Tuesday, November 10, 2009


It has been a while since I posted to this blog. I suppose the reason is that not much exciting has been happening. I will try to keep a more timely schedule.

Let me tell you about an opportunity I had last week. Last week, thanks to the kindness of MGEN Tom Wilkerson and the US Naval Institute of Annapolis, Maryland, I had the chance to participate in a Distinguished Visitors excursion to the IKE. While I have been on underway aircraft carriers before, this experience eclipses all of the other cruises.

Last Tuesday, November 3 (coincidentally, it was my birthday), I drove from Annapolis, Maryland, to Norfolk, Virginia. The automobile ride alone was incredible because my GPS routed me through the countryside, not along an interstate route. The trees along the way were nothing short of spectacular. The blazing colors made me thank God for his artistry beyond man’s ability to create. The time also allowed me to do some contemplative thinking and personal evaluating. It was time alone that I treasured.

Arriving in Norfolk, I did not have a lot of time to settle in the hotel room before being picked up for a reception at Missouri House, the on-base home of Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr., Commander, Fleet Forces Command and his wife. Along with eight other participants, we enjoyed hors d’oeurves and our choice of drink served by a wonderful Navy staff. Music provided by the Admiral’s woodwind quartet set the mood for the evening. We all chatted, exchanged sea stories and generally learned about each other. Several of Admiral Harvey’s staff also attended and joined in the pleasantries. After a couple of hours, we all returned to the hotel prepared to get a good night’s rest for the next day’s excursion.

7:15 AM came early. The group was escorted to Norfolk Naval Station where we received an in-depth briefing on the status of the U.S. Navy, the readiness of our forces, and much more provided by Vice Admiral Peter H. Daly, Deputy Commander, Fleet Forces Command and his staff. The briefing opened my eyes to the advances experienced by the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard to become a superior fighting force and defender of homeland security.

After the briefing, the group was lead on a tour of the USS Nicholas (FFG-47), a Perry class frigate. Because of a constraint of time, we only visited the bridge and a couple of other areas of the ship.

Following the tour, we were driven to the embark point where we donned Navy life vests and a cranial and goggles. We then boarded a COD (Carrier On-Board Delivery) aircraft, the C-2A Greyhound and took off toward our objective. Flying approximately 120 miles out across the Atlantic, the USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN-69) was waiting for us to come aboard. Lining up we approached the rolling deck, aimed for the three wire and decelerated from 130 MPH to 0 MPH in 2 seconds. It kind of felt like somebody reached down inside me and pulled my stomach out of my mouth. What an experience! I’ll never forget it.

The group was met by the OPS officer, and we were escorted to a beautiful lunch with several crewmen and crew women. Yes, they do have women on board. The rest of the afternoon consisted of touring departments in the ship and observing flight operations. Now when I speak of observing flight operations, I’m not talking about watching it all from the comfort of the captain’s deck or the spaces of the air boss. We were “on the deck,” fifteen feet away from F/A-18 Superhornets trapping aboard and catapulting from the ship. Noisy, interesting, informative, scary and downright dangerous are a few of the words to describe that experience. Yet it was like watching a ballet, with each of the deck crew doing his job with precision and expertise. Just watching the crew move a dozen airplanes around such a small deck without hitting each other is a test of nerve and a testament to the incredible training and abilities of the crew. And to think that the average age of these guys is about 20 years old. Wow! Makes me think our current generation is not all loud music and video games.

After a gourmet dinner in the Captain’s Mess, we retreated to Vulture’s Row to observe night flight operations. Yes, the ship operates 24 hours a day. Night ops continued until about 11:00 PM. After an hour of watching night ops, we were escorted to our staterooms where we “tried” to sleep. We had been advised to insert ear plugs to abate the noise, but I thought that flight operations would end soon after hopping in bed, so I decided not to use the plugs. I briefly watched the World Series on TV and then lay down for a good night’s sleep. NOT! Noise was so deafening, I could not sleep. Finally, I relented, retrieved my ear plugs, inserted them and immediately fell asleep. Lesson learned!

Next morning, after a great breakfast in the Chief’s Mess, we toured more departments on the ship, including the medical area. Did you know that they can actually perform open heart surgery on a carrier and have a four-bed intensive care unit on board? I didn’t, but I learned quickly that the best way to describe a carrier is that it is a city of about 5500-6000 people that is self-contained and self-operating. They do not even carry water on board; they produce their own potable water through a desalination system.

One interesting serendipity that we experienced was the opportunity to observe the ship refuel another ship. Much like UNREP (underway replenishment), a ship steers to within approximately 100 feet of the carrier where it takes on fuel lines through which the fuel is delivered. Although the IKE is a nuclear carrier and does not require liquid fuel to operate, it does carry 3.4 million gallons of fuel on board to operate its air wings and to fuel other ships in the battle group. On this day, the USS Bulkeley (DDG-84) needed fuel and arrived at the IKE to be refueled. 100 feet away, 6-8 foot seas, both ships gliding along at approximately 25 knots makes for an interesting ride. I was amazed that the ships didn’t collide. Again, testimony to the quality of our sailors.

