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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Peter A. Mello

Husband, father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

13 thoughts on “PBS’ CARRIER – Parts 1 and 2”

  1. Gil, seems like most of the folks calling the Nimitz a boat are the younger / lower ranking sailors. The more senior folks use the proper term “ship”. In my day (late ’60s to mid ’70s) it was this way, too. Back then the “offender” was usually called out on it. Seems like (from watching the show) it is more of a slang term to uses “boat” now. Also, I believe the automatic promotion to SA on graduation from boot camp has been gone for a few years now. I just can’t remember where / how I found that out. Back in the day, some of us came out (actually enlisted as) SN based on years of college prior to enlistment.

  2. Rooster- Hell, it’s been so long, I forgot most of the names of the squadron guys. I’ll look in the cruise book, but I can’t recall if it includes names.

  3. Woody…same thing for us off Somalia…we had Mavericks loaded and ready…told us to drop them for GBU’s. The cost of the Mavericks were to much in comparison to the value of the targets. The most frustrating time was when the Army guys were being drug through the streets and we weren’t allowed to fly…the ordie shop was ready to just carry the bombs on our backs to help the groundpounders out…what a feeling of helplessness. Did you know Shortridge? He and I were E-nothings together on the Kennedy..our first tour…

  4. Hey Rooster-
    VA85 was always a great shop to work with. You guys were always way more organized than the VFA86 guys. They used to run us ragged. Load, download….load, download. Everynight they would load at least one bird that was tagged out, only get find out later. Sheese. At the time I was in FLT DK ORD (88-91), the cag gunner was kind of a pinhead. Anyway…

  5. Rule of thumb: You can put a boat on a ship but not a ship on a boat. ;-) JP5…yum…keeps ya regular. We always had a film of it in our water…you could really see it in your coffee…couldn’t taste it though. The America was a bad place to be..I was attached to her with VA85 for a deployment 1993-1994.

  6. I had another observation about the series, which had my eyes watering up. The segment where the V1 guy was talking about the skin rash he was developing because of the heat & jet fuel. I remember it so well. I can recall how my skin would have an oily film after the first event of the day, and get progressively worse as the day went on. I used to my ID card to scrap it off sometimes…it was nasty.

  7. Gil-
    I’m also a former vet, a FLT Deck Ordie from CV-66 USS AMERICA. I can’t speak about the rest of the fleet, but Carrier crews and Airwing people always refer to the ship as “The boat.” It’s a term of affection and respect, and is not intended as a slur. I wish I knew the origin of its use, but I do know it started long before I enlisted (1986). Also, the E1 may have reported abaord as an E2, but was busted back for some reason. Having said that, some folks are E1s when reporting aboard, depending on the terms of their enlistment. The series is great. It’s really neat to see how they are working out the bugs of having women on board.

  8. The Navy from the perspective of non-rates…which is why most of the first four episodes takes place in the coop, the head and the mess decks. After episodes 3 & 4, I am not sure if I want to watch the rest. I was fortunate to serve in the carrier Navy from 1985-1995…card carrying AO (IYAOYAS)…without women onboard. What a nightmare for a supervisor that has become…not sexist..just not a place in the Navy at sea for them.

  9. This series is a treat for carrier vets like myself (77-78) USS AMERICA ,Of course back then we had no females onboard . “Haze Gray and Underway” Mike Rice/HS-15 /NAS JAX

  10. I’m a Korean “tin can” sailor. Other than subs, all warships were referred to as “ships”. Why was the Nimitz called “boat” on more than one occasion? Also, what was an E1 doing aboard? All recruits came out of boot camp SA’s.

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