Guest Post: Welcome to Cruise

Military spouses occupy a curious corner of the greater military blogging constellation. I could sit here all day and tell you all about what it’s like to be married to a nasal radiator naval aviator. I could give a first-hand account of deployment from the homefront perspective. I could tell you all about my husband’s aircraft, its mission, and even rattle off immediate action items from the emergency procedures checklists. We spouses tend to absorb quite a bit of information through osmosis.

What I cannot tell you, however, is what it feels like to fly the beast, to land it on a pitching deck, and to spend months bouncing from foreign base to foreign base in order to stay within reach of the aircraft carrier relying on its CODs for cargo, mail, and transport of important personnel. For that, you need to ask my husband. He has graciously offered to share a vignette that captures a moment those of us who wait at home do not get to see: the instant that deployment truly begins.

“Last Minute” by Sampson

Aircraft carriers leave little margin for error. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans/Released)

Somewhere in the back of your airplane, Petty Officer Jones is saying his Hail Marys. It’s a strange thing for a man that scared of flying and ships to be in a COD squadron. Yet, here he is, and here you are, flying from the left seat in one of two mighty C-2A Greyhounds. In addition to forty- something enlisted aircraft maintainers, they are stuffed to the gills with everything your COD detachment will need for the next six months supporting a carrier air wing.

Well, okay, the birds don’t have everything you’ll need. Five people are waiting to catch a ride on a C-130 across the pond to start setting up the first Forward Logistics Site. The good news is that’s five fewer days stuck on a boat. The bad news is none of them are about to bag a trap.

LSOs guide aircraft in for safe landings. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brent Thacker/Released)

The boat is still close offshore. She is steaming conspicuously westerly, into the rapidly setting sun. In half an hour, you’ll make like Cinderella’s carriage and turn into a pumpkin. But, good news! The deck is expecting you. Your signal is “buster”, which is boat-speak for keep your foot on the floor, and expect “Charlie on arrival”, which means you should recover immediately.

You follow behind your detachment’s other aircraft. As you set up for your entry into the pattern, you can’t help but notice the sun sitting just above and to the left of the ship’s landing area. This could get interesting. Sure enough, rolling into the groove, the ball is barely visible – and it is low. Power on, you’re afraid to actually scan angle of attack and lineup lest you lose glideslope reference. The niggling detail that this ship has had the third of four wires normally on the flight deck stripped enters unwelcome into your brain.

Arrested Landing

A C-2A Greyhound makes an arrested landing. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Rosa A. Arzola/Released)

When you take an arrested landing, one of two things happen: you stop fairly quickly or the LSOs call out “Bolter, bolter bolter” almost immediately. Not today. WHUMP, you are on deck, one potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, and at last, there’s that blessed deceleration. In a couple of hours, the LSO will explain that your hook skipped over the second wire but snagged number four, hence the three eternities on the landing rollout.

But right now none of that matters. You taxi the bird out of the landing area, fold the wings, and shut her down for the ride across the Atlantic. The aircraft commander turns to you and shakes your hand.

“Nice trap. Welcome to cruise.”

The ship is pointed conspicuously eastward…

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4 thoughts on “Guest Post: Welcome to Cruise

  1. The COD life is SO different from anyone, this is a great way to see how life is! And the C/2 is ALMOST as gorgeous as the E/2. Almost. 😉 But I’m a little partial. 😀

    • Glad you liked it! COD guys really do exist in their own neither-fish-nor-fowl little world, don’t they? Even within the same carrier air wing, it’s crazy how different Sampson’s experience is from that of a guy living on the Boat.

      P.S. I included the Hawkeye picture (with the LSOs) just for you. 😉

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