With apologies to my current law partners and all of my previous employers as well, the highlight of my career so far has been my service as General Counsel of the Army. While the work was interesting and challenging, the best part of the job was getting to know the Army as an institution, and even more importantly, meeting hundreds of soldiers. And as part of the unofficial "share our toys" program of my fellow service general counsels, I was able to meet members of other services, including a two day visit to the U.S.S. George Washington, an aircraft carrier.
I have therefore been watching with great interest the PBS series Carrier. And I highly recommend that you start watching the program. The show is a person-focused exploration of life on an aircraft carrier. Unlike the military shows on other channels, this show does not focus on the gee-whiz technology of the carrier, but instead on the daily life of the sailors on board the carrier. And, perhaps most importantly, the show focuses on the enlisted sailors, and makes clear that the heart and soul of any military operation are the noncommissioned officers.
That being said, I do have one serious concern with the show. You would think from watching the show that the enlisted ranks were made up of kids from broken homes who would be drug dealers or pregnant single mothers if they had not joined the Navy. And you would think that discipline problems were rampant in the enlisted ranks. Neither paints the enlisted ranks fairly. While these make compelling stories on film, they do not reflect reality. Discipline problems are fair fewer now than in the Vietnam and even post-Vietnam era, and the quality of recruits in the military is also far higher.
What Carrier does make clear is this: the Navy does remarkable things with a ship using a large group of teenagers lead by leaders and mentors who are only a few years older. (The average age on the flight deck is less than 20). That is a testament not only to the U.S. Navy but the capabilities of these young men and women.
You can view full episodes here. It is part of a pretty robust website on the Carrier series, which can be found here.