Chapter Two: The human side aboard a warship.

George Bush Navy carrier ISIS Syria
USS George H.W. Bush flight deck at the sunset

When I passed the gates of the Naval Base I met a friendly staff and after a short briefing on the rules and what to expect during the flight, I worn the helmet with headphones and eyeglasses, the life jacket and I boarded the C-2 Greyhound.

What a strange effect to be seated in the opposite direction to the usual… the back cabin was basic, nothing more than indispensabile. I sat down and fixed my seat belt, wore the helmet, and I was ready.

The takeoff was strange, I almost didn’t realize that I was in flight and when I saw the trail in the sea left by the USS George H.W. Bush I began to realize that the landing so chatting with the arresting cable was coming.

The plane took a few laps before falling off and blowing my heart: I’ve always been a lover of roller coasters, but that was something totally different. Few moments, a signal from the sailors aboard and an incredible force attached me on the seat. It was less violent than expected, but equally surreal: from 135 to 0 mph in two seconds!

When the back cargo ramp has been opened… I was like in the United States of America!

The first thing I felt was a warm air filled with fuel scent, then I looked around and I was surrounded by dozens of Hornet and Super Hornet fighter jets. It may seem trivial, but connecting with the Top Gun movie has been inevitable!

Same sailors accompanied me to the inside of the ship where I met Bobby and Katie, the P.A. Officers, they have assigned to the Press the cabins where to spend the night before to introduced us in the frantic board life.

The interior of the carrier was essential: a labyrinth of corridors and iron stairs lead to bridges, dining areas, gym, hospital, squadron rooms, flight deck and maintenance hangar. Signspots on every wall showed a series of numbers means level, floor, department, side of the carrier and destination task of that section.

Takeoffs and recoveries continued without stop, the roar of the engines was all around and powerfull, I began to try to capture some memorable moments. Everything tremble when the engines were in full a/b and the launch system gave the boost for takeoff. It was really a visceral feeling. Sunset and sunrise offered an unforgettable scenary: it was like a movie, even if the life on board was composed of people who spend months far from their home, family and loved ones, to defend their Nation and Allies.

I asked my first questions to Katie, maybe for empathy, maybe for curiosity. She was a 28-year-old sailor who didn't see her husband since January. How can she lives so long apart from her partner? (I thounght).

I started a friendly conversation with her and I found out that everything started when she chose college: the Navy paid her studies for 4 years of service according to a national standard regulation. She agreed: military life has always fascinated her.

Katie setted her-year-debit, but in love with this world, she decided to stay and continue her working life with the Navy.

You are a very determined girl, but still a girl; the first spontaneous question is: how do you live your femininity life in a non-privacy life aboard?

“Sometimes it is difficult to have no own spaces, but you do the habit, so when you come home after so many months aboard, it seems strange to be alone in the bathroom!” (Smiled)

You live here everyday for months, pilots operate in missions; Have you ever been afraid of an enemy attack in response during hostile times?

“Honestly no. We are protected so well to think to be afraid. There are five ships constantly around us (I have worked on those also and I know what they do and how) and there are a lots of Hornet and Superhornet ready to start from the flight deck. I feel very calm and safe.”

Any episode that you feel afraid?

“Yes, but not for an attack received. When I was on the other ship a boat came against us by mistake. There I was afraid something bad could happen but fortunately everything went well.”

Do you have children?

“No, not yet, but I want to. I want to wait to became a PAO in a base on the mainland to have a regular timetable. I can’t embark with a child at home and a husband in the Navy.”

For a woman like me, it is difficult to think about this life, but the dedication I read in her eyes was really exhaustive.


Thanks to all the personnel of the U.S. Navy who allowed and supported us in the realization of this reportage.

Written by Simona Zanetti
Photo credits: Simona Zanetti

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