A couple of weeks ago my son was advised that his aircraft carrier would be sailing into friendly waters and, as this particular 7-month global mission was coming to a close, sailors would be able to invite family aboard for a brief “Tiger Cruise” experience. You may know, a Tiger Cruise is the Navy’s special guest program that allows service members to acquaint family members with their ship and their shipboard duties. Of course, I jumped at the chance, and met the USS John C. Stennis at the Port of Jacksonville for boarding and the 3-day cruise to Norfolk, VA.
At IDEAS, we design experiences. To be sure…spending a few days with my son on-board and witnessing this teeming city in action was an experience I’ll never forget! Some quick Stennis facts: 1100’ long; 250’ wide; 6000 officers, crew and airmen; 90-plane capacity; two nuclear reactors; 4 props churning out HUNDREDS of thousands of horsepower and a top speed of “over 30 knots”. And, holy smokes…you should see this baby run!! During a full-power demonstration we watched in awe from the rear of the ship as the Niagara-like prop-wash churned up to slalom-skiing speed. The awesome violence of this water pealing back into a perfectly formed wake, pushing this floating city is – like seeing the Grand Canyon – just unimaginable until you see it the first time. Our Navy can get anywhere in the world, in no-time, flat.
In the interest of brevity, some highlights for me were being able to see:
- F-18s and Seahawk helicopters with wings and rotors “all folded up” and staged inside the Hangar Deck, and outside on the Flight Deck
- F-18s backed up to a jet blast deflector, attached to a steam-powered catapult at their nose-gear and launched to 165mph in 2 seconds
- F-18s snatched from the air at FULL throttle by the tailhook that they drag at landing
- Maybe the world’s largest elevator raising two F-18s from the Hangar Deck to the Flight Deck…a distance of more than 30 feet…in about 7 seconds.
- The engineering, mechanics, logistics and hundreds of officers and enlisted that all come together in this symphony of mission readiness
- As an advocate, it was wonderful to see the number of women in “typically male roles” as gunners, flight deck crew, boatswains, avionics and mechanics techs, pilots and helmsman
- My son — now a proficient nuclear electrician – in action with his shipmates. I couldn’t be prouder of his success, confidence and the enormous amount of effort that he’s put forth…that all these sailors put forth…in their multi-year journey of learning and service.
Without seeing it first-hand, its hard to understand the level of planning and preparation that goes into everything our military does. These men and women are truly “the best of the best”, executing every task with surgical efficiency and expertise, through the world’s most advanced technology, information and equipment. Seeing this, I am so proud of our nation’s military and the effort our talented servicemen and women put forth every day to keep our nation’s interests and people safe. Yes, I am proud…and will forever be a grateful advocate for their service. Thank you to every one of them. This has been one amazing experience.