Adventures At Sea (Part 6)
November 25, 2013
Continued from November 19, 2013
When we left the Chapel, we were led back up a whole bunch of stairs. At least eight flights of them. We were taken to the Flag Bridge where we would watch night flight ops with the Admiral in his Bridge area. This is where he controls the whole strike group – from the planes to the supporting ships. He had a platter full Cowboy Cookies (Barbara Bush’s personal recipe we were told – and they were WONDERFUL!) waiting for us and water, tea, or coffee. When we got up there the sun was just setting really good over the horizon and it was a beautiful sunset. There were a couple of planes to come in at this time. The Admiral explained that landings in the “pink” (the color of the dusk sky) were still considered a night landing. He said the “pinks” were his favorites.
The night flight ops were just starting to get underway. They were getting the pilots in their planes and getting the planes lined up for launch. It was amazing to see the deck at night. The lights of the planes and the colored light wands of certain crew on the deck were the only sources of illumination. The control panels in the Flag Bridge were all light with an orangish color, much like the dashboard of a car when the lights are on at night. It was very beautiful.
Once again, the Admiral was very gracious and very indulgent with our questions. He talked to us about what it feels like from a pilot’s point of view to land on a carrier and landing in different conditions. He described the almost four foot window that a pilot had to get the plane on the deck. I asked him if “call the ball” was actually a real Navy phrase or if it was just something Hollywood added in Top Gun. The answer was yes, that is an actual term. He said that there is a series of green lights in a straight horizontal line and then there is a big white/yellow light right in the middle of the green. This is the meatball. If a pilot is on the right glide path to land on the carrier, then the meatball will line up in a straight line with the green lights. If they are coming in too high, the meatball is above the green lights. If they are too low, the meatball is below the green lights. When they get within a certain distance the controllers on the deck with ask the pilot to “call the ball” or verify that they actually see the lights lined up and they are on the right glide path. He answered numerous questions like this and each time he gave in depth answers that we all understood. He seemed to be a very natural teacher actually. You could definitely tell that he was proud of the ship and all that it does and all of its people! And for those that have had any military service, you’ll know what this is, for those that don’t I’ll explain here in just a minute. I asked him if they still served shit on a shingle (yes, that’s really what they called it back in the day) in the mess halls. He laughed a minute and asked “how in the world do you know about SOS?” I told him that my husband is former military and my father-in-law was a Marine and they both talked about how that was one of their most favorite things to eat while in the service. He told me that yes, they do still have SOS in the mess halls and it was one of his favorites too. For those who don’t know what that is, it is chipped beef in a cream sauce and its spread over toast.
I’m not sure how long we stayed on the Flag Bridge and even ventured outside on Vulture’s Row (an observation area outside of the Flag Bridge) watching fighter jets taking off and landing. Just like being on the flight line, I could have totally stood there all night watching. About 2230, (10:30 p.m.) our escort came back and led us down from the tower back to DV Row. I didn’t realize how tired I was until we stopped going somewhere. They told us that they would be back to get us at 6:45 the next morning. We were free to shower and rest.
The Ladies DV Head was nice. It had four stalls and four showers in it with one sink. It was kind of like being at camp or something. I showered quickly so I didn’t waste any hot water. I’m sure that is scarce with 5200+ people on board. The big fluffy towels that they gave us to use were great and the bath robe was comfy and warm too. Back in the room, my roommate had found another guest book for us to sign to show that we had stayed in that room. This one actually had individual pages for us to sign and leave messages for others to come or for those on the ship. I signed that and then climbed into my bunk at about 11:30. I chose the top one! I thought I would have to lay there and read a little bit to get good and sleepy, but it didn’t take long at all for me to be ready for sleep. I remember watching a couple of planes (and hearing and feeling them) land on the TV in the room and that’s all I remember. The bed was very comfortable and I slept through night landings! Yes, I was that worn out!
Check back next week for more to this story!