Deck of the Truman

Editor's Note: This is part four of a series.

The deck of an aircraft carrier is the ship’s stage, where all the action and drama take place. But like any theater, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes.

First, someone has to steer the ship. That’s normally done from the bridge. But if necessary, the crew can steer it from down in the rudder room.

“When you go home, people are like ‘oh yeah, I work at 7-Eleven,’ or ‘oh yeah, I might work at a local college’ ... but I drive an aircraft carrier for the United States Navy,” said boatswain’s mate Heather Barcus. “Nobody back home can say that.”

Everyone plays a role. There are mechanics and crew to pump the million gallons of jet fuel. Then there’s the engine room, which is located somewhere below the Truman’s tower. The exact location is a secret. 

What keeps the ship running are two nuclear reactors. They power to the ship and the rudders that help steer 97,000 tons worth of ship. The Truman plows through the water at up to 30 knots, about 35 miles per hour. It takes 400 people to maintain the two reactors, which give the Truman virtually unlimited range.

“We’re limited in ability to remain at sea only by the ability of Navy to supply food and ammunition and stores to keep the ship running and keep the people fed,” said Cmdr. Marty Simon, who works in the nuclear reactor department.

One thing that isn't a problem is getting water. An on-board distillation plant on the Truman turns saltwater into 400,000 gallons of usable water each day. 

When it’s time to drop anchor, there are two. Each weighs 30 tons. And each link on those anchors weighs 365 pounds.

In the middle of the ship is the hangar bay, where aircraft are stored. They are then moved to the top deck when needed, on four separate elevators. 

But before the aircraft can take off, sailors do the “FOD” walk – which stands for “foreign object damage.” That’s to make sure there’s nothing on the deck that could get sucked into a jet’s engine.

It’s no surprise it’s a dangerous place to work, and accidents can happen. The crew on deck has to stay alert.

Lloyds of London says the deck of a carrier is the most dangerous workplace on earth. Which is just one of the many reasons why the men and women of the USS Harry S Truman train so hard, and so often.