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26 Hours on an Aircraft Carrier at Sea: Unexpected Takeaways

January 27th, 2014 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

I returned from a whirlwind trip to San Diego 48 hours ago. Thanks to my friend Dennis Hall, I was able to experience spending a day (and overnight) on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

Going into it I knew that I would be having the experience of a lifetime — a tailhook landing at sea, a catapult takeoff, seeing F/A-18 Hornet fighters up close, landings and takeoffs from the carrier deck, etc. etc. And while I will be posting photos and videos of many of these fun and thrilling experiences, the first postings since my return will be about the unanticipated things I discovered on my trip.

Here’s a quick overview of what the trip was about. I was a part of a group of 15 civilian bloggers and social media types that were invited to “embark” for an overnight tour of a massive aircraft carrier located about 100 miles off the coast of Mexico. During the 26 hours we were aboard, we were treated like royalty, and taken to all of the major functional areas of the ship (with the exception of the reactor room.)

At each location we were provided with an in-depth overview of the functions provided by the team there and encouraged to ask questions of anyone and everyone we came into contact with. This included a lengthy briefing and Q/A session with Rear Adm. David F. Steindl, commander of Carrier Strike Group 1.

One of the many unanticipated takeaways from this trip was that this kind of ship has a myriad of critical roles.

It’s not just about warfighting.

Aid: If you think the job of an aircraft carrier is to help fight wars, you’re right — but that’s only one facet of their mission. Much of what a carrier and crew do is deliver humanitarian aid to places like Haiti and the Philippines where earthquakes and typhoons have hit. A nuclear powered aircraft carrier contains 150 hospital beds, a three bed ICU, plus an operating room with surgeon and anesthesiologist. Their desalinization plants can produce more than 400,000 gallons of fresh water per day.

Deterrence: Also, it’s clear that the mission of *not* fighting wars is important. When four acres (that’s just the upper deck) of sovereign America can be delivered almost anywhere in the world along with a contingent to 60-plus aircraft and a compliment of long range missiles, it makes quite an impression.

I learned during our formal dinner with the Executive Officer(XO) of the ship, that the commander of the single (one) aircraft carrier owned by the Chinese navy had dined with him at that same table. Given the apprehension over China’s recent aggressive moves at sea, I felt reassured that a potential adversary had seen first-hand the awe-inducing show that the Carl Vinson can put on.

More to come, this is just a small sample of what a civilian discovers when they attend the ultimate field trip.

The thrill-ride aspect of the voyage came from our takeoff from and landing on the ship. See the landing we experienced below. Felt like we pulled 2 to 3 G’s…


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Steven Bustin // Jan 27, 2014 at 10:11 am

    An excellent and accurate description of our experience! And it was great to have you as a ship mate.

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