The Navy’s USS Nimitz Aircraft Carrier Experience

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A few months ago, Guy Kawasaki (yes, that Guy) asked if I wanted to join him on a trip aboard the US Navy’s USS Nimitz with a handful of other bloggers. I didn’t accept the offer straight away, considering I’d have to pay for travel, expenses, etc. In the end, if it wasn’t already obvious, I decided to embark on what would be the only direct experience I’ve ever had with the US military.

Originally, I was supposed to do this with Guy (and other social media types). Everything was set until there was a schedule change, and I didn’t want to pull out of my speaking engagement at WordCamp. Instead, I was thrown into another group – this one, comprised of DARPA scientists and university professors. I swear, I was the only one in my tour who didn’t hold a doctorate.

Given that I’m not really into following military operations beyond what’s seen in the news, I had virtually no expectations. I was along for the ride – and what a ride it was. I met a few of the Navy’s ardent social media supporters (albeit briefly), and rubbed shoulders with people who are putting their lives on the line for my security.

The memory of standing on the flight deck, feet away from jet fighter operations, is one that I will likely never forget. I was there – in the middle of it. There!

The skill and pride of the crew aboard today’s USS Nimitz is palpable. For a while, they’ve been training off the coast of San Diego – and I was able to witness what would be the closest thing to “daily operations” in the field (including night retrievals). I was a fly on the wall of a very structured home. The primary directive of an aircraft carrier is focused on flights – but while there is only one pilot to a plane, it takes 5,000 people to make it fly.

I’m humbled by the Navy’s efforts, both military and humanitarian. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have boarded and recorded some of my experiences on this carrier. I’m grateful that they’re doing what they do so that I can do what I do.

If I have any disappointment to express, it would be from fellow citizens who don’t stand in awe. This isn’t about patriotism so much as it is respecting a job very well done. My dad served for a number years in the Marines, but he was out by the time I was born. This is about as closest I’ve ever come to experiencing military life – but it was enough for me to value the lives that some of my countrymen (and women) lead.

Though I didn’t document everything, I’ll be uploading a few videos over the next couple of weeks. I’ve already uploaded a couple of them (as embedded in this post), although the flight retrieval compilation on YouTube seems to have audio sync issues (so, you can download the MP4 video, too):

Everybody has a job to do. In speaking with several people aboard the Nimitz, I quickly discovered that every one of them believes they’re the linchpin that makes the entire thing work. And you know what? Each one of them is correct. They’re working independently together – as a team. It’s important for me to note that they’re not politicians, either (at least, not yet); it’s improper to hold them accountable for your elected officials’ decisions.

If you’re in the US Navy, serving (or having served) on the USS Nimitz, a current or former member of our country’s armed forces, let me just thank you for making that decision for yourself. I don’t think if I have half as much courage as you have likely shown, and recognizing that makes me appreciate you even more.

I’m not here to help promote the Navy’s message. I’m just here to tell you that this experience gave me a completely new level of respect for our men and women of uniform.