Although the heavy nuclear-powered cruiser Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great) has been at sea for the past six months, her voyage is just beginning.
She will take part in a large-scale, high-seas exercise involving other Russian warships and Moscow's military partners, and will also call at various foreign ports. Her combat readiness is facilitated by every crew member.
Although there is not a single ship within several dozen kilometers of the Pyotr Veliky, few of her 800-strong crew feel lonely.
The cruiser's sailors, many of whom only recently graduated from high school, could not imagine only a few months ago that they would find themselves aboard a floating Russian fortress several thousand km from their homeland. The Pyotr Veliky which can effectively destroy coastal, floating and aerial targets, as well as submarines, has become their home for more than six months. Moreover, ships of this class do not sail on long-duration missions every year.
It is a great honor and responsibility for conscript sailors to serve aboard the Pyotr Veliky. All of them have come to realize that much depends on their actions, patience and endurance, and that the lives of the entire crew can depend on one sailor in a critical moment.
"A sailor's exploits aboard the ship imply the routine, monotonous and effective fulfilment of his everyday duties, rather than some heroic feat. Although a sailor often finds it easy to perform his work for one day, it is hard to keep up the pace day after day with maximum concentration and attention," said Captain First Class Sergei Zhuga, commander of a Russian Navy warship unit.
The nuclear-powered Pyotr Veliky which has unlimited endurance can spend several months on the high seas, accomplishing military tasks along the way. Consequently, the physical and mental stability of all crew members becomes a high priority.
The crew eats breakfast, lunch and dinner in two shifts, followed by evening tea and night breakfast for those standing the night watch. The ship's galleys are open round the clock, offering all kinds of soups, salads and second-course meals, the envy of any diner or cafeteria. From the commander down, the crew always eats fresh fruits and vegetables, various meat dishes, fish and chicken and drinks half a glass of dry red wine a day to remove heavy radio-nuclides from the body. Although background radiation levels are normal, this is still a nuclear-powered cruiser.
"The food is good. I like to serve aboard the ship. Although I haven't seen any other, but ... There is no brutal hazing of young recruits here. Of course, this is not civilian life but military service, and everyone realizes that the commanders' orders must be fulfilled," a sailor said.
A guard-of-honor company drilling on the quarterdeck welcomes VIP visitors at foreign ports. In reality, the unit comprises off-duty mechanics, turbine-operators and other crew members. But the most important thing, namely, a foreigners' first impression of the Russian warship, depends on the men, their glimmering bayonets and white peaked caps.
"Although I was scared at first, I felt proud to represent my country when they started playing the state anthem," guard-of-honor company sailor Alexander Letuchy said after meeting a Syrian military delegation aboard. Long deck drills in all kinds of weather produced inspiring results, and the sailors did an excellent job.
The ship is also bustling with activity below deck. The engine-boiler section is a highly responsible post. Sailors standing watch here are rotated every four hours. High temperatures exceeding plus 35 degrees Celsius and noise are big challenges. A sailor on watch must monitor instrument readings and must also use special instruments to detect signs of trouble in every operating mechanism. By promptly exposing even the slightest aberration, it is possible to maintain the trouble-free and long-term operation of the nuclear-powered cruiser's numerous systems.
Most young men serving aboard the Pyotr Veliky will probably never sail the seven seas again. In this situation, commanders must do their best to convince high-school graduates that they are responsible for themselves, their comrades and the entire ship. The sailors learn to live in a difficult physical and psychological environment.
"What's my main objective? I must turn the sailors into patriots and real men. There is still much work to do here," said Arkady Mogilevets, the cruiser's deputy commander. His career proves that determination and willpower can accomplish a lot. Mogilevets was conscripted into the Navy from a village in Belarus and he was eventually promoted to Captain First Class and deputy commander of the largest nuclear-powered cruiser in the world.
All crew members must unfailingly fulfill their duties. The results of each working day are summed up aboard the ship in the evening, with commanders praising more and more young sailors every day.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Dmitry Mikhalyov)