Tonganoxie teen-ager experiences life at sea
Curtis Newman, a Tonganoxie High School junior, has his feet on the ground. But his mind is at sea.
The 17-year-old Newman, who plans to eventually join the Navy or the Marine Corps, spent three weeks last summer working aboard a Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S Truman, stationed near Norfolk, Va.
While on ship, Newman worked sea and anchor duty, as well as manning the flight deck, directing aircraft.
Newman's tour was part of the Navy Sea Cadet Corps, a program designed for teens ages 13-18.
"It's just a junior Navy/Marine Corps type of thing," Newman said.
He first learned about the program when a friend gave him a postcard out of a magazine.
"I filled it out just to see what I'd get," Newman said. "I was sent information about the Sea Cadets, so I decided to get involved in that."
Newman said his was the first Sea Cadet unit to go to sea on an aircraft carrier, and as far as he knows, he's the only Tonganoxie teen-ager to be involved in Sea Cadets.
During his stay on board, Newman slept in an area in the aft of the ship located beneath the arresting gear. Newman explained the arresting gear is what the jets are hooked onto when the pilots land.
The teens slept on bunk beds, stacked three high.
"There was just enough room to sleep," Newman said. "You couldn't really sit up. It had a curtain you could open and close and a lamp by your head."
Meals were tasty, Newman said.
"The Harry S Truman is known for the outstanding food and they had some real good chow," he said.
Activities included participating in fire drills, learning what battle stations to go to if the ship were attacked and doing man-overboard drills, Newman said.
Other assignments included working in the ammunition, deck and weapons, administration, medical engineering, testing new equipment and ensuring aircraft were working.
The sea and anchor duty was the most grueling, Newman said.
"We had to be at the very front of the ship by 4 a.m.," he said. "That was pretty rough and it was hard work."
Newman, the son of Margie Newman and Ray Nussbaum, said because of the experience on ship, he's decided to attend college before joining the service.
"On the ship and in the Sea Cadets in general, we're living the enlisted man's life," Newman said. "I learned it's a lot better to wear the officer's uniform."
Newman, who works at B&J Apple Market after school and on weekends, said he was grateful for the opportunity to be in the Sea Cadets.
"Being out at sea is probably the greatest experience I've had so far," Newman said. "Who else is 17 and gets to go out at sea on an aircraft carrier, and work all the different departments."
Nothing but the real thing shows you what it's like, he said.
"Seeing it on TV is all right," he said. "But when you're actually there and the deck is rumbling below you and you know that you have a certain job that you're responsible for making sure the aircraft gets up and down that's another thing."