The CO’s in-port cabin was on the 03 level, just across the passageway from Admiral Miller’s quarters. Miller was a battle group commander, and Marianas served as his flagship. He wouldn’t be aboard that week. The ship was providing carrier landing services to A-7 and F-14 training squadrons. The next time the ship went to sea, other ships of the group would sail with the carrier. Miller would be aboard then, commanding his battle group.
Pete didn’t enter his cabin. What he wanted, or maybe needed, to do was to visit with the previous commanding officers of the Marianas. Their framed photos hung in a row tacked to the bulkhead in the passageway outside the door to his room. All nineteen men were still alive, but Pete thought each of them had left a wisp of soul behind when they turned over command. When he looked at the photos, and no one else was around, he felt their spiritual presence. He felt something else that morning. The past COs expected him to take damn good care of their aircraft carrier.
He walked out to the bridge.
Good, no one here, he thought.
Soon the pilothouse would fill up with phone talkers, bearing shooters, lookouts, officer of the deck, position plotters, radar operator, bosun, helmsman, and others, two dozen, maybe. When the ship got under way later in the morning, all of them would be doing familiar jobs. Pete would be doing his for the first time. He’d assumed command a month before, but this would be the first time he’d take his aircraft carrier to sea. Pete was so hyped and full of energy he thought he might be able to hover.
Aircraft carrier COs weren’t supposed to be excitable, though. Instead of sweating, they exuded cool through their pores.
Be cool, Pete.
He crossed the pilothouse to the forward port corner to his chair. Enough light came through the bridge windows to read the white letters sewn into the blue Naugahyde chair cover.
Capt. Pete Adler
Son of a gun! Little Petey Adler, you’ve come a long way, baby!
To the west it was still black, above blue, and to the east red and orange.
Pete clasped his hands behind him and regarded the San Diego–Coronado Bridge towering over the bay. Its tall center pylons rose out of the black water like arms offering the bridge roadbed up to heaven.
An aircraft carrier CO!
He thought he, too, should offer up something to God for all the blessings that had come his way, and for him to be there, in his pilothouse, watching July 5, 1988, dawn over San Diego harbor.