Looking around the interwebz the average person’s reaction to this story seems to be shock and/or disbelief. Since I am a navy veteran my reaction was to laugh and let our a hearty “meh.”
Don’t get me wrong. This kid fucked up big time. I can‘t imagine how much that search cost, or how much grief he caused his family. However stuff like this isn’t as uncommon as one might think. I had a friend on the Nimitz who told me almost the exact same thing happened on his ship.
What I’m most curious about is what was this kid’s endgame? He definitely painted himself into a corner by hiding. If he was smart he would have ridden out whatever was bothering him until the ship hit a foreign port because then he could have vanished. He was screwed on the ship especially one as small as Shiloh which only has a crew of around 400. That may sound like a lot of people but it really isn’t. An aircraft carrier fully manned has around 5,000 personnel onboard and offers much more anonymity.
I never deployed on an actual aircraft carrier but I was on the navy’s next largest vessel which would be the amphibious assault ship. When we deployed we carried around 3,000 sailors and marines. I mentioned anonymity earlier because when you’re part of a crew that large you’re practically individual unless you draw attention to yourself. If you look busy and act like you belong somewhere you’re usually left alone. In theory someone could make their way on a ship and ride wherever it sailed. The tricky part would be finding a space in berthing and evading questions about who you were on the off chance you were confronted. You probably couldn’t go an entire eight month deployment undercover but I think someone could make it long enough to disappear upon arrival in a foreign part. I never got a chance to test my theory but like I said I did think about it on occasion.
Before I wrap this up another fun fact about being on a ship is you could smuggle anything you’d like so long as you had half a brain. Returning to the ship after a long day ashore our bags were only given a cursory search upon return, and I was never frisked. I could have had pounds of black tar heroin taped to my torso and no one would have been the wiser. Customs were also a joke. Before returning stateside we were given customs paperwork but if we didn’t declare anything no one ever asked questions (I secretly think it was encouraged). Additionally during my three deployments I never encountered a customs inspector. Of course I am an individual in possession of the highest moral fiber who would never have given any thought to betraying the public trust BUT the opportunity certainly presented itself on occasion.