Do Officer Visitors on a Sub really Bunk with Enlisted? (JAG Episode)

Watching an episode of JAG where the two Navy Officers investigate strange occurrences on a Los Angeles Class Submarine as it’s underway.

The weird thing being both Naval Officers (Female Marine Corps Major and Male Naval Commander IIRC) are forced to “hot bunk” with the Petty Officers. I was under the impression from watching submarine documentaries that if a submarine has “special visitors” a special space would be given to them, either the Captain or XOs room. And having an officer bunk with Petty Officers? I thought on a submarine despite the space the officers were always separated from both the enlisted and noncommissioned officers.

There’s no spare space on a submarine, especially for dead weight like visitors. If they were sharing a bunk with enlisted, it’s because that’s what was available.

As a junior officer, I occasionally got booted out of my stateroom to accommodate a more senior rider. I got moved to a bunk in crew berthing and the crewman either hot-bunked or, more likely, got put ashore. After I was a midshipman, I never hot-bunked.

More junior riders went straight to crew berthing in my era. In those days, there were no women stationed on submarines, so a female major would have probably been given the XO’s stateroom, if there were no other women in the group.

Petty Officers?

On my subs, you’d have been hard-pressed to even FIND a crewman below the rank of E-4 (to be sure, they weren’t unheard of, just rare). The idea that enlisted personnel had separate berthing for Petty Officers and seamen types is kinda hard to wrap my head around.

CHIEF Petty Officers, OTOH, would be segregated from the E-1 through E-6 crew, and ensconced in the Goat Locker.

Ditto an aircraft carrier (at least when I was on it). Never had much truck with Officer Country, but my understanding was that Commanders and above had their own state rooms, Lt. Cmdrs and LTs slept two (or maybe three to a room). JGs and Ensigns had larger bunk rooms.

Chiefs slept in the Chief’s mess (the Goat Locker), but it was mass berthing except the Command Master Chief got his own (very) little room. I worked in the Chief’s mess as my mess-rotation.

All other Petty Officers and enlisted slept in big bunk rooms (usually with a small attached rec room with a tv, couches, and card tables) by work area. Ours (V2 Gear) slept around 50-60 guys.

ABE3 Zakalwe

There’s no way in hell visiting officers would ever be made to hot bunk on a modern sub. We had visitors on many underways (this was a 688 class, one of the more crowded US subs in terms of sleeping space) and they were always put in 9 man berthing, a space near the officer staterooms that acted as officer overflow berthing. Sometimes this would bump junior officers to have to go bunk in the enlisted spaces, which might bump some junior enlisted to hot bunks. But visiting officers? Or visiting civilians? No chance in hell. There’s a lot more fraternizing (social mixing of officers and enlisted) on subs than surface ships, but that would still be way too far over the line.

Funny story about VIP visitors - one time we had one of the Undersecretaries of Defense along with some engineers to observe some special testing onboard for a few days. They bunked in 9 man and I was lucky enough not to be bumped from my usual bunk there. One of the 9 man bunks is nicknamed “The Iron Cross” because to get into it you have to do a full body pullup gripping overhead piping and then contort your body up into the bunk itself, a minor athletic challenge even for young (at the time) officers like me. The Chief of the Boat is responsible for assigning bunks to visitors and he should know about the Iron Cross bunk, but for some reason assigned it to the oldest of the VIP group, a guy who looked like he was close to 80. When I noticed this I told the COB what a mistake this was but he brushed me off saying he had bigger shit to deal with. That night I remember holding in my laughter as the whole team of VIPs struggled to get this old man into his bunk.

I have been watching some old episodes of NCIS which is a spin off from JAG.

In the season 1 episode The Immortals Gibbs (male) and Caitlin (female) board a surface ship and are given a single room which is the usual quarters of the Lieutenant Commander (who makes his displeasure at moving known.)

Soon after is the episode Sub Rosa where Gibbs and Caitlin board a submarine. In this episode there is no suggestion they will need to sleep while on the vessel. Instead the main point is the (land based) Captain initially refuses to give permission for a female, any female, to board the submarine because they are ‘problematic’ - The episode first aired in November 2003.


