FARMINGTON — After Carlah Robbins graduated from Mt. Blue High School in 2005, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.

She took some time off, then enlisted in the Navy in 2006, Robbins said recently by phone from an aircraft carrier in the Middle East.

Serving for eight years, she said, she’s had the opportunity to learn, see much of the world and prepare for college

It has also led her to something she enjoys: working on aircraft engines. It’s a skill she didn’t realize she had any interest in but one she chose to take on, the 27-year-old said.

“You have to enjoy it to pick it up and do it for eight years,” she said. “It takes some time. It’s a big system and not something you can pick up in a week.”

Along with engine mechanics, the work involves helping to launch and recover jets, troubleshooting problems and making sure the aircraft takes off on time from the carrier, she said.

She has swapped the small town Maine community for one that is “literally a town on water,” she said. The USS Harry S. Truman has more than 5,000 people on board.

She said life on board is routine; you eat, work and sleep, but it really is a lot of fun.

Along with gyms, television and other activities, the ship hosts its own daily newspaper, she said. A photographer with the paper recently caught her working on an engine in the hangar bay. They had taken the engine out of the jet and were looking for an issue in the afterburner, the back part of the jet, she said.

When the ship pulls into port, there’s time for a few days off and an opportunity to experience different cultures and how other people live, she said.

“It’s different than watching it on television,” she added. “When you go there, it’s completely different.”

Although she’s already seen a lot of things around the world, especially in Asia, her favorite was Australia. She said she loved the people and country atmosphere.

Robbins re-enlisted last summer for another six years and is working on getting a teaching degree, she said. She’d like to eventually teach history or math.

She expects to be back in her home port in Virginia in the spring. Being gone over the holidays is difficult, she said. 

“I’m lucky to have a supportive family,” she said of parents David and Betsy Robbins of Farmington. She’s able to talk with them and communicate with other family members via email.

“Being in such close quarters, working on board everyday — 14 to 15 hours a day — and then sleeping near them, you develop a family atmosphere,” she said of shipmates.

She said she misses family and friends in Farmington.

Her thoughts then shifted.

“Go Patriots,” she said. She watches the games live on board the carrier, where there is a lot of screaming between fans of other football teams but it’s a real stress reducer, she said.

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