“Of course, you’ve been on a Carrier?” asked my good friend and Exclusive Resorts Member Jim DiMatteo quite matter-of-factly as he tops up my glass of wine and casually shares how he trains the world’s most elite pilots at the Navy Fighter Weapons School, otherwise known as Top Gun. As a pilot and to be in the presence of Jim and hear his stories is profoundly humbling, awe inspiring and I am completely transfixed. I am not typically star-struck, but Jim is the real deal, an extraordinarily accomplished pilot and in aviation terms he is the elite-of-the-elite. He was previously Commanding Officer of the Adversary program at Top Gun and after an extraordinary career as a Naval Aviator, Race Director of the Red Bull Air Races, Head of Flight Operations at OshKosh AirVenture, and head of the Breitling Jet Team, he now works with Tactical Air Services training fighter pilots all over the world, including Top Gun. Jim was even involved in filming of the Top Gun 2 movie and he and his wonderful wife Kathy even had cameo roles. “Er, no actually I haven’t, been on a carrier” I responded trying to remain cool, calm, and collected.

Fast forward a couple of months later and, sponsored by Jim, I receive an invitation to participate in the Navy’s Embark program and deploy to the USS Carl Vinson for 24 hours as it conducts exercises off the coast of Southern California. The Navy’s Embark program is set up to provide insight into what it is like to work and live aboard a carrier and it is mainly for educators and civic and business leaders who can share the experiences of what it is like to live aboard a carrier with young people considering the Navy as a career option and for business leaders to get first-hand experience of the talented, disciplined, and highly trained Navy sailors as a source for future recruiting.

Message from Captain Jim DiMatteo before my embark.

Arriving at Navy Station North Island, the group of 14 were all 30 minutes early and we were greeted by Steve Feibing, Deputy Public Affairs Officer and Distinguished Visitor (DV) Embark Coordinator. Clearly none of us were going to miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and as I learned later from the Command Master Chief of the Carl Vinson – being on time in the Navy means arriving 15 minutes early, being early is 30 minutes before your scheduled time and if you arrive exactly on time then you are pretty much screwed, though the Master Chief used a slightly and entirely more colorful term.

The first stop of our tour took us to the building where the Commander of the Naval Air Forces and the Pacific Fleet is based. Steve provided us with a tour of the historic building that was built in 1901, it was recently in the Top Gun 2 movie where Maverick meets with the Admiral. The hallways are lined with memorabilia of Naval Aviation and after a brief history of the building we were introduced to Captain Silas “Shivaz” Bouyer, who is the Assistant Chief of Staff to the Commander of Naval Air Forces. Captain Bouyer has had an impressive twenty-five-year career with the Navy, initially as an aviator and EA18-Growler pilot and then progressing through leadership positions. He is calm, charming, and self-deprecating. Given his stellar career and extraordinary accomplishments, he is also surprisingly humble. He is also very appreciative of the opportunities that have been available to him throughout his career in the Navy. I am not someone that is typically star-struck, but meeting these Navy Officers who have had careers and experiences that are so extraordinary, and yet are so down-to-earth and grateful is truly impressive and seems to be a common theme in all the senior officers we meet.

Captain Bouyer provides us with a 90-minute presentation on Naval Aviation, Carriers, and Naval Aircraft types and a gives us a summary of what we can expect to see over the next 24 hours. The Naval Air Forces are the largest and most powerful in the world, comprising of 100,000 military and civilian personnel, 11 aircraft carriers, 22 Naval Air Stations, and 168 squadrons with 3,700 aircraft. The Navy itself is divided into Officers, of which there are 55,500, and enlisted sailors, of which there are 275,000. 

After a quick lunch, we were whisked off to the airport terminal, which is a small FBO on the base and were suited up with Cranial Helmets and LifeJackets, which the Navy refers to as float coats. Then, we boarded the CMV-22B tilt rotor Osprey for our 45-minute flight out to the ship. Fabric seats, exposed cabling, lines, ducts and wiring, and the noise — utilitarian, they are built to be able to carry an F35 engine.

