A Veteran's Story of Deployment

Yolanda G Oliver IT(AW/SW) – (Information Technician /E-6), US Navy, 20 Years Honorable

My last 2 years in the Navy were spent out to sea. I deployed on two different aircraft carriers with Carrier Air Wing 9. Both were 10-month deployments. Unfortunately, I had only a 6-month home stay between these two deployments.

  • USS John C Stennis CVN 74 WESTPAC 2001 - 2002 – deployed early due to the September 11 attacks. Left 2 months earlier.
    • I left behind a husband, daughters were 6 and 3 years old and 2 dogs.
  • USS Carl Vinson CVN 70 WESTPAC 2002 - 2003 – Left behind a husband, daughters were 7 and 4 years old and 1 dog. Minor changes.

Preparations for deployment usually starts a year in advance. Checking IT equipment, making a list, to make sure I have all the gear and equipment to last for 10 months. This includes ordering supplies, submitting IT equipment for repair, and new equipment requests for things like laptops, monitors, keyboards, mice, and cables.

Coordinating with the ship’s IT to establish access for Airwing personnel and what requirements are going to be needed for access to Ship’s network. All personnel will have non-secure access. There is an Internet Café on ship in the library for personnel to use - Access time is limited.  Secure access is much harder to sort out. But that’s a need-to-know secret.

Once these preparations are moving along, the emotions start setting in.  

I start preparations for my husband and daughters, ensuring proper/legal paperwork is done, needed. Point of contacts for my Husband to have in case of emergencies. Get the girls activities lined up and paid for, dance, Girls Scouts, day care, etc. Create a calendar. Give the Command Ombudsman my husband’s cell and house phone numbers, address and my daughters names. My parents and his mom will stay for a month to help with the girls while I am away.

Preload and final preps. Since the Airwing is not permanently attached to the Ship, we must bring all our own equipment and supplies. Chairs, computers, printers, cables, some office supplies. Everything for day-to-day operations. Our sea bags full of uniforms and civilian clothes. Living arrangements are small onboard a carrier. Our sleeping areas/berthing areas are cramped. We are issued a rack (coffin bed) and a small stand-up locker. We bring our own bedding, towels, hygiene supplies.

Out to sea we go. The first few days are spent trying to overcome sea sickness or trying to get my sea legs. Setting up IT equipment, first the Commander’s / CAG’s office. Set up all their laptops and printers. Then the XO, the Admin office, and finally the Pilots office. In between all that, I’m trying to get my desk/office somewhat organized. While also trying to get my rack organized as well.  

Once all settled in, hopefully smooth sailing, the speed of work sets in. A routine is developed. Supporting eight squadrons and their personnel with IT support. All the squadrons provide me with one or two sailors for IT support. They assist me with weekly rounds to all squadron ready rooms and offices to make sure all the equipment is functioning.

While deployed high tempo work and long days are the norm. You can get an education at Sea. They offer a few basic classes. As well as professional development. I earned my Surface Warfare and Air Warfare qualification pins.

Isolation tends to set in, even when you are surrounded by people. Separation from my family and missing my girls. Letters, Emails, and videos from home help. The worry never goes away. Questioning if you got everything right before you left. You must trust you did and that they will be okay.

All Port visits are organized and arranged for the Ships to get the garbage removed from ship and restock supplies. Great places like Pearl Harbor, Guam, Hong Kong, even Kowloon City, China, Singapore, Dubai, Hobart Tasmania, Perth Australia, Yokosuka Japan. Great for shopping, new adventures, and site seeing!  

The Ship’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) offers city tours and 5 Star hotels. On my ports calls I was able to visit Black Swan Winery in Perth Australia. A Buda Temple in Japan, Street Markets in Hong Kong, Rottenest Island and Prince Edward Prison at Hobart Tasmania. I even got to ride a Camel, dine in the desert, and shopped at a Gold Suk (Jewelry Store) in Dubai, UAE United Arab Emirates. 

Since most of these Countries do not allow nuclear warships in port, the Aircraft carrier are usually anchored out and we take small boats into shore.

Coming home is filled with excitement and anxiety. But the workload only increases. Preparations go in reverse this time. Getting ready to offload the same equipment I brought on. Also, the goodbyes start. Some of the great people I worked with are moving on. I may only get to see them through social media. But our shared experience will not be forgotten.  

Home and a wonderful reunion! Seeing my daughters and how they have grown. Kissing my husband and getting all the long hugs in. The tears, the laughter, more hugs!

Getting Re-acquainted, settling back to home life. Overwhelmed by changes and needs of family life.

Getting back to a home routine. YIKES! It takes a few months to get back to home life routine. A renewed sense of normal.