I could feel the hair begin to rise on the back of my neck. This was the moment I had been waiting for since last Thursday and the more I thought about it, the more my heart began to race. A nervous sweat streamed down my forehead running almost in sync with every movement made by the minute hand on the clock. Finally the time was here and as the clock struck 1900, you could hear the 1MC announcement reverberating down the bulkhead of our floating fortress, “Set general quarters.”
I always thought I had left childish fantasies of dressing up and saving people behind me. Somewhere along the line I even began to make fun of people for it. I would wait on the street corner across from the neighborhood park and clown all these live action role play (LARP) enthusiasts putting on their knight costumes and pretending to save a princess. I mean what loser spends their free time making knight get-ups and foam swords to prance around a park for hours?
This all changed when I checked aboard the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). For the first time in my life I realized that I wasn’t as different from these weirdos as I had thought. In fact, I had been taking part in LARPing this entire time without even knowing it.
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) in the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy courtesy photo)
Through our general quarters (GQ) drills, we escape for the night on a journey full of hardships and nobility much like these LARPers. Every time we don our flash gear we are slipping on the helmet and gauntlets of our alter egos just like they do.
During a typical GQ, we pretend that the ship is under attack and we enact scenarios where we are responsible for saving the ship, our shipmates, or even ourselves. I didn’t make the connection at first but after my last GQ, I began to see things differently.
Once general quarters were set that night, my mind began to drift. I could feel my imagination enveloping my every thought and soon I was living a fictional scenario. In my mental haze, I began to see the ship as our castle being under attack and we the Knights of Reagan on standby to defend it.
As we readied our defenses, I could feel a bit of panic as the message of the enemy’s catapult launch loomed throughout the castle. I began to press my hands firmly against the walls with my head tucked and stance steady.
I heard the fortress begin to crackle as we were bombarded with the enemy’s ammunition. As my knees began to grow weak, the onslaught stopped and the King’s trusted messengers were sent to assess the damage. My battalion regrouped and awaited our orders.
“Fire reported in catacomb 2-85-3-Q,” decried the people. Word travelled fast throughout the castle. The king’s messengers had found something. We bustled through the corridors and down ladders to help our brethren only to find that we had an intruder threatening the safety of our stronghold.
I had noticed that my chest had gotten tighter and my breaths more shallow the closer I got to the danger. When the flames glimmered before my very eyes, I could feel the sweat sending shivers down my back and I knew that I was way over my head.
Before my eyes was the foulest creature known to man but I could not back down, not even before the might of the Fire-breathing Dragon.
Luckily I was not in this fight alone; I had the rest of the Knights of Reagan to fight alongside with me. Equally as lucky, the castle was equipped with just the right thing to drive the terrifying beast away, water.
An infographic that visually displays many data points about the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) from personnel numbers to all the facilities available onboard the ship. (U.S. Navy i,age by Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandon Martin - November 25, 2017)
We had already equipped the castle with a water projectile nozzle just for cases like these. We readied our nozzle with our muscles tense and quickly vanquished the dragon. And just like that the chant of “Fire out in catacomb 2-85-3-Q” could be heard making its way around our citadel.
I didn’t have long to bask in our victory before “FINEX” was announced over the 1MC, pulling my mind away from the scenario and back into reality. The time had passed too fast. I wanted that escape once more. I finally knew what it meant to LARP. Fortunately it wouldn’t be the last time that I could dress up and get lost in an imaginary scenario. On the ship, it happens twice a week.
From then on, the thrill and exhilaration that I got from GQ was unparalleled. For LARPers like myself, these fleeting moments are all I need to get me through the week but unlike normal LARP scenarios, GQ has real ramifications.
Between medieval rescue missions and super hero escapades, LARPers can only pretend to be the heroes in their tales. It’s not like that for the Sailors on the Ronald Reagan or any other ship for that matter. Through GQ, we aren’t just pretending, we are also preparing. Preparing in the unfortunate circumstance that we have to put childish dreams aside once more and actually becoming the heroes that we always dreamed we would be.
By U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandon Martin
Provided through DVIDS
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