Paso Robles sailor spending Christmas at sea on aircraft carrier

Instead of celebrating with his wife or helping his mother wrap brightly colored packages with ribbon, Paso Robles native Nicholas Domber is spending today on an aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean.

The 2004 Paso Robles High School graduate is a Navy aviation structural mechanic assigned to the USS Nimitz.

“I plan to call my wife, parents and my in-laws and wish them all a Merry Christmas,” Domber, a petty officer 3rd class, said by telephone thousands of miles from home.

He also plans to attend a movie night in the hangar bay.

The massive ship — 23 stories high from the keel to the top of the mast — will be his home for another two years before he serves shore duty at the Navy air station on Whidbey Island, Wash. He shares a home there with wife Micah, a 2005 Paso Robles High School graduate.

“I definitely get homesick every couple of days, but you have to keep your head up and remember why you’re here,” Domber said of his mission to support the troops in Afghanistan.

His squadron maintains the planes’ wings, fuselage, controls and landing gear. The Prowlers block radar transmissions and jam electronic signals that enemies can use in coordinating strikes or attacks.

“I like getting the gratification knowing I fixed something and knowing it’s helping someone else,” he said of his aid to the ground troops.

Today is his second Christmas away from loved ones, he said. The first was during a frigid Illinois boot camp in the winter of 2006. He’s looking forward to celebrating a belated holiday when he’s on leave in March.

Every couple of weeks they return to land. “It’s time to relax, get some good food,” he said. “I’ve been to places like Singapore, Japan, Beijing and Dubai.”

The Navy doesn’t allow him to disclose the ship’s exact location in an effort to protect it, he said.

“The first thing you ask your boy is ‘How are you doing?’ and ‘Where are you?’ ” his mother, Michelle Domber of Paso Robles, said. “But he has to say, ‘Mom, I can’t tell you where I am.’ ”

She understands, though, and continues to encourage and support him.

Sitting at her kitchen table Thursday in her nicely decorated home, the woman was bursting with pride for her 23-year-old son.

Every time she sees a Navy bumper sticker, she gushes and tells them, “My son’s in the Navy, too.”

But there’s still some angst. She bought the ingredients to make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving — her son’s favorite. “But I just couldn’t bring myself to make it without Nick here,” she said.

Domber is on his third deployment since boot camp — always going back to the Nimitz. The last time he was home was in January.

His days are filled with work, sleep and time spent at the gym, he said.

“Sometimes we throw around a football in an empty hangar bay if we’re not busy,” he added.

His favorite day is Thursday — when the mail arrives.

A big bag of Christmas cards just came in from throughout the United States with greetings of thanks and blessings.“That’s always nice to read,” he said, “knowing that people are thinking of us back home.”