And of course, there were plenty of examples of what happens when one person made a mistake. We had our fire. The Oriskany, the Enterprise, and the Forrestal had theirs. When fires happen on a carrier, the crew stops being BMs, YNs, AIMD techs, Skivvy Wavers, and Bilge Rats, and we all became fire fighters. These examples just show how much we all depended on each other to get our piece of the business taken care of, and to get it taken care of just right.
And none of us were perfect. Shoot, even I made a mistake once. (At any rate, it’s the only one I’m going to confess.) We were near the end of a three-day battle problem contending with air, surface, and sub-surface threats. We had launched four alert F-18s to take care of a surface threat that was getting close to missile range on us. We had another launch coming up with twenty planes scheduled to go. I talked to combat, and we didn’t know if the alert F-18s had taken care of the surface threat or not. We still had two F-18 spares we could launch to deal with it, so I told the Air Boss to launch the two spares, which would have made a total of six F-18s on that go. Planes started toward the cats, and Tactical Coordinator in CIC called and told me those previously launched alerts had killed the threat. “Great,” I said. “We’ll save those last two alert F-18s for popup surface or air threats.”
Then I called the Air Boss. “Launch only four F-18s this go.”
I hung up the phone with him and called the TACCO again to check on the sub and air threat situations. It sounded like we had everything under control as best we could at the moment.
Then I looked out the window.
Holy crap! Seventeen seconds prior, there was an orderly lineup of planes heading for the bow cats. Now, planes were turning around and pointing aft but couldn’t go anywhere because the deck was clobbered. I grabbed the phone.
“Air Boss. What the hell are you doing?”
“Just what you said, Skipper. Launching only four F-18s this go.”
Oops! Up to that point we were winning our battle problem, but I’d just made a mistake akin to the one the Japanese made at Midway. I told the Air Boss what I really meant. We had to launch those twenty originally scheduled planes. Seven seconds later, the flight deck really looked like a Mongolian Goat Rope. It took about seven minutes for the flight deck crew to get it straight. And we wound up winning the war after all.
Lesson being if you are in charge of anything, or a parent, be very careful of what you say and how you say it. Every once in a while, somebody pays attention to you. More importantly though, is that if one of us screwed up, everybody pitched in and got us straight again.
But I have always been grateful there wasn’t a speaker on the bridge that broadcast the transmissions of the flight deck crew. The flight deck chief that day just might have said a naughty word or two. About me. What I should have done was take myself to Captain’s Mast.