The Big Interview

O captain, my captain

June 28 - July 5, 2006
Gulf Weekly O captain, my captain

Where did your interest in the Navy first come from?
I was about 14 in high school and decided that I wanted to fly and the Navy was what I wanted to fly in.

How many years and how many different jobs have you done in the Navy to get to where you are now?
I have 27 years in with so many jobs I’ve lost track of them. Almost all the jobs involved flying which was great. I started flying in 1980 and still I still fly off this ship now so it’s been a great time.
So would you say flying is your favourite job to date?
I love to fly but I’d have to say this (CO of USS Enterprise) is my favourite job.
Have you had to make a lot of sacrifices to live the Navy life?
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t made sacrifices to live the Navy life and if you ask my wife she would certainly say that but I’d say it’s worth it. You look at where we’ve come, when I first started deploying on aircraft-carriers, we used to have to number our letters so that the person getting them would know which order to read them in because the mail was so sporadic. Now though we have instant connectivity with email, we have video teleconferencing facilities available if there’s an emergency so we can have our sailors talk to their families and we send DVDs back and forth so it’s much nicer now than it used to be, but still, when you’re gone for six months it’s hard. There’s good and bad though, we’re away from our families and sometimes don’t see land for over 50 days but we have a very short commute to work and have people to make our food for us.
How does your family feel about you being away so much?
My daughter doesn’t like it at all but my wife is kind of used to it by now. She does a lot of work with the younger families to try and help them out and that takes up pretty much all of her time and when she’s done with that I’m about home again. But after I’ve been home for a couple of months, she’s about ready for me to head back out again [smile].
What’s the part about what you do?
Working with fabulous people. [I roll my eyes at this point because it seems like such a standard politically correct answer to make but I’m soon pleasantly surprised to find out that he genuinely means it]. I’m dead serious. Everyday we have sailors come up here to the bridge and be recognised for something they’ve done. Look at these. [He brings out signed photographs of himself with crew members]. These are the two that came up yesterday. This is Petty Officer Hooper who’s an ordnaceman in the super hornet squadron who found a laser guided missile that wasn’t attached properly before the plane launched and this one is Seaman Johnson who was the guy who saw a flashing light in the water a couple of nights ago and threw the life ring in and announced that we could possibly have a man overboard so there’s lots of amazing people that I tell everyday. You look down there on the flight deck for example and the average age is 19-20 and they’re taxiing $80 million planes around while schoolmates are at home offering to super size your drink order so the responsibility that we give them is tremendous and the vast majority do a great job of it.
And what’s the worst part about what you do?
The worst part of this job is having to deliver really bad news. I’ve had to get dressed up and go to people’s houses and tell them that their son/daughter/husband/wife wasn’t coming home again because there’s been a terrible accident. That to me is just really bad news no not something anybody enjoys.
What’s too small or too big a problem for you to deal with personally?
That’s a tough question. I sent all the department heads a story about a business owner who lost his business because he was involved in strategic decision making but nothing else. So there’s no stone that I’m not willing to flip over to find out the why, what, where or who of the matter, but that’s more of a one time shot as opposed to something I’m monitoring every day. I don’t think there are any issues that are too small but there are a number of them that I don’t routinely get involved with.
What happens when you leave the Navy?
[Long pause then he laughs] Do you know something I don’t? Um, I don’t know. I have no idea.
What would you have done if you hadn’t joined the Navy?
I never really had any other plans.... I don’t know.... Become a rock star [more laughter].
What do you still want to achieve before you leave the Navy?
I would like to have the ship running on autopilot. That was my goal when I got here and I have yet to achieve it. It takes a lot hands on involvement to get to the level that I’m hoping for. You’ve been down there [points to the flight deck], it’s like a Swiss watch or a well choreographed ballet but there are a lot of little things that take a lot of effort to make happen and my goal is to change that.


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