This Beloved Carrier Captain Has A Great Shtick

Illustration for article titled This Beloved Carrier Captain Has A Great Shtick

We've all had terrible bosses. The worst part about them is watching their bad attitude flow down to lower ranks. It's like putting a leaky can of bleach above a bread rack, over time it all gets tainted. Capt. Thomas Parker was not one of those bosses. He clearly loved what he did, taking his forward deployed carrier to sea, and he had one hell of a gift for gab to boot.

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Why I am talking about Captain Parker, who was originally an E-2 Hawkeye guy and eventually become the CO of the aging USS Kitty Hawk during Operation Iraqi Freedom, was that a sailor contact of mine was talking about him on Facebook with other sailors who had served under him:

"This was my Skipper whom the crew loved and affectionately called "Captain Tommy P." You can see by the video that he was EXTREMELY tall (and like Paul Bunyon, gets taller with every story). The day he went home, he was rung off as The Mayor of the Fightin' Biting' Howlin' Growlin' Hissin' Spittin' Battle Kitty City. He and ADM Kelly made that place bearable."

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Illustration for article titled This Beloved Carrier Captain Has A Great Shtick

You can see Captain Parker's fast talking, colorful radio-jock like 'delivery' in this time capsule of a video clip that run on C-SPAN. In it, it shows the Captain addressing his crew on the 1MC during the slog of war and meeting one humble sailor in particular that deserved some extra-recognition.

The Navy was built on colorful, hard-charging personalities like Captain Parker. Hopefully they are not going the way of the dinosaur in the Navy's increasingly corporate-like culture. Being a Navy carrier captain is one tough job that seems to require a sense of humor, at least according to a carrier captain I talked to a few years ago. He put it best:

"You are the mayor of a floating city that runs of nuclear power and has an airport that is the most challenging to operate from in the world. Oh, and explosives are everywhere. By the way, this city is mostly ran by recent high-school graduates from all over the US, and pretty much everyone who hates America wants your city sunk. I felt like I was Santa Claus one day, a supreme court justice the next and a war general the day after that. It is a unique, rewarding and somewhat bewildering job. The stakes were so high that you had to laugh and keep everyone's spirits up."

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Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com

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DISCUSSION

prowlerflyer
FlyingDrumstick

Skipper of a carrier is one of the most unique and challenging job in the world, I don't not envy it one bit. He is; president of legal, sovereign U.S. territory, hosts dignitaries in foreign ports, is the top legal authority on the ship, and an expert in flight operations, ship handling, and nuclear propulsion.

The CO is in charge of ~3500, mostly young kids, away from home for the first time. We lock them up on the ship and work them on long hard shifts, 7 days a week. Then after 30-60 days at sea, we turn them loose in an exotic foreign port, with "loose" rules.

He has to produce adequate food, living accommodation, activities, and fresh water for said individuals. Naturally, its a job that make no one happy.

On top of that he has an additional 1800 bodies onboard that constitute the Air Wing. We constantly want to fly day and night (well less "want" at night), which handcuffs his ability to maneuver the carrier. He has to manage the normal danger of flight ops while avoiding ship traffic in congested seas. How may times I've chased final bearing due to shipping traffic, I've lost count. Of course all aviators take "Hollywood showers," which supposedly impact him from making enough fresh water.

To top it off he has to report to the Admiral, and compete with the Air Wing Command and the DESRON Commander for his fitness report, all of which are guests on his ship.

Never an easy day.