Arriving on the USS Carl Vinson we were quickly ushered off the flight deck into the official reception room, which was designed to replicate the House of Representatives and even has the same carpet and some of the furniture from the Capital. We were warmly greeted by Captain Erik Kenny the Executive Officer, and Command Master Chief Issy Pedregon, who provided an overview of the ship and briefed us on what we can expect during our time on board. 

The USS Carl Vinson is a nuclear-powered Nimitz class aircraft carrier that entered service in 1983, named after Congressman Carl Vinson in recognition of his contribution to Navy when he was Chairman of the House Naval Affairs and Armed Services committee. Vinson moved the landmark Vinson-Trammel Act through Congress, providing authority for the construction of 92 warships. The ship’s motto is “Vis Per Mare,” which translates to “Strength from the Sea,” and she is home to a crew of 5,000 naval officers and seamen, comprising of the ships company and Air Wing that supports the deployment of the 60+ aircrafts on board. The Carl Vinson played a critical role in Operation Desert Strike, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Southern Watch, and Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as the burial at sea of Osama Bin Laden. 

USS Carl Vinson
USS Carl Vinson

As the core part of Carrier Strike Group One, the USS Carl Vinson is one of the largest warships in the world. The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier cuts an imposing presence at 1,092 ft in length, a beam of 252 ft and a height of over 200 ft above the water line, the equivalent of a 24-story building. With a displacement of 97,000 tons at full load, the USS Carl Vinson is powered by two Westinghouse Nuclear Reactors that generate enough steam to produce 140,000 horsepower for each pair of the ships four shafts, two per propulsion plant, to drive the four bronze propellors, each of which is 25 ft in diameter and weighing 66,000 pounds. The result is that Carl Vinson is capable of speeds of up to 30 kts and has unlimited range as the nuclear power systems only need to be replenished every 20-25 years.

USS Carl Vinson
CVN70 – America’s Favorite Aircraft Carrier

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 “Team Broadsword” based out of Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, deploys aboard the Carl Vinson and comprises of approximately 1,600 personnel and 80 aircraft assigned to the wing. 

With the Motto “For Liberty, We Fight,” CVW-2’s mission is to conduct carrier-based air operations utilizing its various complementing squadrons to provide most of the airpower for Carrier Strike Group One. The advanced airwing comprises the following squadrons:

  • One Strike Fighter Squadron that operates the F-35C Lightning II – the VFA-97 “Warhawks”.
  • Three Strike Fighter Squadrons that operate the F/18 E/F Super Hornet the VFA-2 “Bounty Hunters” (F/A 18F), VFA-113 “Stingers” (F/A 18E) and the VFA-192 “Golden Dragons”.
  • One Electronic Attack Squadron that operates the F/A 18 Growler the VAQ-136 “Gauntlets”.
  • One Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron that operates the E2D Hawkeye the VAW-113 “Black Eagles”.
  • One Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron that operates the MH-60R Sea Hawk the HSM-78 “Blue Hawks”.
  • One Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron that operates the MH60S-Sea Hawk the HSC-4 “Black Knights” .
  • One Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron that operates the CMV-22B Osprey the VRM-30 “Titans”.

As well as the aircrew, the air wings are also made up of support personnel involved in roles including maintenance, aircraft and ordnance handling, and emergency procedures. 

USS Carl Vinson
The deck is a constant throng of activity, and one of the most dangerous work environments in the world.
F18 pre-flight checks on USS Carl Vinson
Every aircraft is meticulously checked before flight.

