Last time I talked about how I got a chance to ride the amphibious assault ship USS America from San Diego to San Pedro as part of LA Fleet Week 2016. I decided to split the post, due to length. (I took a lot of pictures.) When I left off, I had just gotten kicked off the flight deck, as they were about to start bringing planes aboard.
In the hangar deck, the ship's security detachment was showing off some of their guns. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures, but I did get to handle one of their shotguns, an M9, an M14 and an M16. They all felt pretty much like I expected, and I remembered the M16 manual well enough to run the controls. One of the more interesting observations was that the guy I was with and I clearly had gun safety training, while the contingent of potential recruits we were next to clearly did not. It was enough to make one a bit nervous. I was also disappointed that I didn't get to handle the M240 machine gun they had out.
A little bit later, we watched from the hangar as a contingent of airplanes were flown aboard to be displayed during Fleet Week.
After that, it was off to lunch. We first went back to the wardroom, but they were having a briefing, so we got sent down to the crew's mess, where I finally caught up to my group. I ended up getting told to cut in line, which the crew was very gracious about. Actually, America's crew were fantastic all day, if a bit disorganized at handling visitors, and I'm thankful to them for putting up with us.
We saw a fair bit of the inside of the ship throughout the day, although I didn't get any pictures of it. It was a lot like Iowa, although the corridors were slightly wider. I was one of the few people who could keep up with the crew, because almost everyone else was either older or unused to moving inside warships.
We also got shown the Combat Information Center (CIC). I obviously wasn't allowed to take pictures, but it was very cool seeing the nerve center of the ship, the space from which all operations are coordinated.
Once all of the aircraft were secured, we were let out on deck, and got to look them over. It was really cool, particularly as the crew-to-visitor ratio was a lot higher than at a typical airshow.
The Marine pilot (on the right) was so passionate about his airplane, I expect there are people who are planning to fly the V-22 today because of him. While military personnel either love or hate their equipment, he went above and beyond in praising it. He'd come from the AV-8B, and told me that it was his first airplane without an ejection seat, but that he felt safer in the V-22 than he did in anything he'd flown before, even with 20 guys in the back.
After a while on deck, we headed up into the island, to take a look around up there. We got to see the Primary Flight Control (PriFly), the main control center for air operations on deck.
After that, I roamed the island, until I got to the flying bridge, where I spent the next two hours as we approached San Pedro.
The trip into San Pedro was almost as amazing as the trip out of San Diego. Being on the flying bridge of a ship with the crew manning the rails, under the California sun... It was unreal, if a bit hot. There was a medic walking the deck, whose presence was clearly needed. One of the female Marines around the Sea Sparrow launcher collapsed and had to be taken below.
The gangplank was brought on the elevator from San Diego with us, and it took a full hour after we tied up for them to get it into place, and for us to get off the ship. By that point, I was hot and tired, and realized that it would have been faster to send us ashore via helicopter.
I finally got home around 1915, exhausted but exhilarated. I didn't learn that much, but it was cool to get to see it all for real. I returned to San Pedro a few days later, on the Saturday of Fleet Week, and got to tour the Meyer.
1 As before, all pictures mine unless mentioned otherwise. ⇑
2 For obvious reasons, most military airplanes have low-visibility paint schemes. Each squadron traditionally has one airplane painted in a much prettier, and more visible, paint scheme. ⇑
3 The payment system broke down, stranding us all for 15 minutes or so. It was seriously irritating, but they finally let us go without paying, which kind of made up for it. ⇑