|From GQ to CQ, Carl Vinson Changes Course|
From GQ to CQ, Carl Vinson Changes Course
By Journalist 3rd Class (SW) Mat Sohl, USS Carl Vinson Public Affairs.
Aboard USS Carl Vinson, At Sea -- (NNS) November 25, 2002 -- One level below USS Carl Vinson's (CVN 70) flight deck, Marine Capt. Ben Wilson sits in his ready room, casually talking with fellow "Rough Raiders" from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 about his upcoming flight.
At sea with USS Carl Vinson (November 02, 2002) -- An F/A-18 "Hornet" assigned to the "Rough Raiders" of Strike Fighter Squadron 125 (VFA-125) keeps its tailhook up during carrier flight deck training exercises. New pilots conduct "touch and goes" prior to attempting a full tailhook arrested landing on the ship’s flight deck. VFA-125 is stationed at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, Calif.
U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Inez Lawson
Wilson and many other aviators recently embarked Carl Vinson to begin their last phase of training before becoming fleet aviators – completion of carrier qualifications (CQs).
Despite his laid-back demeanor, the Kingsville, Texas, native admits that being hurled from one of Vinson’s four catapults in an F/A-18 "Hornet" has him feeling a "strange mix of fear and excitement."
"I think you’d be nuts not to be nervous," he said. "For a carrier-based aviator, this is it."
For the crew of Carl Vinson, flight operations require focus and teamwork for long hours of launching and recovering aircraft flown by the "Rough Raiders" and other participating fleet reserve squadrons. The flawless execution of action on the flight deck will not only put months of training to the test, but it will also provide invaluable instruction for new flight-deck personnel.
"Our role is to provide a safe, stable landing facility for these new pilots," said Capt. Michael C. Manazir, Carl Vinson’s executive officer. "We have to tailor what we do on the flight deck to their mindset, which is not the same as a fleet aviator."
Wilson and the other aviators in training weren’t the only rookies on Vinson’s flight deck during the carrier qualifications. Several Sailors from Carl Vinson’s air department experienced launching and recovering aircraft for the first time.
"I received a lot of training and descriptions about how the flight deck works at 'A' school, but books can’t describe it," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate Airman Ousmane Banbu, who works on the ship's catapults. "This was my first time actually working with aircraft on the flight deck. It’s stressful and tiring, but I wouldn’t want any other job."
For Wilson, becoming an aviator was a fulfillment of a life-long dream.
"When I was a kid, I would watch the jets flying around my house from a nearby base," Wilson remembered, "and I knew that is what I wanted to do with my life."
After successfully completing 10 launch-and-recovery cycles, Wilson raved about the experience. His fervor for aviation remained unchanged.
"Getting shot off the front of an aircraft carrier is an experience that can’t be compared to anything else," he said. "Even after 10 launches, it’s still exciting, and I imagine it will be just as exciting when I reach 1,000 launches."
The determination of the junior aviators and the tireless dedication of Carl Vinson’s flight-deck crew resulted in the successful and timely completion. On the final day of CQs, Manazir, a seasoned F-14 Tomcat pilot, was offered a flight in one of the Navy’s newest aircraft, the F/A-18F "Super Hornet."
"The commanding officer of VFA-122 extended the offer to take me for a backseat ride," said Manazir. "It was my first time in an F/A-18F. It was spectacular."
Taking to the to the skies was more than a chance to get in the cockpit for Manazir. It was also a unique opportunity to examine the choreographed efforts of his flight-deck troops in their trademark, multicolored jerseys.
"It was neat to be able to observe the flight-deck crew doing what they do best out there... because the only place that you can get the real assessment of how the flight deck’s running is from the cockpit," said Manazir. "To have the CO or XO as senior aviators go out and evaluate their own ship’s performance is a unique opportunity to not only observe our troops doing their best, but also to evaluate what we can improve upon."