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,
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
back on the trip, Parsons drew lessons from observing the young
sailors working on the Roosevelt.
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
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.