Master Chief Pedregon leads us down to the Chief Petty Officers Mess stopping to provide a safety briefing and explanation of the fire-fighting equipment on the way. He emphasizes that fire is the greatest threat on the ship and that each crew member is fully trained to be a firefighter. As the most senior enlisted seaman on the Carl Vinson, he is responsible for the daily oversight of over 4,000 sailors onboard. Pedregon epitomizes the American dream. He came to the US from Mexico and grew up in the rough parts of Los Angeles.  He credits the Navy for giving him an incredible opportunity, and he reflects that many of the kids he grew up with ended on a very different path. In response to the question of how he was promoted so quickly, he said he took on the tough assignments and the ones others didn’t want to do. He has clearly reached the pinnacle of his career aboard the Carl Vinson and as he walks the decks you can see how he is both revered and highly respected throughout the ranks.

Pedregon explains that we are joining the Carl Vinson as they are conducting workups, which is the first time that the ship, crew and airwing are back on board after the ship has undergone a period of maintenance in San Diego. The workups are wide-ranging program of exercises designed to practice responses to any emergency and are designed to fully integrate the operations of the ship prior to deployment. With 11 Carriers across the Navy each ship goes through a cycle of maintenance, workups and then heads out for 6-month deployment with typically 2 Carriers on active deployment at any one time and another 4 Carriers that are considered surge ready, should they need to quickly mobilize. 

After a briefing by the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) on how to navigate the ship by reading the deck codes, we are then escorted to “DV” Row and assigned to our staterooms for the next 24 hours on board the ship. Sharing with 2 persons to each stateroom, we get a sense of what life is like on-board. Our staterooms are similar to officer’s quarters, they are comfortable, practical, and functional. 

We were then given a tour through the ship visiting the main crew mess areas, ship store, barber shop, and even the post office, which officially operates under the US Postal Services. Navigating around the ship it is easy to lose your bearings, as it feels like a maze of almost subterranean tunnels and corridors where every 20 ft you step through one of the steel frames that makes up the structure of the ship.

We then headed down to the cavernous main hangar decks and had an opportunity to see some the aircraft up-close and to meet some of the maintenance crews working on the aircraft. With an average age on board in the mid-twenties, many of the crew are young and given an incredible amount of responsibility working on and maneuvering equipment worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The PAO team encouraged us all to engage with anyone and everyone we met, and it was inspiring to chat with some of the crews as they explained their roles and duties. One young woman who was working on one of the Blue Hawks MH-60 helicopters and eloquently explained her role and the mission and duties of the aircraft in deploying anti-submarine systems. 

Interacting with the sailors on board it is clear this is a highly technical and extraordinarily well-trained and disciplined workforce. Their roles require advanced skills as well as formal classroom and on-the-job training. There is 35% crew turnover between roles and positions as well as rotations between deploying and non-deploying jobs, which provides plenty of opportunities for career progress and growth. As we walked around the decks, we could hear regular drills over the loudspeaker system. We witness first-hand that the crew experiences daily training and drills to ensure combat readiness. 

It was also gratifying to see the diversity of the crew and in our pre-trip briefing, Captain Bouyer had explained the importance of Diversity Equity and Inclusion initiatives in providing a more effective and capable Navy organization that brings together wider perspectives, experiences, and viewpoints for better operational leadership decision making. Women today make up 22% of the Navy and 15% of the Naval Aviation team and there are now 1,685 female pilots, some of whom recently participated in the all-women Super Bowl flyover. 

The first sign of flight operations is when the early warning E2-D Hawkeye aircraft are launched to provide radar, weather tracking, and situational awareness for the Air Boss and flight operations. Shortly after this, the “Black Knights’ MH-60S Sea Hawks are launched from the flight deck as they provide search and rescue capabilities with rescue divers on board the helicopters should there be a need to recover crews from the water in the event of an accident.

Standing in the main hangar, which is around four stories high, we could hear the deck being prepared for aircraft launch operations as the sounds of the catapult and roar of the jet engines reverberated through the deck above. Noise is a constant feature of living in an aircraft carrier and something that you quickly get used to. 

