The years was 1978. I was a boot camp sailor assigned to the navy’s finest aircraft carrier the USS Enterprise CVN 65. I was assigned to the Air Dept., which controls every aspect concerning the aircraft on board. The Air Dept. is made up of 5 divisions. V1 and V3 directed the aircraft on the Flight deck and Hangar deck. V2 shot aircraft off the catapults, and ensured their landing with the arresting gear. V4 kept them fueled up.V5 was the Air Bosses crew.
I reported on a Saturday. Myself and 3 other boots were taken to V3 division’s berthing. On Monday our permanent divisions would be assigned. Over the weekend sailors from V3 told us the nitty gritty about each division. They detailed about the dangers on the flight deck. How V1 division crew members got sucked up the intakes of aircraft or blown overboard. V4 division was fine if you liked being dirty and smelling like fuel all the time. They detailed how V2 sailors were basically slaves. They worked the longest hours. V2 would get very little liberty in port. They were always fixing and maintaining the catapults or arresting gear. V5’s crews were hand picked by the Air Boss to work in the Air Boss’s tower. Working on the hangar deck with V3 division would be fun and a lot less dangerous. Most notably, when Liberty call was sounded almost every member of V3 was off the ship. On Monday when asked by the Air Boss which Division we would like to be attached to, we all said V3. So, my new career would be embarked upon as a blue shirt in V3 division.
V3 was operated out of Hangar deck cont
rol. All aircraft movement and specifics about positioning of the aircraft on the hangar deck were controlled from there. Blue shirts are the lowest category of those assigned in V3 or V1. We do all the menial tasks. We are assigned to a movement crew. That consists of a director (a yellow shirt), dolly driver and at least two wing safety walkers (usually yellow shirts). Blue shirts stand or walk along the sides of the aircraft, next to the wheels. Always at the ready to remove or place chalks and tie downs. Because of the noise level on board our actions were controlled by blasts from the director’s whistle and hand signals. That is the highlight of our duties. With seniority you can become either a dolly driver or elevator operator. These jobs are essential to becoming an aircraft director. I would eventually move up to the more senior positions and finally become a director. Moving a million dollar aircraft within inches of other million dollar aircraft was exciting!
Being at sea offered other cool experiences too. I once saw a school of flying fish. I was looking out from the elevator well onto a smooth glass like ocean. I suddenly saw thousands of flying fish dart out of the water. They were going in the same direction as the ship. They were inches above the water. The tips of their fins were slicing the water, leaving lines along their path. They would go about 30 yards or so, then all at once go back into the water. This repeated about 5 times. Once, I was privileged to see 2 Orcas swimming and jumping in tandem along side the ships starboard wake. They were only a few feet away. Awesome sight! In the IO, I remember looking off the fantail at night watching the ships props churning up a glowing green florescent sea weed. Amazing!
The deployment took us along the Pacific Rim. We floated in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. We port called in Hawaii, Philippians (PI), Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia. Port calls at that time were all about fun. Our Captain liked the Philippians. We were there weeks at a time during the six month deployment. One dollar would get you 14 peso’s. A lot of drinking and brawling were required. The old adage a girl in every port held pretty true. The girls were hookers earning a living. There were at least 10,000 meeting us when we pulled into PI. To be young again and sailing the high seas! All the ports were exciting. I highly recommend any young man or women see the world by way of the U.S. Navy.