I had a decent plan for my post this week. I was going to share a bunch of pictures, a few stories, and even a video or two about my time on board the USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70), some of which might even be a little entertaining. That was the plan until I read a lengthy bit of commentary on Facebook this past weekend regarding a picture and the originator's motivation for posting it.
So you'll get a little of both- some Vinson stories and some discussion regarding that post. I picked the Vinson part of my career for a few different reasons- first is that I have a ton of pictures, videos and stories from that tour. The Chuckie V, like all carriers has it's own media and marketing department- Public Affairs, staffed with photographers and videographers- all who are MCs (Mass Communications Specialists) whose sole job seems to be taking pictures and making cool videos. In a squadron it's a collateral duty for some nugget, if at all- usually just one of the JOs skilled enough to put together a decent video or slide-show for the next Fo'c's'le Follies.
The Hornet at 3:15 is the first jet of the first strike package that launched after 9-11
Speaking of which, did you happen to watch the Hornet Ball video Sarge posted on Sunday? I shared it on my Facebook page as well since it just blew me away- the production quality today makes the videos I used to make in the squadron look like something your sixth grader did for a class project.
I was stationed on the Vinson from Feb 2000 to Feb 2002- and we were scheduled to reach the Strait of Hormuz and enter the Arabian Gulf on September 12th 2001. That plan was overcome by events though:
So when a Carrier goes to war, there's no shortage of great footage- from crews prepping the jets, to the massive resupply of precision weapons, to well-produced videos set to music showing the team all together working towards a common goal. The Vinson media team put out an end of deployment CD with much of that footage. I've used it here today and in the past.
Another reason I wanted to talk about my time on-board is that the Vinson tour was the most rewarding part of my career. And since I wasn't in a flying status (Disassociated Sea Tour), that's saying something. Most aviators would probably think their DST, or SWO appreciation tour, or any non-flying job for that matter, was their worst tour ever, but I enjoyed it. Sure, watching other people go fly while a person is stuck below decks can make any aviator a little jealous, but I actually got a lot out of it. First off, I think it made me a better officer. Working in the ship's Combat Direction Center (CDC) as a Tactical Actions Officer (TAO), I had more responsibility than I had ever had up to that point in my career. I had sailors and junior officers working for me, relying on me for training, guidance, and leadership, and I relied on them to do their job and help me keep the ship safe. Second, was also exciting and fun- firing NATO Sea Sparrow Missiles (for training), shooting our CIWS mounts BRRRRRRRRTT! (more training), and watching our strike packages launch and head into Afghanistan made for a professionally rewarding tour. As the senior TAO on that deployment, I got to write the watch-bill, so that and the fact that the CO liked me didn't hurt either.
The Missilex while I was TAO
Vinson raising the Battle Flag before the first strikes launched.
We're all a fairly close group, mostly like minded, but not completely. Differences of opinion are welcomed and encouraged, but in this particular room, you better come armed with facts and be willing to debate your position. It's actually quite rare that people will post something that diverges extensively from the norm, that norm being conservative viewpoints, but it happens. Nobody gets attacked for it, but those positions are quickly countered with other beliefs and facts, and you are asked and expected to explain your position.
Political stuff can get a little touchy. It seems that ever since Clinton was elected and with the rise of conservative talk shows/networks, both sides of an opinion are louder, a little more vehement, and vitriol tends to happen more than not. Not there, at least not personally I should say. Views might be attacked, but people usually aren't. Unless...
During one of my NROTC courses, we were taught that you don't talk about politics or religion in the Wardroom, although I don't think our instructors said anything about the Ready Room. But despite their omission, I don't think those topics normally crept into squadron conversation, unless they involved Rules of Engagement, or praying your nugget Pilot didn't kill you. In combat, there just wasn't time for anything so serious, with the next flight, meal or possibly a movie dominating the conversation. Before 9-11, pretty much the same thing, just fewer missions, more movies, and a port visit or two thrown in there for good measure.
Port visits on a Carrier haven't been all that great since 9-11 in my opinion. Cutbacks and extended deployments have eliminated any port more than a days travel off a direct line to and from the Gulf (Australia, Hong Kong, Japan). Big boats are too much of a target and the force protection requirements are pretty stringent (SW Asia or anywhere in the Middle East). Politics often gets in the way (Hong Kong). And morality/behavioral concerns probably keep us out of others (Thailand, Philippines, Japan).
So my original plan was to give you some highly entertaining stuff from my Vinson days, but so far today I'm all over the map- politics, ship demographics, port calls, some videos, social media, and proper Ready Room discussion topics, but apparently I'm suffering from ADD and BDD- Blog Directional Disorder. So...
On Vinson, I saw how everyone pulled together to help launch the strikes into Afghanistan- a diverse group of people working towards a common goal. Differences of opinion are irrelevant. The group I referred to earlier- the one in which we aren't all that different, but differences in opinion are ok, for the most part. But social media isn't a Ready Room.
One of the folks with a similar interest- Naval Aviation, but with a different viewpoint - liberal for the most part, refused to engage. He posted a meme- one of those pictures with words at the top and bottom- one that completely oversimplified the issue and expressed a view point that wasn't held by the majority of folks in the group. First off, it was from a Facebook page titled "Americans Against the Tea Party" and it made the claim that we see health care as a privilege, but gun ownership is a right.
Several folks tried to get him to discuss his point, but he wouldn't bite. I've seen this kind of behavior before. I'm openly Catholic on here and on Facebook, and all that goes with that, but a "friend" commented on one of my posts that was obviously meant to upset me. He posted a meme regarding Planned Parenthood with a laughing Obama and Hillary and something to the effect of "in your face bitches!" I wasn't offended, but when I offered the reasons for my viewpoint, and asked him for the same, there was silence on the net. That's called trolling and its often a characteristic of someone with limited capability to engage in intelligent conversation, a closed mind, cowardice, or all of the above.
That's what the troll did in that group- post and run, with a farewell to the group calling us idiots. I'm not sorry to see him go.
I guess I can get back to the center of the map with a few closing comments, and I fully admit that I'm oversimplifying the issues. This country might not be on the course we want, but it's not going to get anywhere if we keep seeing every problem as black or white, the two sides as enemies, and refuse to openly discuss each side of the issue, as well as the underlying problems with each problem. For example:
1. We can't have a large portion of the country highly dependent on government assistance. Work is required by everyone capable in order to sustain our culture. People with a job are far better off than those without one.
2. There's no way we can outlaw guns or confiscate them, nor should we. However, it's far too easy for mentally disturbed people to get and keep guns, and if someone who owns a gun lives with someone mentally disturbed, it's their duty and responsibility to keep them secured.
3. Countries have borders and we should be able to secure them; there's no way we'll ever deport the millions of undocumented in this country, and it takes too long and costs too much to become a citizen- all exacerbating the immigration issue.
4. The idea of medical care for all is a lofty and very Christian ideal, but it can't be done adequately or sustained without correcting the original problems within the medical system. It was too expensive for everyone to get it, but we did nothing to fix why it was so expensive in the first place.
5. If we keep voting for the incumbents, they'll just keep building their fiefdoms and doing what's best for themselves vice us.
I enjoyed my tour on Vinson because I learned a lot about myself, I was part of something larger than myself, and we all worked together to accomplish a goal. We're not doing that very well in the US. If we don't listen to each other and discuss the issues honestly, if we don't look at what's best for the country vice ourselves and our individual states (I'm talking to you Congress), we're never going to learn what might be wrong or incomplete with our own views, find some common ground, and keep this country on the right track.