USS Carl Vinson
F18 Aircraft aboard the USS Carl Vinson

It was time to head up to the flight deck to watch some of the launches and recoveries. We are ushered up to a prep room and given our cranial helmets, goggles, and white “float coats.” We were the briefed by the “Shooter” on how to follow hand signals, where to stand and to ensure we didn’t cross the red and white line. We were also instructed to remove any loose items of clothing, camera caps, and even rings, lest they get dropped on the flight deck. Following the Shooter up on the deck, the first senses are the smell or jet fuel, the vibration, and the noise, even despite foam earplugs and ear protectors on the helmets.

F18 Aircraft aboard the USS Carl Vinson

The flight deck covers around 4.5 acres and is the workplace for almost 1,000 sailors, each tasked with a specific duty and responsibility for the launch and recovery of the aircraft. It is also one of the most dangerous work environments in the world, with a lot of moving equipment and aircrafts being launched and landing in rapid succession. Having situational awareness and being highly alert is critical, particularly as everything must be done with hand gestures due to the noise.

Each person on the flight deck wears color-coded clothing to make their role easily identifiable. The yellow jerseys comprise of the Aircraft Handling Officer, who assists the Air Boss in the supervision and handling of all the embarked aircraft; the Flight Deck Officer, who is responsible for the maintenance and operation of all the equipment on the flight deck;  the Catapult Officers, or “Shooters,” who are responsible for the safe launch of aircraft; the Crash and Salvage Officer; Arresting Gear Officer “The Hook” and Plane Directors responsible for aircraft movements. The White Jerseys are the Safety Officers and Landing Signal Officers (LSO)’s. The Blue Jerseys are aircraft handling and chock crewmen. The Red Jerseys are Crash and Salvage. The Purple Jerseys are the Grapes, as they provide the juice, or fuel, for the aircraft. The Green Jerseys are the Catapult Crew and Arresting Gear Crew.

F18 Tailhook aboard the USS Carl Vinson
The Tailhook

Watching the crews perform is akin to watching a well-orchestrated ballet in a highly confined environment and with very high stakes, as one simple mistake can result in damaged equipment, foreign debris, or worse, a person getting sucked into an air intake or propeller or being caught in the jet blast and a man-overboard. It is impressive to see the responsibility of some of these young sailors, many of whom are in their early twenties, as they direct pilots and aircraft worth hundreds of millions of dollars to maneuver around the deck often only a few feet from the edge of the ship. 

F18 Aboard USS Carl Vinson
F18 Aboard USS Carl Vinson
F18 aboard USS Carl Vinson

As we maneuver around the deck ducking under wings and nose cones, we are cautioned by the PAO not to touch the aircraft or to photograph the F35s up close due to the advanced and classified nature of the design. Carrier-based aircraft are equipped with a tailhook and are structurally reinforced to withstand the arresting and launching forces, they also have larger landing gear with oversized wheels to withstand the impact of landing and wings that fold to conserve space while on board. These items add weight, and they may not fly as fast as Air Force aircraft, but with a CVN’s ability to move around the world, they don’t need to fly as far to engage with the enemy.

F18 aboard the USS Carl Vinson

While the carrier seems huge, a 500-foot deck is insufficient to launch or recover a 60,000-pound aircraft without the assistance of a catapult or arresting gear. The USS Carl Vinson is equipped with 4 steam-powered catapults. Each catapult comprises of two pistons that sit inside two parallel cylinders, each around 100 yards in length, a metal lug protrudes through a gap in the top of the cylinder and attaches to a shuttle in a channel on the flight deck.

