Anyone who knows me knows that my early life was defined by a desire to be a naval aviator and astronaut. Top Gun came out in theaters in my senior year of high school. So reading this description of life on board the USS Harry S Truman as it combats ISIS is a great moment of reflection for me. And sobering to realize that even I’d become a Navy pilot, I’d almost certainly be retired from the Navy by now.
While wandering the Truman, seeing so many young people hanging out in small groups, it sometimes seems a bit like high school. People move through hallways, meet up with friends at the lunchroom and respect a fierce hierarchy. Though there aren’t many classrooms on board, there are people studying in all the relatively quiet corners of the ship, preparing for exams that will help them net promotions. The first people I saw on board – waiting in the ATO shack, fresh off of their flight to the ship – were implausibly young-looking Americans in civilian clothes. I actually asked an officer standing nearby why there were young family members on board. He chuckled and informed me that these were new sailors just beginning their service on the Truman. They were under orders to wear civilian clothes while traveling to the Middle East.