PBS’ CARRIER – Parts 7 and 8

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You would be hardpressed to find more dramatic or suspenseful television than the Part 7 scene of landing planes on a pitching deck at night. It’s ironic that the most dangerous part of the mission is not fighting “terrorists” in Iraq but rather surviving mother nature on the way home. This is must see TV!

Up through part 7, a considerable amount of time is devoted to telling the story of the USS Nimitz as a well honed war machine with a diverse crew that successfully coexists under some challenging conditions and circumstances. Shared experiences like the pollywog/shellback ceremony creates camaraderie and common bonds among the crew. Then faith makes it way into the story in part 8 and a bright light shines on the rich diversity that is represented in the crew. This ship is an amazing floating community.

CARRIER does a great job of developing the story with each new episode having a solid foundation from what went ahead while still allowing room for surprises. IMHO this is the best reality TV by far!

Part 7 – Rites of Passage description

The last day in the Gulf is the last chance to drop bombs before the Nimitz heads home. The jets take off, laden with ordnance, and return hours later, still carrying the same bombs. As the Nimitz crosses the equator, the entire ship takes part in the Crossing the Line Ceremony, an ancient maritime ritual. In the middle of flight operations, a storm arises in the South Indian Ocean. The deck pitches violently, turning the already dangerous task of landing on the carrier into a nail-biting, heart-pounding drama.

Part 8 – True Believers description

This episode explores the many expressions of faith onboard the USS Nimitz: faith in self, faith in one’s shipmates, faith in the mission of the ship and the president’s call to arms. The major religious groups on board are Catholic and Protestant, but there also is a coven of Wiccans, as well as a Pentecostal group whose newest member is challenged by the duality of his beliefs and the temptations of liberty as the ship drops anchor in Perth, Australia.

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Here’s What Happened to the Cougar Ace’s Cargo

The Wall Street Journal shows us what ultimately happened to the $100,000,000 worth of new Mazdas after the Cougar Ace incident.

In case you aren’t familiar with the rest of the story, Wired.com does a good job explaining things. (great article, too)


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PBS’ CARRIER – Parts 5 and 6

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Tonight the tone was definitely much more serious. The gravity of the mission and the toll it takes on the men and women aboard comes through clearly. I have been really taken by the honesty and authenticity that CARRIER seems to present in telling the USS Nimitz’s many stories.

Questions about the connection between the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Iraq are addressed directly to the camera. “Why am I here?” One sailor states he’s “a faithful and loyal servant with questions.” A pilot explains the conflict of having an opinion and doing his job. Many recognize that this is a different type of war than that for which the Navy was built. 4th generation and asymmetrical warfare causes one pilot to state “It seems like aircraft carriers are not the way to fight wars today.”

The sight of a decrepit oil platform makes all the effort and resources deployed seem more than a little overkill and the search for terrorists has that needle in the haystack feel. “It’s not as much fun when we don’t drop bombs but maybe just flying over deters the bad guys on the ground. Fighting the terrorists is neverending.”

Life on the Nimitz can be a blur where the days of the week have no importance. Everyday is like the next. A pilot states, “I wouldn’t mind dropping bombs may sound demonic but that’s what I was trained to do.” But no bombs are dropped through episode 6 and you can begin to see and hear the stresses this causes to warriors in a war zone. Adrenaline to sheer boredom makes it all so challenging. Some feel it’s just “my job” while many others seriously question mission validity. There seems to be more sailors longing for home.

There is a sobering man overboard story that reminds us that life at sea can be dangerous even in times of peace.

As usual, the cinematography and music were amazing.

