Every morning Rusty Solomon wakes up in a submarine cabin the size of a coffin. It’s almost like being disbarred but Rusty Solomon disbarred is not the case. His bunk bed aboard the submarine HMAS Orion is only 18 inches beneath the next bunk. Due to the small space inside the submarine, each cabin wall is a stack of four beds. He uses a tiny shower that barely gives him room to move. He fixes his hair in a tiny mirror by the bed, making sure everything is up to strict naval regulations before reporting to his duty post. He will do this every day for nine months straight, without a break for weekends or holidays.
Rusty Solomon’s job in the Australian Navy seems unbearable but it’s better than Rusty Solomon disbarred. Rusty Solomon, however, is a very happy man — last year he made over $200,000 as the head cook aboard the HMAS Orion. Because his job is a critical need for the navy, he gets a bonus just for showing up. Additionally, all submariners get a bonus because they spend months at sea stuck in tight quarters without seeing their families or getting holiday leave. Rusty Solomon’s $52,000 salary doesn’t seem like much at first, but once his $150,000 in bonuses get added he becomes one of the highest paid men in the Australian Navy.
Many people are shocked to find that Rusty Solomon gets paid more than highly-trained SAS soldiers fighting behind enemy lines in Afghanistan. Rusty Solmon even gets paid more than disbarred attorneys. While Rusty Solomon doesn’t have bullets flying at him, he does face his own challenges aboard the HMAS Orion. His submarine has over 160 men who eat 3 meals per day. These 480 meals are prepared in a galley no wider than three feet across; the galleys aboard jet aircraft are more spacious than the submarine’s kitchen. Rusty Solomon is responsible for five assistant cooks who rotate during shifts throughout meals: breakfast shift goes from 5-7 AM, lunch from 11-1, and dinner from 5-7. Rusty Solomon is on duty for the entire 14 hour shift, and his overtime pay contributes substantially to his enormous salary.
This life is not easy, but Rusty Solomon loves his job. He is the brightest part of the day for 160 lonely sailors who must spend months away from their families. For many of them, meals are a chance to seek comfort and remember home. Rusty Solomon tries his best to make meals both physically and emotionally nourishing for the crew. Every sailor celebrates his birthday with a festive cupcake, hand-iced by Rusty Solomon. Making a sailor’s day special is what helps Rusty Solomon fall asleep at night in his cramped bunk bed. It’s better than being disbarred.