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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Peter A. Mello

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

13 thoughts on “PBS’ CARRIER – Parts 3 and 4”

  1. and no. not a whole lot of people like the ship food. ive had it before but it sucks. the only thing good is the puding machine and they only have it out on tiger cruise

  2. Peter,
    They restock the food the same way they bring the ammo and supplies on board. Either by VERTREP (Vertical Replenishment) from the supply ships (using helo’s) and/or during fueling alongside another ship. The stores are brought over on pallets via a cable attached between the ships. The food/stores are kept in dry goods lockers/refridgerated areas just as you would have in a normal restaurant. During these resupply operations, a working party would be called away (called the Charlie Working Party) to assist the supply department in receiving and stowing the supplies on board the ship. The member of the Charlie working party would be made up of duty section personnel from almost every department of the ship…usually all E-3 and below. There was a question of Boat or Ship that I read earlier. I always say: “You can put a boat on a ship, but you can’t put a ship on a boat.” Another definition that I heard…a boat’s hull when turned port or starboard will move in that direction…a ship’s hull will move away…(a carrier when turned port, will list starboard and vice-versa)…hope that helps

  3. Giraffefan,
    I really enjoyed the series but definitely appreciate your point. All in all, I found the show to be entertaining and informative but I was longing to know a little bit more about how they store and restock food for 5,000.
    Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  4. As I Navy wife of almost 30 years, I was so disappointed in “Carrier.” If they had called the series “Air Wing”, it might have been more accurate. I got so tired of pictures of the planes taking off and landing. Nowhere did they talk to any of the ship’s company about supply arrangements (how do you get and track all of the “stuff” needed by 5,000 people?), medical, navigation, electronics, etc. It was just the air wing. If you were looking for something about what life is for the carrier sailor, it wasn’t there. The air wing embarks when the ship deploys; they come from Lemoore, Calif. It is the ship’s company that lives on the ship day after day. I suppose someone always complains about documentaries, but they sure didn’t get this one right.

  5. at least they have email and SAT phones…in my day when our anchor came up..that was it for us. No comm for a few weeks until we were on station in the Med. I really enjoyed last nights show…a nice break from the high school drama…

  6. thanks Paul..it has been a while since I wore the bellbottoms ‘-) although I would argue about galley food being a “benefit” lol…I have had all of the green ring baloney, boxed nasties and pork adobo I could stand..

  7. Rooster’s link is half right – officers get BAS (basic allowance for subsistence) then pay for their meals. For enlisted, it kind of works the other way around. Meals are part of their benefits – if no galley is available, they draw “commuted rations.”

  8. Thanks for the confirmation re meals. I’ve emailed PBS and CSC for clarification. No reply yet. I’ll post if and when reply recieved. I was Dir. Ops. for DoD contractor producing MRE’s for 6 years and know a slew of AVI folks. All Army and AF, no Navy. I realize now how little real knowledge I have of sailors and the Navy.

    NOTE RE ‘CARRIER’: The complaints from the crew about monotony, military life/discipline are the proof of courage and charactor… Doing the right thing not because you want to, but because it has to be done, even when you have doubts. I’m proud of our youth in all branches.

  9. In hour 3, I think I heard the crew complaining about having to pay for their meals aboard ship. Can this be true? Did anyone else hear this, or am I nuts?

    I’d love to heard form anyone who can set me straight on this issue.

  10. I have watched the first four episodes in amazement. I am amazed at how different life in the carrier Navy when I was at sea(1985-1995) are so different than what is chronicled by “Carrier”.
    I have blogged about it of course…from an AO’s perspective…IYAOYAS…

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