As a midshipman, a bunch of us went out on a 688 for a couple of days. The female mids got the 9-man. I don’t know whether it was true or not, but we were told that it was the first time that women were underway on a submerged submarine. That was in 1984.

I sincerely hope the old guy didn’t need to get up every three hours to pee.

I’m also a submariner, though I served on boomers, which unlike attack subs have ample extra space. We had numerous 9 man bunkrooms between the missile tubes as well as the option to shove additional mattresses and privacy curtains one deck above among drawers of spare parts. IIRC we also occasionally set people up in the torpedo room or the forward sonar equipment room but that was less common. VIPs either get a bunkroom to themselves with the previous inhabitants kicked elsewhere, or they get a junior officer’s room with the officers kicked down to enlisted berthing. Hot racking was quite rare and only happened when we had an especially large group of inspectors or visitors on board.

Why so much room on a “boomer”? Because of the expectation of long missions?

From this point on, I was expecting the revelation that he was Jack LaLanne’s brother or something.
Am disappoint.

It’s mainly due to the size of the SLBM launch tubes and the hull that is required to surround them. Ohio class submarines are 42 feet in diameter, compared to modern attack subs that are 33 or 34 feet in diameter. That alone accounts for about 50% more volume, but then add on that the missile compartment makes a ballistic missile submarine 200 feet longer than a fast attack submarine.

The missiles require more crew aboard, but that increase in volume is much greater than the increase in crew compliment. Also, missile subs tend to not go on long missions, but rather regularly scheduled deployments where a handful of boats take turns being very quiet in some random part of the ocean waiting for a launch order that will hopefully never come. The only time the schedule gets shifted around is if one of the boats has a technical issue that requires another boat to go out early or stay later to cover the gap. The result of this is the stores kept on board are designed to last as long as a typical deployment and the crew never sees things like hundreds of cans of food stored above and below the deckplates in the engine room or whatever other kind of nonsense attack subs have to put up with.

Just saw this thread, and I echo what other submariners have already said.

On my 688-class attack submarine there were enough racks (aka bunks) for everyone on board except for a few of the most junior enlisted personnel. These folks were usually in the least desirable berthing area, too, sleeping in the torpedo room in temporary racks that were strapped to the tops of torpedoes. The way it would work is three sailors from three different watches (or shifts) would be assigned to two racks. So the two off-watch sailors could sleep whenever they wanted to. So as not to share bedding, they either remade the bed every time or used a sleeping bag.

As a junior officer when the boat was particularly full, I started off in the 21-man berthing area that included a handful of junior officers as well as more senior petty officers (but no chief petty officers—they had their own berthing area). I later moved to the 9-man berthing area for a long stint before finally getting a rack in one of the three officer staterooms, which each had three racks.

If we got VIP visitors, the most senior one would bunk in the the XO’s stateroom, which had an extra rack. (This included four-star admirals.) If there were no visitors, our XO would make whatever junior officer who was most behind in their quals bunk in his stateroom so he could harass them 24/7.

The CO was the only person onboard who had a stateroom to himself.

Bahaha I would be honored to steal the door of an asshole like that.

No kidding! I had two really crappy XOs, in profoundly different ways, but neither of them came up with that.

Having an X who snored and other weird noises all night, and also bunked en mass in work camps temporarily. How does, or does not, the military deal with folks who make horrible noises while sleeping?
Do the rest just have to deal with it? It can be a real issue when it comes to performance of duties.

Everyone just deals with it. Though there is a very persistent (and pleasant, IMO), and somewhat loud, background white noise inside a sub. Mostly the ventilation.

I was in the Army, not the Navy, but I’ve had to bunk in very close quarters on deployment, and in 60-man bays in training.

You just get used to it.

Being able to sleep in just about any conditions, whenever you get a chance, is a pretty universal skill in the military. (It’s one I’ve since lost…). Some of the best naps I’ve ever had were sitting upright in full battle rattle (body armor, helmet, load bearing equipment, etc.), in a pretty noisy environment, where someone snoring would be the least disruptive element.

Small nitpick: noncommissioned officers (E-4 to E-9) are enlisted personnel.