As part of the Navy's ongoing Hometown Interview Project, New Times landed an interview with Navy Lt. j.g. Charles Sonntag, a native of Boca Raton and a 2002 graduate of Spanish River High School.
According to the Navy news release, Sonntag is currently deployed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Truman, supporting ongoing operations in Afghanistan.
Sonntag is a pilot of Advanced Airborne Early Warning Aircraft providing command and control for national and international air assets. His mother, Terri, resides in Boca Raton.
Sonntag called from the Truman around 10 a.m. EST.
Good morning, Lt. Sonntag... sorry, what time is it there?
It is... 7 o'clock at night.
And where are you calling from?
We are in the gulf of Oman.
How often do you see dry land?
We get off the ship every month to six weeks.
Where do you go?
It depends. We go anywhere they can accommodate 5,000 people. Typical ports are
[Lt. Sonntag rattled off a couple ports of call, but the Truman's communications officer rang back and asked that those ports not be named].
What's a normal day like for you?
It varies. Depending on the flight schedule, we'll wake up, then the brief is a few hours before we take off, and then we have to get all the intelligence and the weather and other stuff that's going on before a flight. Then we pretty much do what we're supposed to do -- we take off, do our mission, come back, and land. Pretty much between that we must get our groundwork done, make sure all the paperwork's in order, and then in between that is the eating, the sleeping, and the working out.
Why did you join the Navy?
I'm originally from San Diego, we lived on the beach, and they had so much Navy out there. I'm the first one in my family in the military. There was so much military there, and the influence was very strong. I don't know what it was, but living next to the ocean has always appealed to me and aviation has always appealed to me, and it just seemed the best of both worlds. It's something I've always wanted to do. I'm one of the lucky people who's able to do exactly what they've always wanted to do their whole life
From San Diego to Boca -- did you grow up around boats?
Oh yeah, yes, sir. Between friends with their boats going wakeboarding on the Intracoastal to going deep-sea fishing, it's just... It hasn't helped that much, but it definitely helped with the sea legs.
How did your family react when you chose a military career?
They've been a blessing. I'm so lucky to have a family that supports whatever their kids want to do, so they've pretty much knew from day one that I wanted wanted to fly planes in the military. Even if it's not something that they would have done, they backed me up 100 percent and helped make sure my goals were achieved.
What has been the hardest part about the isolation and being so away from them?
The hardest part has been the little things, things you take for granted -- like being able to call your parents whenever you want or your brother or sister or your fiancée. Those luxuries you don't have, but they've been more than accommodating out here. There are times when it's hard, but it hasn't been that bad. There's so many people around you that time goes by a lot faster.
When you're on shore, what are you up to?
The traveling aspect, just soaking everything in. That's an experience of its own. That's a part of the world most people don't get to see, so you just get out and experience the culture and have a good time with your friends.
Tomorrow -- Lt. Sonntag talks about politics, work ethic, and the Afghanistan war from aboard the USS Truman.