Part 5 – Show of Force description

The mission really kicks off when the Nimitz arrives in the Gulf. The conditions are extreme: flight deck personnel endure temperatures hovering around 120 degrees, while the pilots undertake grueling six-hour missions over Iraq. The F-18s are mounted with infrared cameras, enabling them to serve as the “eyes in the sky” to support the troops on the ground. Some of the pilots are frustrated that they’re not dropping bombs because, as they describe it, that’s what they’ve been trained to do. The aircraft carrier’s role and effectiveness in this particular war are questioned. Meanwhile, the strike group searches for terrorists on small dhows and intercepts cargo ships to search for weapons and bomb-making materials.

Part 6 Ground Hog Day description

After two months in the Gulf, one day starts to become indistinguishable from the next. The airwing still hasn’t dropped a single bomb, which is frustrating for some on board. The only relief comes from a port call in Bahrain, where some sailors relax by the pool, while others visit a mosque and learn about Muslim culture. The Princeton, one of the escort ships in the Nimitz strike group, loses a man overboard; an intense search to find the lost sailor ensues.

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PBS’ CARRIER – Parts 3 and 4

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PBS’ CARRIER demonstrates that real life stories are more powerful and captivating than fiction. The series second night built on the great foundation set the first. There are 5,000 sailors, 5,000 jobs and 5,000 stories aboard “4.5 acres of sovereign US territory” that is the USS NImitz.

Episode 3 – Super Secrets

In episode 3, we learn about all of different jobs and activities that make the ship run; from trash removal to nuclear engineering each sailor has a responsibility and duty to contribute to the mission. Each also has the duty and responsibility to act like mature adults while on shore leave but unfortunately not all can. With only 800 women aboard the Nimitz, it’s easy to see how social tensions and sexual problems could arise. Dating is highly discouraged; however, there is a remarkable scene involving the reporting of sexual indiscretions between 2 sailors that teeters on the edge of rape and which damages the reputations and destroys the naval career of both.

On a lighter note, an entertaining story within a story has been developing about the young videographer Christian Garzone (MySpace and Youtube pages) whose shipboard hobby is making films. He seems to be a well liked young man with a great sense of humor and strong camera presence which at times steals the show.

Episode 3 description:

The ship’s location and itinerary are classified. Details of how the nuclear reactor works are top secret. Many aspects of life on a nuclear aircraft carrier are hush-hush. Dating and sex aboard ship are strictly forbidden, but according to one sailor, with 5,000 people on board, relationships are “inevitable,” resulting in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that applies to relationships as well as sexual orientation. When the Nimitz pulls into Hong Kong for a four-day port call, a scandal dramatically alters the lives of two sailors. As the ship departs, the crew learns their itinerary has changed. The captain announces that they are heading for Korea, but the crew can’t share this information with their families back home … because it’s a secret.

Episode 4 – Squared Away

Teamwork is absolutely essential for the ship to operate efficiently and effectively and there is an interesting discussion about rank and officers’ responsibility and accountability. One young woman talks about the challenge of rising faster than her peers but quickly acknowledges that’s she happier she’s being paid more.

Discipline is what is missing from the lives of so many enlisted sailors. Thankfully many find it aboard ship with the help of experienced sailors who play the role of mentors. Unfortunately, some don’t.

One young man angles to get out by playing the racist. One of the most amazing demonstrations of leadership thus far in the series takes place when an African American approaches him at the end of a drunken shore leave beach party and talks to him in a calm and collected fashion making a case for trying to learn from and accept different cultures. “One person can make a difference” he says and for a moment we think this might just work.

Episode 4 description:

Mentoring and camaraderie are what hold the ship together. But life on deployment is stressful for everyone aboard, and there can be considerable friction between enlisted personnel and their superiors. Port calls allow sailors to blow off steam, but they don’t relieve all the pressure. In Guam, a young sailor coming to terms with his upbringing can’t play by the rules and is forced out of the Navy. From Guam, the Nimitz sails through the Straits of Malacca, past Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, the last liberty call before the long haul to the Persian Gulf.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that so many of the young people that have ended on the Nimitz come from tough family backgrounds. Early on an officer remarks that not too many aboard are graduates of Phillips Exeter Academy, an elite New England prep school. The Navy is a melting pot and its amazing that such a diverse group of individuals can live in such a challenging environment with so few serious problems and actually make this sophisticated war machine hum.

