It was an absolutely beautiful day in SF when we all met up with SW JAG near the Ferry Building so that we could get on a board a ferry boat that would take us out to the middle of SF Bay where the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, US Navy Nimitz class supercarrier, was anchored. SW JAG is assigned to this aircraft carrier as the senior Judge Advocate General, so since they were in town for this year’s Fleet Week, she was able to give a private tour for her friends and family.
The fun fact about the Carl Vinson is that this was the aircraft carrier that was involved with the mission to dump Osama Bin Laden’s body in the ocean. Obviously, it was a top secret mission so no is allowed to talk about it.
SW JAG has the rank of Lieutenant Commander and she’s been serving in the Navy for almost 10 years or something now. She’s been living all around the world being stationed all over the place, so it’s a rare occasion when we can catch up, let alone visit her work.
I have to admit that I was pretty fascinated the moment I stepped on board the ship. I’ve actually never been on board a military ship of any kind, so it all seemed pretty cool to me. SW JAG gave us tour of what seemed like the entire ship. We entered through the stern of the ship and started at the hanger deck.
The aircraft hanger is where they bring the planes to work on them and do repairs, but I guess since the ship is here for Fleet Week, there aren’t very many planes aboard.
This is the view from the hanger. It really was a beautiful day. You couldn’t ask for it to be any clearer. Although in a couple of hours, the clouds started to roll in and the Blue Angels show ended up getting canceled.
Our large group of fifteen people entered Officer Country which is really where all of the officers berthing quarters are located. It’s kind of funny, but there is this whole hierarchy in the Navy (all of the armed forces probably) where the officers and the enlisted are not allowed to fraternize with one another.
The officers’ berthing quarters are a lot like a dorm room, but smaller. All the furniture is made of metal or steal and it all looks bolted down which makes sense when you have to be at sea for months at a time. There is only central heating/air so it supposedly can get very cold sometimes. I was kind of surprised to see a small flat screen tv in the room, but I guess they do get Direct TV so they are completely out of touch when they are deployed.
The U.S.S. Vinson is currently assigned to be the flagship for Carrier Strike Group 1. I never asked SW JAG specifically what that meant, but according to wikipedia, “they are employed in a variety of roles, all of which involve gaining and maintaining sea control.” SW JAG reports to the Rear Admiral Sam Perez who is in charge of Carrier Strike Group 1.
We were able to go into the Watch Command room (I think that is what it is called), but it’s basically this dark room with a huge screen on the wall showing maps of the surrounding waters. It is essentially, where all the information is coming in and all the action is happening. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take pictures, but suffice it to say, it looks just like it does in the movies, but probably smaller. We were able to go into the War Room where basically the admiral confers with his officers on action plans. It was kind of cool.
The flight deck on a aircraft carrier is considered the busiest runway in the world, because when it’s active, they are able to launch and land fighter jets in sequence every minute. Obviously, we weren’t seeing any today. However, it was amazing to see how large of runway could be placed on a ship yet it seemed even more unbelievable when you compare how short it is to a real airport runway.
This was probably only a fraction of the planes that would normally be based on the carrier. I guess while not on duty, many of the pilots just fly their planes back to the naval air bases around the country where ever they are stationed.
The Island is the command center for flight deck operations, so it is essentially in charge of steering the ship and controlling the activities on the flight deck.
It was kind of neat to see all these fighter jets up close. Each jet has the name of its pilot and co-pilot painted right on the jet.
A truly spectacular view on a perfectly beautiful San Francisco day.
We also came to the bridge which is the ship’s command center where the ship’s admiral is directing all activity around moving the ship. I felt in command while in the chair.
This is where the helmsman and lee helmsman work with all the buttons, screens and steering wheel at their finger tips to make the ship move.
It was truly a neat experience to get a tour of the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, but it was an even better chance to see SW JAG who I don’t get to see often because she is always stationed somewhere far away.