1300 comes quickly, and we once again don our flight gear and board the COD for the return trip. By now the ship has transited southbound and lies about 120 miles south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The C-2A is set in the catapult and readied for launch. From 0 MPH to 170 MPH in 3 seconds is the most intense 3 seconds I have ever experienced. In describing it to a friend, I said it is like someone hitting you in the back with a sledge hammer. I now understand all too well why so many carrier pilots have back problems later in life. I only did it once; after more than 600-900 of these, a pilot’s body must scream for relief.

Back at Norfolk, the group says its “goodbyes” to each other. With everyone going in different directions, they acknowledge the bond that now exists among them as a result of this trip. None of us will ever be the same.

I wish to thank personally Major General Wilkerson, USMC (Ret), Admiral Harvey, Vice Admiral Daly, Captain Dee L. Mewbourne, Commanding Officer of the IKE, Captain Ted Williams, Executive Officer of the IKE, our wonderful and knowledgeable escorts, and the entire crew of the EISENHOWER for allowing us to be a part of two days of their lives. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one that I shall never forget.

If you would like to know more about the USS EISENHOWER, copy and paste this link: http://www.eisenhower.navy.mil/

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Memorial Day 2009…A day to remember. I hope you join me in remembering and honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for your freedom.

I watched The View this morning with my wife. On that program Barbara Walters and her four friends had, as guests, two women who either still were or had been members of the military and had served in Iraq. Both had lost legs to roadside bombs. Concluding the interview Barbara Walters asked them, “Do you think the war there is worth it or has it been a mistake?” Without hesitation and in unison they said it was well worth it and both would even return to the fight again if possible. You could almost see Barbara Walters sink in despair. She had been caught off-guard never expecting such an answer.

While watching this show, I was struck by the fact at how many people simply do not “get it.” So many Americans live in a fantasy world in which they see self satisfaction as their primary goal in life. They live their lives so unrealistically, either unaware of or habitually denying the intense evil that exists in our world. They are totally unaware that their freedom is NOT free, it has cost the lives of a million of our best citizens since 1775 and will continue to cost the lives of America’s finest.

One of those to give his life was my uncle Paul Stuart. Among my mother’s memoirs is a letter from him during the course of his service in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Returning over the Sea of Japan after a bombing run on Kobe, his B-17 was shot down. He and his entire crew lost their lives. The only evidence of his service was the recovery of his leather flight jacket. In his letters back home he never mentioned about being scared, only that he was so happy flying, doing what he enjoyed doing best. As a result of his sacrifice, he never enjoyed the loving arms of a wife or the silly grins, loving hugs or infectious laughter of children whom he never fathered. He gave his life so that we as a nation could continue to live in freedom.

Our country is not perfect, and it never will be perfect. But this country is certainly the envy of the world. If not, then why are so many people in other countries risking so much attempting to come here for a better life. On this Memorial Day 2009, let us not forget those who have offered the ultimate sacrifice and continue to do so in order that we might enjoy lives that are blessed.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Initial Thoughts on Our World in 3-D Blog

As an observer of our culture, an avid follower of the news and opinions of the day and one who acknowledges opinions of his own, I am initiating this blog. Here, I can share my thoughts on issues of our times, on observations and experiences that often change our lives and on my family life. Never too personal, don’t expect me to reveal secrets that, by their very nature, should and will remain hidden; but where I feel that others may benefit from my experiences, whether positive or negative, I will share them.

Because I was born and reared in the capital of New World history, Pensacola, Florida (discovered in 1559, six years prior to St. Augustine, FL), my interest in the past, where we have been and where we are headed naturally flourished. So I majored in history in college, and am, by nature, a history buff. In part, that interest is also rooted and grounded in a quotation by George Santayana: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I am convinced that if we only look back to the experiences of our forebears, we can often avoid many of the pitfalls that appear in our paths toward personal, cultural and political fulfillment. Thus it is only fitting that we recognize the contribution of history to our lives so that our mass consciousness is not distorted and our cultural behavior not deviant.

It is my hope that you will find this blog interesting, stimulating and, perhaps sometimes, even controversial. I welcome reactions; however, not reactions based solely on emotion but rather on fact and/or a belief system that incorporates both fact and faith as fundamental structures.

If there are subjects about which you might wish for me to write, simply share a comment on the blog. I will do my best to offer whatever constructive observations I can with respect to the subject.

Here’s hoping that our future together can be a mutual learning experience.

May 14, 2009