By lex, on April 19th, 2008
One of the really fun elements of my job is briefing distinguished visitors about the Navy, naval aviation and our carrier force in preparation for their one day visit to one of our carriers. There’s a shine in their eyes as I tell them that the next 24-hours may well be one of the more fascinating and exciting of their lives. They usually laugh with me when I tell them that the 24-hour clock doesn’t start ticking until I stop talking.
But it’s hard to describe what they’re going to see, because all of us that have done it have become so accustomed to it. One of the magical things for us is to see it again through their eyes. PJ O’Rourke is a professional writer and accomplished humorist – as well as also being one of the top six or seven people I’d want on my side for a three-day bender in Vegas. As occasional reader Craig points out in comments, O’Rourke recently got a DV opportunity his own self:
Landing on an aircraft carrier was the most fun I’d ever had with my trousers on. And the 24 hours that I spent aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt–the “Big Stick”–were an equally unalloyed pleasure. I love big, moving machinery. And machinery doesn’t get any bigger, or more moving, than a U.S.-flagged nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that’s longer than the Empire State Building is tall and possesses four acres of flight deck. This four acres, if it were a nation, would have the fifth or sixth largest airforce in the world–86 fixed wing aircraft plus helicopters.
That’s right, dad – four and one-half acres of sovereign territory that can go anywhere it wants to that has 40 feet of wet and is at least 12 miles offshore. Ninety-five thousand tons of diplomacy.
Being a political columnist, O’Rourke dabbles a newly carrier-experienced toe into the electoral waters, and I’ll leave it to you, gentle reader, to discern with what effect. In doing so however, he does come upon a scintillating insight:
Being a carrier pilot requires aptitude, intelligence, skill, knowledge, discernment, and courage of a kind rarely found anywhere but in a poem of Homer’s or a half gallon of Dewar’s.
Yep. That’s about right. Full gallon for the BNs, ECMOs, WSOs and RIOs. And whatever it is those moles in the E-2 trunk or S-3 tube call themselves. After all, if it takes a great deal of skill to land a fast moving aircraft on a heaving, pitching carrier deck – at night – think how much courage it takes to trust that beetle-browed, booger eating, knuckle dragger in the front/left seat to do it right.
Having done so, imagine what further courage is required to taxi around that unlit deck – at night – with your nose wheel going right up against the scupper trusting to the wisdom, judgment and experience of a 20-year old yellow shirt (some of whose erstwhile peers are flipping burgers at McDonalds) standing on the flight deck with legs trembling from exhaustion at the end of an 18-hour work day, paid little better than slave wages and who will, after having put the flight deck to bed some two hours hence, shuffle off to a berthing space that would not meet the hospitality standards of a federal prison.
So, yeah: Full gallon. First round’s on me.
(Link fixed to O’Rourke’s piece)