On an unusually cloudy couple of days in Coronado, CA, I was about to embark on an adventure that few people in the world ever get to actually experience. I would start by boarding a C-2 Greyhound COD (Carrier Delivery Vehicle) and take a 1-2 hour flight to an undetermined location in the Pacific. We would then trap on the flight deck of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, spend the night bunked in a stateroom, tour and observe the ships operations, and most importantly meet with the ship’s leaders and our nation’s finest sailors to truly experience Navy life at sea.
The morning of the embark, as our group was briefed at NAS North Island, I began to realize what a privilege this experience would be. The sheer scope of the capabilities of a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier were mind-boggling, as 4.5 acres of floating sovereign United States territory should be. Perhaps even more interesting were the fact that at any time there would be 8-9 squadrons consisting of, among others, the F/A-18 Hornet – all conducting a variety of operations which we would be able to observe at very close range. For all those times we’ve seen Top Gun and had dreams of what it might be like on the flight deck of a carrier, we were about to find out.
Now at this point I could fill the rest of this narrative by describing the G-forces we experienced while trapping, or how a cat launch slams you so hard into your harness that you struggle to contain your own saliva, but that wouldn’t be the point. Rather, the experience aboard a carrier at sea is all about the men and women who have made the decision, often at a very young age, to serve our country in the United States Navy. Their commitment, will to succeed, and drive to carry out the many different missions of the Navy, all while being out to sea for months and months on end is to say the very least, not to be taken lightly.
Often times I’ve thought of what a dream it would be to be a fighter pilot, especially a naval aviator, deployed at sea and defending our nations freedom. Yet now that I have seen first hand the hours and days and months of work that these proud men and women put in day in and day out, on a ship that never sleeps and for an overall mission that never wavers, that dream is something that these men and women have earned.
To even begin to understand the support structure that is put in place to get that pilot up in the air and then back safely is simply a monumental task. Not to mention the thousands of other jobs in support of not just combat, but peacekeeping and even humanitarian aid, often on an international level. The fact of the matter is that it takes a tremendous work ethic and a level of commitment that I now have an utmost appreciation for. So on this Veteran’s Day in 2015 I invite all of you to thank a veteran, and in this particular context, thank a sailor. But most importantly, never forget to thank those who gave up what they had for what you take for granted.