Instead of spending time gaming or engaged in any type of creative endeavor, last night I let my wife talk me into vegging out in front of the TV to watch “Your Tax Dollars at Work” on the National Geographic channel.
Well, it wasn’t really called “Your Tax Dollars at Work”, but the serial of three, hour-long shows were all concerned about some serious (and expensive) hardware-geekiness on the part of our government. First, “Air Force One” examined the adventures (and equipment) of the Air Force’s Presidential Airlift Group – the folks who jet the President around. This was followed by “Marine One”, a similarly-styled program concerned with the Marine Corps’ HMX-1 – the helicopter squadron that operates the small fleet of Presidential choppers.
The final program for the evening was a look at the operations of USS Ronald Reagan, one of the Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. Even though I’m pretty familiar with the big, sea-going airfields I couldn’t quite manage to tear myself away from that one, either.
What about the Army? No love for the grunts last night. Maybe if they had some cool gear like an aircraft carrier they would rate a spot on NatGeo’s “Tax Dollars” night. As it stands, I guess digital camo, helicopter gunships and tanks just don’t cut it. Not expensive enough, I guess.
I can summarize the first two shows pretty quickly. We spend a lot of money to have the Air Force and Marine Corps folks lug the President around. It ain’t no taxi service. Every movement is a carefully choreographed military operation. Of course, as they pointed out a number of times it is indeed a “zero failure” undertaking. So it’s tough to argue that any of it is overkill.
When I watch these mil-geek programs, I always learn stuff. For instance, here’s something I never realized: The snappy-looking marine in his dress blues who is always parked by the hatch of Marine One isn’t just there for eye-candy, and he’s not some sort of uber-Marine bodyguard. He’s the helicopter’s crew chief. The Marines are an efficient bunch, as the helicopter flies with just the usual three-man flight crew: pilot, co-pilot and crew chief. Dude. I have known one or two crew chiefs over the years, and they always struck me as busy enough with their ‘regular’ job. The crew chief of Marine One definitely has some busy days.
The program about USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) was a big flashback for me. Back in my distant and misspent youth I had the opportunity to bang my shins on the bulkhead doors aboard both USS Forrestal (CV-59) and USS Saratoga (CV-60). The Navy’s carrier airgroups no longer fly some of the aircraft types that I saw 20 years ago, but otherwise it looks like very little has changed about flight deck operations.
Three of the snappies I took aboard USS Saratoga appear in this post. Of the three, the F/A-18 is still flying – although I understand contemporary models are a bit of a step up. The EA-3D Skywarrior wasn’t part of the airgroup, rather it was an aircraft from a land-based reserve squadron that was flying carrier qualifications. The A-6 was still in the combat inventory, although not for much longer.
Gawd. I am SUCH a geek.