Adventures At Sea (Part 8)
December 10, 2013
Continued from December 3, 2013
After lunch we were led to the Admiral’s office. He wanted a chance to see us again before we left. He had a flight scheduled that afternoon, so he would not be available to see us off when our chariot arrived to take us away. On one of the walls of his office is this amazing picture. It was of the Bush’s Kennebunkport home with one of the ship’s helicopters hovering over it and the carrier in the back ground with a jet landing on board. Absolutely BEAUTIFUL! The skill of the photographer impressed me as much as the actual set up for the shot itself. The Admiral asked each one of us what had been our favorite part up to that point. For me it had been everything up to that point was my favorite part! We visited with him for better part of 45 minutes or more. He told us a little of what to expect with our upcoming launch and wished us all luck. He is most definitely a very impressive man.
When we left the Admiral we went back out on Vulture’s Row, outside of the Flag Bridge to watch the flight ops that were just getting underway. I’m pretty sure that we were there for more than an hour. It still amazed me just as much as it did the first time I saw it the day before. I don’t think I’d get anything done except watch launches and landings if I were on that ship for any length of time. We were able to get some video of launching and some really good pictures from where we were. The day was absolutely beautiful, the sky and the ocean were all a brilliant blue and the smell of jet fuel tickled the senses!!
(These pics were all from Vulture's Row, 9 August, 2013)
Our escorts pulled us away from our observation vantage point and took us to some control rooms that were really a huge part of air traffic control. They had the radar screens and everything. I cannot remember the initials or the name of the rooms that we visited only it was dark and reminded me of the room where the Captain is smoking his cigar and listening to the dog fight in the air on Top Gun as Maverick and Ice are in the air with a bunch of Migs on their tail. They also lead us through a room where they control the defenses of the ship.
At 1500 they took us back to the room that we first went to. We were again greeted by the Captain and the Command Master Chief. They had come to give us their farewells. The Captain showed us all the goodies we would get when we left the ship and landed back in Norfolk and then he told us his version on what to expect from the launch, especially where to place our feet. The flight crew came in then and got us suited up in our life vests and cranial helmets and they escorted us to our chariot. I really did not want to leave. I cannot believe how quickly 26 hours went by. And there was so much crammed into that time frame.
When we were all in the COD and the door closed the flight crew told us that they would let us know before we took off. They would shout “This is it!” and we were to lean forward into the straps of our harness, grasp the harness cross ways over our chest, brace our feet and then we would be airborne. Taxiing on the flight deck feels much like it does on the ground. You can just sense a small additional movement with the forward movement of the ship. We taxied to the cat that we’d be shot off of. You could hear and feel bumps and movements where they were hooking the shuttle up. Then the plane revved up, the crewman shouted “This is it!! This is it!! This is it!!” and we were GONE!!! That was ABSOLUTELY THE MOST INCREDIBLE sensation that I have ever had. For a moment you feel a little bit of pressure against your chest where you are leaning into the straps; then there is the slightest moment of shear weightlessness where you feel like you’re floating; then there is this thump feeling and sound and we are clear of the flight deck and the plane has caught up to itself and we’ve just been catapulted off of the USS George H. W. Bush!! According to my Honorary Tail Hook Certificate, we went from 0-128 mph in less than 3 seconds! I would most definitely do this again in a heartbeat! If they called me tomorrow and told me “Laura, we’re going to launch you off an aircraft carrier again, are you in?” It’d be a Heck Yeah answer and I’d be gone to where ever I needed to be to meet my ride! The rest of the flight and the landing back in Norfolk were totally uneventful compared to that take off.
It was right at 5:30 when we landed back in Norfolk. We were each given a hat with the ship’s seal on it and our name embroidered on the back, a photo book that had some photos of the ship and then photos of us individually that they had taken while we were on board, a folder with all the ship’s info and bios of the men in leadership, an Honorary Tailhookers Certificate to show that we had completed an arrested landing and a catapult assisted takeoff from a carrier, a commemorative coin of the ship, our little toiletries bag with monogrammed GHWB on the outside, and a CD that had many, many publicity shots of the ship on it.
I CANNOT say enough good about this trip! It was beyond amazing and beyond my wildest dreams that I would ever get to see something like this in person and in action. I was fortunate to see the USS Eisenhower while it was in port in Norfolk back in the summer, but it was a warehouse compared to the Bush being underway and alive! Everyone that we met was so wonderfully welcoming and so professional, from the Admiral, all the way down to the lowest ranked seaman. I have a total, new found respect for the men and women that live for months at a time on this floating city. I cannot imagine what that must be like. They have my highest respect and regards. I am forever thankful to the men and women aboard the USS GHWB that made our stay so wonderful and provided us with such an opportunity of a life time!
I learned so much on this trip and I hope that you all have enjoyed the stories. My words in no way do justice to what I saw and experienced. I don’t think there are enough words to properly describe it all even if I could! I do know that we are a blessed nation and have a truly amazing group of men and women that serve our country and protect us each and every day. I remain truly amazed and in awe of everything that I saw and everything I did!
THANK YOU US Navy and crew of the USS George H. W. Bush! May God Bless you all!