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Monday Morning Motivator – Failure

Do you want the ball when the game is on the line?


If you never fail, you’re not trying hard enough.

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PBS’ CARRIER – Parts 1 and 2

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I just finished watching the first 2 parts of PBS’s new series CARRIER and it was awesome. Even if you have no interest in military or naval matters, this show is definitely worth watching. The cinematography and music are fantastic. The individual and collective stories are fascinating. Among other things, its a great study of leadership.

Episode 1 – All Hands was a great stage setter. In it you get to meet a wide range sailors aboard the USS Nimitz, one of only ten nuclear powered aircraft carriers in the world. There are more than 5,000 residents that call the ship home and work and a large number are under the age of 21. It’s not too far away from being a floating high school with a serious mission.

Episode 1 description:

On a bright May morning, 5,000 sailors and Marines bid farewell to their loved ones before the mammoth USS Nimitz pulls out of Coronado, California, and sets a course for Hawaii and beyond. Among the men and women who live and work on board are an airman who describes the ship as a small town; a pilot who considers the ship a powerful instrument of diplomacy; a sailor who questions “why we’re fighting to defend someone else’s freedom when we barely have our own”; a cook who dishes out 15,000 meals a day; and an airman who has just learned that his girlfriend is pregnant.

Episode 2 Controlled Chaos tells the story of the complexity of running this floating city that also happens to be the most sophisticated war machine. There is so much activity happening on the flight deck that one sailor advises to keep your head on a swivel to look out for trouble that can come from any direction at anytime. While New York might be the city that never sleeps, the Nimitz is clearly a ship that doesn’t either.

A pilot of one of the $57 million aircraft that get catapulted off the end of the ship says that landing is like having sex during a car accident. Work hard, play harder is the flight squadrons’ mantra. Much of the support for these Top Guns comes from young enlisted airmen who get paid less than what their friends make back home at McDonalds. When asked, the Captain isn’t sure how they are able to extract such a high level of performance but offers they do it for each other.

Episode 2 description:

The men and women of the USS Nimitz live beneath the runway of a major airport. They sleep on the roof of a nuclear power plant. It’s a perilous environment. Their only bulwark against danger and chaos is to bond with their units on board the ship. The “Shooters,” who launch the jets, have a “Circle of Trust”; the Ordies (ordnance personnel) pride themselves on being a “mafia”; the F-18 squadrons — the Black Aces, the Hoboes and the Marine Red Devils — are tight fraternities.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow night.

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At Sea Reality TV

Sunday VOW’s (Videos of the Week)

There’s currently no shortage of good maritime shows on television. Here’s three that float my boat.

Deadliest Catch

Last year I posted about the Deadliest Catch here and here. This year they have added regular behind the scenes video-casts (thru iTunes) that are pretty interesting. The website is also worth a visit. Hey, these guys put their lives on the line so that you can eat fancy seafood; the least you can do is watch! (Frequently on the Discovery Channel)

And you think your work environment is challenging.

America’s Port

Finally, a show the tells the story about why America’s maritime industries remain so important today. “America’s Port provides an unblinking view of this vibrant and colorful nerve center for global trade — the Port of Los Angeles. Get an inside look at this massive complex and the intrepid individuals charged with keeping it running smoothly and securely 365 days a year. It’s a dynamic and dangerous 24/7 operation.” (Mondays at 10PM on National Geographic Channel)


Update: check the latest post about Episodes I and II

The PBS series CARRIER: Life aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz starts tonight and if these clips are any indication, it looks great! Make sure that you visit the website as well and take a tour the ship and check out the great “making of” diaries and videos. (Starting Sundays, April 28th and running consecutive nights through May 1st; 9 – 11 PM on PBS; find your local listing here)

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