We stand on the deck as we watch the flight crews direct the pilots of the F18s and F35s to move the aircraft into position at the end of the catapult. The pilot lowers the launch arm to connect to the catapult and the Green Jerseys attach the launch bar to a slot on the shuttle, they also connect the red holdback bar and ensure it is secure. Meanwhile, the flight crews raise the jet blast deflector aft of the aircraft and the Catapult Officer, the “Shooter,” opens the valves to fill the catapult cylinders with steam from the ship’s reactors. The Green Jerseys show the aircraft weight to the pilot and launch crew to ensure the right level of steam pressure for the aircraft weight. After a final check that the bars are secure and the area is clear, The Shooter signals to the pilot to apply thrust. The Pilot conducts final control checks, runs up the engines, and once the pilot is ready, she or he salutes The Shooter who returns the Salute, kneels and touches the deck to signal to release the catapult and launch the aircraft. The steam-driven system propels the aircraft from 0-160 mph in two seconds. 

Standing on the flight deck, less than 20 feet from the plane and watching all this happen was quite the adrenaline rush. I can hardly imagine what it must be like for the pilots, an incredible experience. The vibration, the roar, the wave of hot air and smell of burnt jet fuel was intoxicating. I could have stood there for hours. After watching multiple launches, it is very clear how precise and organized the Navy crews are. They have a methodically accurate checklist and each launch is an exact replication of the last one to safely dispatch the equipment and crews, as there is zero margin for error.

Launching a 30,000-pound aircraft in 300 feet is one thing, landing and stopping one traveling at 130 kts is quite another. This is one of the hardest things that any pilot can ever do and there is also no room for error. The landing area on the Nimitz Class of Carriers is also offset by 9 degrees to the left. This design enables aircraft to simultaneously be launched from the catapults on the bow and recovered on the stern and port side. Also, should there be a bolter, where an aircraft misses cable or has a bad landing It goes off the side of the ship rather than going into other aircraft further up the deck. This offset design however, makes landing even more complex as pilots are orienting to a 500 ft runway that is moving at up to 30 kts, is offset by nine degrees and depending on weather conditions can also be pitching up and down.

USS Carl Vinson

Even on a relatively calm day of the coast of Baja, California, watching the precision and control as these Navy pilots come is awe-inspiring. On final approach, the pilot lowers the landing gear and tail hook. The objective is to snag the tailhook on the third of four arresting wires, which are high tensile steel cables stretched across the deck and attached to a hydraulic cylinder that absorbs the energy. The arresting system can stop an aircraft traveling at 130 kts in 300 feet in approximately two seconds. The wires are spaced at 50 ft intervals and pilots aim for the third wire as this is the safest and they are rated on every single landing, so need to be consistent to move through the ranks.

USS Carl Vinson
The Landing Signal Officer Station and the ‘Meatball’

As any pilot will tell you a good landing is only as good as the approach and the aircrafts are guided in by the Landing Signals Officer (LSO) using radio communications and a Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System, which consists of a series of lights mounted to a gyroscopically stabilized platform. If the plane is on the correct glideslope, the pilot sees an amber light referred to as the “Meatball” in line with a row of green lights, if the amber lights are above the green the pilot is too high and if they are below the green, the pilot is too low. If they are way too low, they will see red lights. Once the plane hits the deck the pilot applies full throttle, so if the plane does not catch the arresting wires, it’s already at full power for a go-around. As soon as the aircraft lands, the ground crews recoil the arresting cables and move the aircraft off the runway and secure the aircraft, ready for the next recovery. All of this happens in a matter of seconds.

F18 Landing on USS Carl Vinson
F18 Landing on USS Carl Vinson
F18 Landing on USS Carl Vinson
F18 Landing on USS Carl Vinson
F18 Landing on USS Carl Vinson

After watching a series of launches and recoveries we head back down below, return our safety equipment, and head up to the bridge to meet the Commanding Officer of the Carl Vinson, Captain Scott Miller. Arriving on the bridge, it is a throng of activity, and first impressions are that this is a very tight space with around 10-15 sailors in a confined environment, made even more so by the seven foot ceiling height. Captain Miller is just finishing his daily radio address where he updates the crew on key activities, celebrates notable certain crew members, and addresses what he calls “the rumor mill,” which on a ship of 5,000 people and limited WiFi requires constant vigilance to make sure the crew consistently receive clear updates and accurate information.

