Sailor from Columbia marks holiday on carrier

Every day, Navy Airman Dominique Samuel sees the sun rise and set on the ocean.

"The scenery is certainly something different than what I'm used to," said the 22-year-old Columbia native.

Samuel is serving aboard the USS Nimitz, a deployed aircraft carrier. Somewhere out in the North Arabian Sea, Samuel will be celebrating Christmas.

Chances are the holiday will be business as usual as Samuel and the rest of the Nimitz crew support U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Samuel expects he will work his "normal" 12-hour shift on Christmas, just like he would any other day of the week.

But that doesn't mean the Navy won't try to make the day special.

Sailors have readied for the holiday by putting up Christmas trees and decorating their workshops, said Samuel, a Columbia High School graduate.

"We have a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, some lights up and Christmas cards," Samuel said, describing the aviation maintenance shop aboard the Nimitz.

And a holiday meal of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and assorted pies is planned.

Samuel, who has been in the Navy for a year, helps maintain the F-18 Super Hornet fighters assigned to the Nimitz.

This is Samuel's first deployment and first time at sea. Being aboard the Nimitz is a unique experience because the ship is so large.

Commissioned in 1975, the Nimitz is nearly 24 stories tall from the keel to the top of the mast. It is nearly as long as four football fields, and the flight deck covers 4.5 acres.

Jets roar off its deck day and night, and with 5,000 service members aboard, the Nimitz feels more like a "floating city," Samuel said.

Still, there are some things Samuel misses about being back in the United States.

"Like not being able to pick up a cell phone and talk with my family when I want to," Samuel said.

But he hopes this Christmas he'll be able to at least make that call from the ship's phone room.

Samuel said he enjoys his work and life in the Navy, and he hopes to make it a career.

"This probably is the best decision I've ever made in my life," he said. "Ever since I was little, I've wanted to see the world, and I get to do something to make my family proud."