24 Hours Aboard the USS Wasp
Two Combat Information Centers that bristle with state-of-the-art electronics monitor flight operations and threats to the ship—such as inbound missiles—and operate the ship’s responses. The rooms are kept dark to aid the viewing of radar and computer screens. The ship has the ability to track and label every plane in the air within 250 miles, and can share data with other ships to expand the area they can survey. Here you see the high value of veteran sailors, often chief petty officers, supervising the work being performed by much younger sailors.
Planning the Mini-Convoy
After flight operations ended for the day, we went up on the flight deck and could see several destroyers and cruisers in the distance in each direction. At the briefing it was described that the six ships traveling to New York would sail for the night in assigned “boxes” on the ocean, several miles across, to avoid hitting each other, while still maintaining an escort position surrounding the Wasp.
We spoke with a flight operations manager, a young women with seven years Navy experience, and the mother of two children. She directs the movements of aircraft on the flight deck by issuing hand signals. Below the waist are signals given to deck handlers, and above the waist signals to pilots. Deck handlers wear different color shirts depending on their job. Several sailors mentioned that flight decks are very dangerous places where safety is constantly stressed.
Meals were good but not fancy—lasagna for dinner, eggs or cereal for breakfast and hamburgers at the next day’s lunch. A salad and fruit bar is set up for each meal, and snacks were available 24/7. At dinner we sat at a table with young sailors who turned out to be Annapolis midshipmen. One was an exchange student from Pakistan who was studying engineering and gave us a briefing on what ship propellers would be like in the future.