Captain Miller is a second-generation naval aviator; he graduated the Naval Academy and holds MA in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College. He is an F18 pilot with 3,000 hours and over 700 carrier landings and has had a series of operational tours moving into Executive Officer and Commanding Officer positions of a Strike Fighter Squadron, then Executive Officer of the John C. Stennis, and Commanding Officer of the USS New Orleans before assuming command of the USS Carl Vinson in January 2021. Captain Miller is calm, self-assured, congenial, respectful, and exhibits the same humble personality traits. He comes from a Navy family and his daughter also serves in the Navy. He talked about life on board, his role in developing and mentoring the crew, and what he sees as the greatest rewards and challenges of his role. He also talked about the responsibility and training he received to run a Nuclear-powered Carrier and as the Commanding Officer, he remarked that he is in a rarified category as there are more astronauts than Commanders of Nuclear-powered ships. Captain Miller has an impressive career trajectory and spending time in his presence you can clearly see why. The positive influence he has on the crew and the respect he commands across the ship make it clear why he is up for consideration for an Admiral position later this year. He exemplifies the quality and character of the type of smart, level-headed, compassionate, and decisive leader that you would follow in times of conflict.   

We then head up to the 10th level on the ship to the Air Boss station, which is essentially the air traffic control center for the entire ship. With a full view of the entire flight deck, we have full visibility of everything going on down below. Responsible to the Commanding Officer, the Air Boss directs all flight control operations, aircraft launch and recovery, aviation-fuel systems, aircraft handling on the flight deck and hangar deck, aircraft firefighting, and crash, salvage, and rescue operations. The Assistant Air Officer, or Mini Boss, supports the Air Boss and functions as the training department coordinator.

The ‘FOD’ Walk – the crew vigilantly check for Foreign Objects and Debris

In the early evening, we head down to the officers Mess where we are greeted by Captain Erik Kenny, the Executive Officer of the Carl Vinson. Captain Kenny also has an extraordinarily impressive background. A native of Peekskill, New York, he graduated from the Naval Academy in 2002, has an MBA from the University of Maryland, and graduated from Naval Nuclear Power School in 2021. He has over 3,000 flight hours, 500 carrier arrested landings, is a graduate of Top Gun, and has experienced a wide in range of deployments with Strike Fighter Squadrons. He also graduated from Top Gun in 2009. Captain Kenny is a natural leader and comes across as calm and self-assured and remarkably humble. He is clearly at ease with his team and mixes humor and anecdotes as he proudly introduces them and lauds their skills and capabilities. In his role as XO, he essentially runs the ship leaving the CO to focus on strategic issues and warfare tactics. You can tell Captain Kenny clearly enjoys his role in developing and mentoring his talented team. 

After dinner, we head back through the main hangars, which are abuzz with activity including a Zumba class with around 50 of the crew participating. We then visit the Fo’c’s’le and see the massive chains for the anchors, with each chain link weighing in at around 300 pounds. The Fo’c’s’le also doubles as an event space and is used for Sunday religious services.

At around 8:00 p.m. we head back up on deck to watch night flight operations. Unfortunately, but sensibly, we were not allowed to take cameras as inadvertent flashes can distract the crews before the flights. It was incredible to see everything we had witnessed during the day performed again at night with the use of lights. The ground crews used color batons and when the pilot is ready for the cat shot they switch the lights on outside the aircraft. Speaking with the pilots, they expressed that night landing is both the most nerve-racking and the hardest thing to get used to. Kenny was sharing a story that he was on his third deployment when he visited the ships Doctor and embarrassingly asked why his legs shook so much on night landing, only to be told that it was pure adrenaline and that it happens to everyone. 

