Monday, June 6, 2016

"A Big Fish"...USS Dwight D. Eisenhower

I've been sailing with aircraft carriers for most of
my adult life; either in escort vessels, there to
protect the "high value unit" from enemy submarine or
air attack, or in ammunition ships and oilers,
accompanying the Battle Group (in modern parlance;
Strike Group)to provide material support for their
missions. The common factor in all these voyages has
been that distinctive silhouette on the horizon or
the imposing bulk alongside, the "Voice Of God" (or
at least the Admiral commanding the formation) coming
over the radio speakers on the bridge and the scream
of high-performance jet aircraft overhead as the
"bird farm" exercises her planes and pilots.

As an Operations Specialist coming up through the
ranks in frigates and destroyers I often saw these
behemoths in negative terms. The carrier at the
center of the disposition was alternately a source of
frustration as they issued maneuvering instructions
to the Group in seemingly whimsical fashion ("March
and Counter-March" all day and every day for weeks or
even months on end) or paranoia as that 100,000-ton
ship could suddenly and unexpectedly turn toward us,
closing the distance with terrifying speed--and we
all knew who would win in a collision. There was a
reason for that uncomplimentary nickname bestowed
upon carriers by destroyer sailors; "Can-Opener".

As I and my tactical abilities matured I came to be
familiar with the particular methods and madness of
these sea-going airfields. Understanding their
apparently berserker behavior had to come with
experience; knowing how to anticipate that blade and
dodge its thrusts was a function of situational
awareness and judgement in seeing the threat before
it WAS a threat and taking avoiding action promptly
to avoid an abruptly raised pucker-factor.

When I was actually working in Naval Aviation I began
to better understand the aircraft carrier; learning
its capabilities and limitations. Today, working to
provide them with parts, fuel and personnel on the
high seas, my perspective continues to broaden; I see
these massive ships not as sources of frustration or
fear but as the complicated weapons-systems that they
are; wielding enormous firepower and impressive
technology over vast distances, managed and commanded
by mere human beings who can rise to glory or fall
from grace based entirely upon the qualities that
make them human.

No comments:

Post a Comment