By lex, on May 1st, 2008
Watching the PBS special “Carrier” makes me feel like I’m back on the boat. Hungry, tired and horny in other words. All at the same time. They could have merely called it “Work” and saved me the effort of watching. It’s a good thing I TiVo’d it, because that allows me to hit “Stop” and answer questions from the Hobbit every so often. Which is pretty much continuously. For the life of me, I cannot imagine how someone could spend a quarter century married to a naval aviator and not understand how the holdback bar differs from the launch bar, or the distinction between the Air Boss and the Air Ops Officer.
I can only blame myself.
I watched the series out of sequence, so I saw the second episode first. Wherein the Senior Sailor of the Quarter – and a ship’s SAVI representative – ends up ruining what was looking to be promising career by making the beast with an overserved aviation ordnanceman. In one fell – pretty dern fell – swoop, he traded a stripe, half a month’s pay (for two months), 45 days restriction and 45 days extra duty against the very real possibility of cracking rocks in Leavenworth had herself leaned only a very little way in another direction and lodged rape charges. Oh, and racist-boy drums himself out of the service with an OTH, trading a six month deployment for the promise of a lifetime in the food service or gasoline attendant industries.
We all make choices.
“Warts and all,” I’d predicted, but this was looking pretty much like “all warts,” at least until I saw episode one. If you’ve ever lived through a farewell at the pier, you never forget the emotions which go along with it. Ever. As for opinions on the GWOT strategy, it seems to me that the PBS producers strove more to strike a balance than represent the weight of shipboard opinion, but that’s sheerly conjectural. It’s very easy for a young person to say that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, but it takes a bit more for the average 19-year old sailor – who was 14 years old when all of this started and only 12 on September 11th, 2001 – to eloquently enunciate the facts that, 1) Yes, we knew that, and 2) Saddam had to go anyway. Even some relatively senior naval officers can’t seem to wrap their minds around that notion.
I blame the school system.
Caught up (I think) last night and – stirred by Michelle, who’s running an interesting commentary of her own – thought about the whole “nobody got to drop” language that sounds so foreign to the non-attack pilot ear. I came as close as I could to describing the emotions of the professional aviator – that is, someone for whom arduous training is his life, deterrence is an activity, but destruction is a profession – executing his mission here and here. *
Half the Navy went to war in 1991, meaning half did not. Half the Navy went to war again in 2002-2003, meaning once again that half did not. In those separate halves that did not go to war in Iraq (or in Bosnia, for that matter), there is significant overlap. Which means that roughly 60-70% of currently serving attack pilots that have been around for a while have seen the beast – and proven themselves – while 30-40% have yet to do so. No one ever talks about this, but it is always there: Every sea story brings up an answering sea story, but when a warrior tells a tale of combat, those who have not shared in that bloody baptism have no reply.
Killing changes you, in more ways than one.
That’s all I have to say about that.
*08-20-18 In fairness to Lex, I am not sure the second “here” references his intended section. It was “XXXVI-2” so if it doesn’t appear to make sense to the reader, you can blame me 😉 – Ed.