Calif. Unit Makes Aerospace Education Visit to Shipboard Museum
2nd Lt. Douglas C. Stahl
Assistant Public Affairs Officer
Brackett Composite Squadron 64
Cadets in the California Wing’s Brackett Composite Squadron 64 headed to the water this month for an aerospace education venture.
Accompanied by senior members, the cadets visited the USS Midway Museum on June 16. The Midway was commissioned in 1945 as the first in a class of large aircraft carriers that included an armored flight deck and 120 planes. It played key roles in the Cold War, Vietnam and Desert Storm before being decommissioned in 1992.
It remained in storage until 2003, when it was donated to the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum organization, and it opened as the USS Midway Museum the following year.
“It's an airport and a small city on water,” said Lt. Col. Ken Hartwell, the Brackett squadron’s commander. “It has most of the same requirements as an Air Force base, but it all has to be mobile. It's extremely efficient for its size and the time it was built."
Added the squadron’s cadet commander, Cadet 1st Lt. Ethan Stahl, “It's amazing how they can manage so many planes in such a small space.”
The museum offered the visitors numerous insights into the management and operation of aircraft at sea.
“We saw these lights that change colors to show if pilots are coming in at the right angle and altitude for landing,” said Cadet Airman Matthew Parada.
“We also learned that they don't land planes on an aircraft carrier. They trap them with hooks and cables, so they stop within the available space.” Stahl added. “A big, heavy plane and a small, light plane both have the same distance to stop, so they always need to make sure the right hooks and cables with the right tension are in place.”
“For every aircraft, in addition to the pilot, there are many other positions required to take off and land safely” said Capt. Noah Saeedy, the Brackett unit’s deputy commander for cadets. “Watching cadets gain an appreciation for this is very fulfilling for me.”
All but one of the Brackett contingent had visited the Midway Museum previously, but this trip was special or several reasons. After Saeedy contacted him, Lt. Col. Paul Ward, deputy chief of the CAP Chaplain Corps as well as a docent at the museum, met the squadron members on the Midway and accompanied them on the tour.
“Chaplain Ward escorted us through the whole ship,” Hartwell said. “He showed us all kinds of stuff we didn't know about. It added a special touch.”
“He knew stories about exhibits I've already seen, that I'd never heard before,” Stahl said.
“They've also opened up new exhibits. I was very impressed with the command and control center, and tours of below-deck spaces have really improved,” Hartwell said. “We ran out of time before we ran out of ship to see.”
Saeedy added, “I've been on this tour many times, but I got to see the helm today and take the wheel for the first time. It was quite nice.”
For Cadet Staff Sgt. Evan Arnall, “the most interesting thing I learned was that the USS Midway had its own machine shop, so they could manufacture anything they needed on the ship.”
Stahl echoed him: “The machine shop with the industrial-sized lathes and drill presses is my new favorite exhibit.”
“What I found most interesting was the places where soldiers could go when they were off-duty to have fun,” Parada said. “There are even places large enough to play baseball games! They also showed us where they go to control and defend the ship when it's under attack.”
In Cadet Airman Basic Brandon Tint’s judgment, “the most interesting thing I saw was in the admiral's meeting room. There are two reel-to-reel projectors, side by side, so they could switch presentations between them without waiting.”
Saeedy summarized the trip’s significance by commenting, “We're providing our cadets with an experience that many of them wouldn't drive to San Diego and do on their own. They also get to see another aspect of aviation they wouldn't get to see anywhere else.”
Hartwell concluded, “You can read all about this in books, and many of our cadets do that, but they've never touched it. They don't know how the pieces fit together.
“Physically experiencing these things is what makes Civil Air Patrol special. Rather than just reading books or watching movies, they get a chance to interact with it and build life experiences that provide perspectives about the world around them.
“It adds to their ability to grow as leaders, because leadership is all about comparisons and decision-making based upon knowledge,” he said. “The more they know and the more they can compare, the better decisions they'll make, and the more they'll stand out from their peers.”