By Peg Fitzpatrick
I recently had the opportunity to visit USS Carl Vinson, a Navy aircraft carrier. My initial thought was “why would I want to do that? I don’t like military stuff.” I had no idea what our military did even though my father was in the Navy as he was out by the time I was two. I was expecting to see a sanitized version of the Navy and wasn’t expecting to get a chance to speak with Sailors or see what it was like for them. I was wrong.
The Navy invited 15 bloggers and journalists as guests and gave us phenomenal access. I wasn’t asked to sign a non-disclosure statement. When I went on a recent tour of Silicon Valley social media companies, I signed non-disclosure agreements at many of them. Of course, we weren’t allowed to wander off alone, but we could talk to any Sailor we saw and I did. Each Sailor that I spoke with was proud to share the details of their position with me and was extremely knowledgeable in their area of expertise. One young woman in the ammunition department explained to me in great detail why the missiles had caps on them. She did a fantastic job and was studying for an upcoming exam to earn a promotion. I hope she gets it.
I was surprised at the age of the Sailors and their responsibility levels; many of the Sailors that I talked to were between 19 and 22 years old. The two Sailors navigating the ship were 20 and 22. When asked if the Navy was worried about the millennials and their lack of work ethic, Commanding Officer Captain Kent Whalen said (paraphrased) that the 19 and 20 year olds on the ship did some of the hardest jobs and did them very well. I witnessed this first hand as the crew on the flight deck performed the difficult task of negotiating the approximately 120 flights per day on the deck. These kids hustled as they cleared paths, fixed cables, and made it safe for the pilots to fly on and off of the ship for hours. I would say that the millennials on the USS Carl Vinson were the heart of the ship as they kept it beating and pumped their energy into their jobs with dedication and hard work. It brings me hope for the future.
My impression of the Navy after my visit was vastly different post visit. I didn’t think much about the sacrifices that our military makes and had no idea how hard the service members worked. I wish that every American could have the chance to visit our military in action to see that their tax dollars are hard at work. There was nothing wasted – no Sailor sitting around, but, instead, they all worked long hours in tough conditions out at sea away from their loved ones as well as the comfort and safety of their homes.
The teamwork and work ethic of the Navy was most impressive to me. Everyone knew his or her job well and how it fit within the bigger picture for the day-today function of the ship. Each job was equally important to the interdependent workings of USS Carl Vinson, from food service, to photojournalist, to plane mechanic, to captain.
What I learned is that the U.S. Navy keeps us safe by constantly patrolling the seas all over the world. When they are not actively deployed, they spend all of their time practicing and perfecting their jobs so if and when the time comes, the Navy is ready to defend it’s citizens and for that I am deeply grateful.
Thank you to the Navy for allowing me this eye-opening visit into the lives of today’s military and thank you to all the current and past military personnel and families for your hard work and sacrifices. We’re safe because of you.
Editor’s Note: Peg Fitzpatrick is a writer and social media professional who lives in New Hampshire.