At around 10:00 p.m. our tour is finished for the day, and we are free to explore the ship on our own. I hang out in the Ward Rooms chatting with some of the pilots until midnight-rations “mid-rats” are served at 11:00 p.m. I then make my way back to bed at around 11:30 p.m. Having climbed hundreds of steps and ladders through the day I am thoroughly exhausted, and yet the noise of the aircraft being recovered on the deck above and arresting gear being deployed can’t keep me from quickly falling asleep. 

We rise at 5:45 a.m. and after a quick shower, we are down at breakfast hosted by Master Chief Pedregon, where he regales us with some fascinating stories about his various deployments, life on board, and his remarkable career. We then continue the tour around the ship visiting the crew quarters, where they sleep in dorm rooms with three levels of bunks. Our guides Senior Gabrielle and Jonathan explain the strategy of selecting the right bunk, dorm room etiquette, and the do’s and don’ts of the ship. Hearing these stories, it is incredibly impressive how these young people, many with families and children back home, manage this extraordinary commitment in service to the country. 

Our next stop is a visit to the Chaplain, he is a civilian that joined the Navy and provides religious leadership, counseling, and support to the crew. With so many young people leaving home often for the first time, he is kept busy and is also a resource for the crews to be able to speak entirely confidentially and receive guidance. He also helps set up lay-religious leaders for different groups of faiths, as well as running the library on board. This is a man that clearly loves his job and the impact he makes.

Running a ship with 5,000 people is clearly a major logistical exercise and stores and supplies are critical components. The Vinson carries sufficient food for around 30 days with an inventory of food and supplies valued at over $3 million and weighing in at over 60 tons. 

Our last official stop was to visit one of the ready rooms and meet the Captain McGirty the Commanding Officer of the Black Knights Helicopter squadron, which provides search, rescue, and combat recovery. Sitting in the ready rooms you get a sense of what it must be like being part of these tight-knit crews as they prepare for exercises or the real thing. Captain McGirty explained how the crews operate and spoke about his path into the Navy, where he graduated from Vanderbilt in Engineering and then went to Navy Flight School. It is clear that there are several different routes into a Navy career.

At the end of the morning, as we waited for our flight back to the mainland, we head up to the Vultures Nest, which is on the ninth level of the carrier and provides a fantastic vista of the flight deck. Reflecting on the last 24 hours and watching the throng of carefully orchestrated activity on the flight deck, it is truly impressive how this community of sailors and servicemen operate so effectively. Everyone I met during my short stay on board was a true testament to the Navy and the country. They were all exceptionally hard-working, smart, talented, good-natured, and most of all incredibly professional. 

USS Carl Vinson

Having spent time in the company of these extraordinary men and women and really seeing first-hand the personal sacrifices they make for our country fills me with both pride and awe at what these people do day in and day out.

The purpose of the Navy Embark program is to show what a great career opportunity the Navy represents, but also to showcase the highly trained, disciplined, skilled individuals that may be seeking career opportunities when they elect to ultimately leave the Navy. Based on my experience with these talented sailors over the last few days, I can fully endorse how the Navy provides incredible experience, training, discipline, career skills, and valuable life skills. Hearing the stories of the men and women on board and the impact the Navy has had on their lives is impressive and inspiring. It is also very clear that the Navy is an exceptional pool of talent for the workforce and recruiters.

I can’t help but imagine if I was young again that I would have liked to have followed in the remarkable footsteps of Captain Miller, Kenny and Bouyer, or my good friend Captain DiMatteo. At the very least I feel extraordinarily grateful to get to spend a day with the talented and highly skilled sailors on my brief deployment aboard the USS Carl Vinson. And that I get the opportunity to do something like this through the incredible connections with people like Captain Jim DiMatteo and our rich community of Exclusive Resorts Members.

I will leave the final words to Commander Master Chief Issy Pedregon:

More information about a Career in the Navy can be found the Navy website here. Fly Navy!

Photographs by James Henderson and Videos courtesy of Guillermo Carmona.