Friday, January 15, 2010

The Optimist Bucket List - Item 7

In all of my professional life I job changes have kept me hovering around only two weeks of vacation. Only once had I finally earned enough tenure to enjoy three weeks but now, after nearly a lifetime of pinching time here and there to stretch my leave over an entire year I now have four and that's not counting holidays. I know what I would gladly do with at least one of those weeks if ever the opportunity arose.

Simply put, Item 7 on my Bucket List would be to spend a week on board a U.S. aircraft carrier while on patrol. I used to live in the San Francisco Bay Area where "Fleet Week" is a wonderful chance to see some of our tax dollars in port if not necessarily in action. Great PR but to me not nearly the same. I've seen the movies, from "Midway" and "Final Countdown" to the documentaries on The Learning Channel and Discovery about life at sea in the largest of floating cities of 5,000 or more and would love to know up close what that is truly like.

I've been fascinated with aircraft carriers since the first time I saw the film "Tora Tora Tora" as a child in the third grade, not too long after my initial infatuation with airplanes. Airplanes actually on ships far out at sea? Far out! How cool would it be to see how the different colored uniforms fill specific roles in the action or to be in CIC, the Command Information Center, to watch how the entire battle group patrols, interacts and manages threats and handles daily routine?

One conversation with the father of the friend of mine led him to compliment my general knowledge of the American carrier force, being able to rattle off the names of every ship then in active service. I also had the opportunity to see the USS Carl Vinson up close not too long after its commissioning when it called in to Alameda while I was living in the Bay Area. Although tours on board were not permitted, impressive doesn't begin to describe the vessel as it lay quietly at anchor, disgorging the ship's company for some good ol' fashioned shore leave.

This has nothing to do with fulfilling a warmonger's fantasy in wanting to see navy fighters blast and destroy targets or be on the front lines of an actual engagement. I understand that there are days of sheer boredom in crossing great tracts of ocean but a week at sea watching what others consider routine and boring would be nothing short of once-in-a-lifetime thrilling for a civilian like me. What could be more emotionally charged than to sail in to port at Pearl Harbor and salute the U.S.S. Arizona with the entire crew on its way past?

Wanna know what would make it even better? Sailing on an aircraft carrier in one direction and returning to base on a submarine. Boomer or attack class, take your pick!

Gotta go!

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