What I Learned About the Navy from Watching Carrier on PBS

If you haven’t watched it, it’s a pretty engaging ten-hour series that follows the six-month deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz to the Persian Gulf in 2005 (you can watch the entire series over the net by following the above link). Obviously the people who made the series chose to follow the lives of individuals whom they thought would make good stories — meaning that the main characters aren’t necessarily representative of rank-and-file Navy folk. Oh well. Here’s what it taught me:

  • Not that many enlisted personnel enjoy being in the navy.
  • Officers seem pretty okay with it. (So did the NCOs for that matter — but were they happy because they were NCOs or did they become NCOs because they were happy?)
  • Navy fighter pilots are frat-boy braggarts — the flight wing’s CO and XO made Top Gun seem true-to-life, at least in terms of the over-the-top egotism of its main chars.
  • It seemed like most of the officers were in favor of the war, while enlisted personnel were more split.
  • Most of the naval personnel who talked about the war in Iraq and the “War on Terror” had opinions no more erudite or well-considered than anyone else’s.
  • Most naval personnel seemed to regard the navy as a job.
  • Based on what was shown in the series, marines on the other hand view the Marine Corps as a way-of-life (and their opinions on the war seemed more deferential: “I’m a marine, it’s my job to obey orders, not to have opinions”).
  • There are some sucky jobs in the navy. Looks like if you find yourself enlisting you should get language put into your contract that prevents them from ever making you a cook, a janitor, or a grease monkey. Working as a janitor in the navy is different than a home cleaning business in NYC, for example, because the deadlines and pressure are much more serious.
  • Getting catapulted off the carrier deck looked pretty fun. Rendezvousing with a tanker to refuel looked pretty irritating.
  • For all the griping in the show, it didn’t by a long shot kill the romantic notion of navy-as-adventure.


1 comment

  • telkontar

    Well, now there’s another show I gotta watch.
    SNL long ago ran its own parody advertisement: The Navy: It’s not an adventure, it’s just a job. Some enlist for a good training program. Others, because there’s no other good job for a person who otherwise qualifies for a home-cleaning or food service job.
    Will Rogers never met a pilot (or so a pilot once told me). Ego can be a detriment, but self-doubt is not something you want to deal with at mach 2 and missiles coming at you. A pilot who realized he’d hit friendlies vomited into his mask (as did a test pilot who was 90% of the way toward plowing dirt).
    Officers generally *have* to be in favor of any action. Doubt among the troops is never a good thing. As Schwarzkopf told the troops: “Our cause is just. My confidence in you is total. Now you must be the thunder and lightning of desert storm.” If they stayed long enough to become anofficer, they have a vested interest in war. (They may also appreciate peace a little more than civilians, I think.)
    I would still not enlist in the Navy, because drowning seems like the worst death. Being shot at, I could handle.