Comm alum arranges
VIP carrier visit for Elon


The landing was a rush and the take-off was heart-pounding. Above all, it was the experience of a lifetime in late March when eight Elon faculty and staff members spent 24 hours aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier staffed by more than 5,000 sailors and aviators.

The ship was going through training operations about 120 miles off the coast of Florida. The Elon group, which included Paul Parsons, dean of the School of Communications, was hosted on the adventure by Lt. Mark C. Jones, a 1996 Elon alumnus who is assistant public affairs officer for the Naval Air Force Atlantic Fleet. Among his many duties, Jones coordinates VIP tours of aircraft carriers, so he was in a position to issue an invitation to a group from his alma mater.

The group flew to the Roosevelt from Norfolk, Va., aboard a C-2A Greyhound, a twin-engine cargo plane designed to land on aircraft carriers. The group enjoyed the experience of an arrested landing on the ship's deck, which brought the plane from 120 mph to zero in two seconds. The group unbuckled from their harnesses, took off their "cranials" (protective helmets) and went immediately to the captain's quarters to meet with Executive Officer Bruce Lindsey, a native of Reidsville, N.C.

The VIP session included a comprehensive tour of the ship's facilities, dinner with officers, opportunities to talk with individual sailors, an overnight stay in cramped living quarters and an exhilarating time on the four-acre flight deck. Following a safety briefing, the members of the group donned ear protection and life vests and were allowed to stand within a few feet of the jets as they taxied to position and were catapulted off the deck. The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is considered one of the most dangerous work environments, with extremely high noise levels and the constant threat of being blown overboard by exhaust from the jet engines.

The Elon group later experienced its own catapult launch for the flight back to Norfolk. Looking back on the trip, Parsons drew lessons from observing the young sailors working on the Roosevelt.

"In some ways, I'll never look at a 19-year-old with the same eyes," Parsons said. "In the rarified air of Elon, I think of 19-year-olds as sometimes struggling to develop independent work habits and good reasoning skills ... yet on board the Roosevelt, I saw 19-year-olds landing jet fighters with precision and teamwork. They are capable. The lesson I learned is that we can set higher standards and expect more from our students, and it is within their capacity to impress us."

Other Elon participants included Daniel Anderson, assistant vice president and director of university relations; Steven House, dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences; Smith Jackson, vice president for student life; Nancy Midgette, associate provost; George Troxler, dean of cultural and special programs; Kyle Wills, associate athletics director for business and operations; and Mary Wise, assistant vice president for academic affairs.



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Last Modified:  5/12/05
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