Lindsay Berra

As in MLB, Fleet Week sailors must train hard

Crews detail regimented training as USS cruisers dock in Brooklyn

As in MLB, Fleet Week sailors must train hard

The USS Monterey and USS San Jacinto, two Ticonderoga-class cruisers, cut an imposing silhouette in their side-by-side berths in the Buttermilk Channel. The thin strip of water separates Governor's Island from Brooklyn and is home to the Brooklyn Cruise Ship Terminal, one of several sights the Navy is using to dock its ships for Fleet Week 2017.

The sailors aboard these two ships may be in New York primarily to have some fun, but they consider this their offseason. And just like Major League Baseball players, sailors have to use it to get in shape for their season. MLB players have 162 games to prepare for, while these sailors are prepping for seven-month deployments aboard a 568-foot boat. Just as with professional athletes, what they eat and how they train is paramount to their success.

"It is very important for us to stay fit to do our jobs on a regular basis," said Leading Petty Officer Terrence Campbell, who is the command fitness leader aboard the San Jacinto. "We can have casualties, certain things can happen on board the ship. We may have to do things with damage control. We may have to pull someone up a ladder who may have injured themselves. We have a lot of equipment aboard that is very heavy, so you have to be very fit to be able to carry things down these steep ladder wells."

Sailors aboard the San Jacinto are required to log 150 minutes of PT -- physical training -- each week, which is usually divided into three 50-minute sessions led by one of several assistant command fitness leaders (ACFLs). Machinist Mate First Class Sibilia Martinez is an ACFL and 11-year Navy veteran who is charged with making sure each sailor passes his or her twice-yearly Physical Readiness Test, which consists of two minutes of pushups, two minutes of situps and a 1.5-mile run. The San Jacinto has two small gyms -- one for cardio equipment and one for weights -- and Martinez does his best to create interesting and effective workouts within the tight quarters of the ship.

"You have to use your imagination and be creative," Martinez said. "I like to stick with the basics we learned in boot camp, by doing our 10-count bodybuilders, burpees, lunges and modified mountain climbers. And we run. 20 laps around the ship is a mile and a half."

Anderson serves Navy kitchen

On the San Jacinto's last deployment in the Persian Gulf, sailors had regular 5K runs, which inevitably turned ultra-competitive, and also competed to become members of the "1000-Pound Club." That is, the sum of each sailors' maximum bench press, squat and deadlift was added up. Those who reached 1000 pounds got both bragging rights and a T-shirt.

Aboard the USS Monterey, Leading Culinary Specialist Timothy Whitman is in charge of the food that fuels his sailors. The Monterrey's kitchen serves four meals -- breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight rations, known as "midrats," -- to 350 sailors each day.

"Morale is based off of food service," Whitman said. "If you have a bad meal put out at the beginning of the day, it sets the tone for the crew. People don't want to deal with as much or work as hard. If you put a good meal out at the beginning of the day, it sets the tone for people to be happy."

In January, the Navy instituted its "Go For Green" program to help service members identify healthy food choices. Signage in dining areas color-codes foods green for eat often, yellow for eat occasionally and red for eat rarely, and they also include a salt shaker graphic to encourage sailors to monitor their salt intake.

"Sodium absorbs a lot of water, and when we are at sea in hotter spots, too much can lead to dehydration," said Culinary Specialist Second Class Mitchell Reed, who does most of the cooking aboard the Monterrey. "So we are using less sodium in our cooking."

The Monterrey has also recently eliminated the use of fryers in their kitchen and bases all meals on its 21-day menu cycle on the Navy's G4G program. While deployed, the Monterrey is resupplied once a week with fresh fruits and vegetables and its kitchen staff creates test plates at each meal to give sailors a healthy suggestion with regard to portion size and protein and vegetable content.

"Everyone eats with their eyes," Reed said. "We do it so people can see what we're giving them and use the plate as an example of a balanced meal."

In keeping with Whitman's theory about food and morale, the kitchen staff on the Monterrey does try to have a little fun. On Slider Wednesdays, they get burgers with all the fixings. On Saturday nights, it's chicken wings and pizzas on homemade crusts. And once a month, there is a surf-and-turf birthday party for all those with birthdays in that month, which includes steak, lobster and, according to Reed, "a big, fat cake."

Lindsay Berra has covered a variety of sports, from baseball and hockey to tennis and the Olympics, since 1999. She joined in 2013. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.