Bloggers On the USS Nimitz

ussnimitzI was recently invited to participate in a Blogger Embark to visit and spend the night on the USS Nimitz off the California coast along with a dozen or so other bloggers at the end of May. When I got the invite, I just about fell out of my seat — my first thought was COOL.

But very quickly, my second thought was whether it made sense for me to go. As you can imagine, the military isn’t something I write about, and clearly, the Navy PR team is hoping to get some good coverage out of it. Moreover, I’m personally ambivalent about military action, but at the same time grateful and indebted to the people who put on a uniform in the service of our country.

Guy Kawasaki is the lead blogger behind this adventure, having visited the USS Stennis last October — you can visit his blog post that includes many, many photos of the ship, but more importantly, the people. It was his post that convinced me to accept the invitation, because there is a story to tell — in fact, multiple stories to tell.

So I’ll be flying from San Diego and landing on an aircraft carrier at sea. I have several topics I’ll be exploring on the trip, which I’ve detailed below. But I’d also like to hear from you — if you could go on an aircraft carrier (!) what would you like to see, what would you like to learn? I’ll do my best to report back what I find.

People’s stories: Being at sea is a unique experience — how do the women and men of the Nimitz approach and deal with it? How do they stay connected with family and friends at home? I’m following a few Twitterers on the Nimitz and hope to connect with them once onboard. Like Guy, I will post as many photos, videos, and interviews as I can so that folks back home can catch a glimpse of their loved ones on board.

Organizational structure and operations: How is a “tight ship” really run? There is an excellent article on how to manage people in the chaotic, restrictive environment of a carrier — and there’s a lot for businesses to learn from this. And note this — every 40 months, there is an almost 100% turnover of the carrier crew. Talk about managing in a stressful environment!

Blogger outreach: How is the US military reaching out to bloggers? What are the goals, expectations, and measurements they will use to gauge success? What do the bloggers think of the Navy’s outreach efforts?

The ship: And of course, I’m going to really enjoy just being the ship and at sea. To prepare, I’ll be watching all 10 episodes of the PBS series “Carrier” to better understand operations and life aboard the Nimitz.

I consider myself very lucky to be going on this trip, and want to bring back and share as much information as I can. So please, let me know how you think I can/should maximize this opportunity.


  1. I’m so glad to see you took this opportunity to go on this trip. I’ve been following your blog for the past year after reading Groudswell. My boyfriend is currently deployed on the USS Stennis. He’s a FA-18 pilot. Our worlds are so different. My day is immersed in SEO, writing copy, and planning my next blog post. He spends his day doing what I like to refer to as “playing war”.
    I read Guy’s blog a few months ago when my boyfriend first deployed. I loved the perspective Guy provided. For the first time I actually got a glimpse of what it is like for someone “like me” to step into that world. I’ve seen all the documentaries about “life on the carrier”, but for some reason I could relate to Guy’s post much more than anything else I’ve ever seen.
    What I’d love to hear about is similar to what Guy provided me with. A marketer’s perspective about life onboard the Carrier. Communication onboard this ship is also something that fascinates me. There are over 5,000 sailors living on that ship for months at a time. How are they communicating with their loved ones? Are any of them keeping blogs as a way to let family and friends know what they’re up to? Does the Navy even allow the sailors to keep a blog – both for a security standpoint and technical (i.e. access to the internet to post the blog). How about those in the command of the vessel? Have they considered using blogs and social media to provide an insight to life at sea. The families of the sailors would love it and it has the potential to be an awesome recruiting tool.
    I hope you enjoy your trip. One bit of advice is pay attention to where you go on the ship and find “breadcrumbs” along the way. To an outsider everything looks the same and it is SO easy to get lost (I learned the hard way).

  2. Hey Charlene. As an expert in social media, I would think you might delve into the rules and parameters governing service personnel blogging about their experiences while deployed. It will be, no doubt, a controversial but important topic. Your opinions might impact policy.

  3. Charlene, as a former Navy Reserve Officer, I can tell you that this will be a fascinating trip for you. You’re lucky to be experiencing this once in your lifetime. From aircraft landing (night landing is even more fascinating) to the life on the aircraft carrier, everything will end up being one of your most extraordinary experiences. An aircraft carrier is like a town at sea with everything that you can expect in a real town, from the post office, to the hospital, dentist, internal TV channels, advanced communications and connections, food for thousands of people, machinery for the catapults, the most advanced technologies, etc. Don’t think you will ever forget it. Enjoy!

  4. charlene,
    it would be interesting to hear how crew members who have opinions that differ from military doctrine or protocol filter their blog / twitter personas. openness is anathema to military culture…it started with civil war reporting that shocked non-combatants. today, abu ghraib shows how damaging unfettered access to open communication can become. you’ll meet a lot of credible people with integrity but who may not always fall in line, so it would be great to pull the lid off and see how enlisted people rationalize staying silent with so many easy tools that let them vent. ay ay, captain! stay safe, have fun!

  5. Hi Charlene!
    I am excited that I will be joining you on the ship!
    And I cracked up at your post, since I had the exact same reaction when Guy invited me. I am excited to go to get first-hand stories from people who are serving in the military, since I really appreciate their personal sacrifices.
    I look forward to meeting you soon!
    All the best,

  6. Hi Charlene,
    Just don’t unfurl a Mission Accomplished banner. ;-) Seriously though, one of the most compelling stories I’ve heard during this long war was the This American Life visit to the Stennis in 2002– . Ask the men and women you meet why they joined up. The answers are much more varied than politicians like to project. Good luck, Dave

  7. Can’t wait to see you there. And I’m terrified of flying and water, so this is going to be awesome. Or terrible. Definitely one of those.

  8. Awesome! I wish I was going with you. Enjoy the trip and bring back lots of photos and insights for the rest of us!
    I’d also be interested in knowing how the people on the ship use social media, both when they are on the ship (if possible) and at home.

  9. Hi Charlene,
    I met you at the Invent Your Future Conference. My question is: how do the military men and women connect privately with their own families using social networking? I have some ideas for this and would love to share them with you. All the best, Lois

  10. I think it’s very cool you’re going; good for you! I watched most the of PBS “Carrier” series and it was fascinating. I would like to know how the crewmembers keep their spirits up during long deployments, how they let off steam, keep in touch with loved ones, and manage not to wring each others’ necks living in such close proximity. Also, where has been their favorite port and have they been able to see anything of local culture when they’re in port, not just bars and tourist traps etc. Also, how do they readjust to life back home?

  11. I’m glad you decided to go. It’s a rare chance to see a unique culture from the inside. For years to come you will recall this trip every time you smell jet fuel.
    Guy’s photos do a good job of showing what it’s like, although you may be surprised by how noisy it is, especially when you are trying to sleep. Pay close attention when they brief you on the numbering system for the decks, levels, and frames. If you remember how that works you won’t get lost in what is like a small city.
    I’m sure you’ll be shown all the usual VIP sights such as the bridge, CDC, and flights ops from the vultures row. If you can, go see where the enlisted people live and work. The separation of officers and enlisted is one of the most surprising things about the military and carriers are no exception. The crew on a nuclear ship are the elite of the navy, but you will still be impressed with their intelligence and commitment. They seem to have plan for everything and drill constantly, so one thing to notice is how they handle unexpected and unusual situations, like having a bunch of civilians aboard.
    If you can, go down to the fantail (where they test the jet engines) and watch as the planes come in right above your head. It’s especially impressive at night.
    I look forward to reading about your adventure.

  12. As unique an opportunity this will be for you and the other bloggers, you have to consider that your presence will, in my opinion, indicate support for the Navy’s use of white
    phosphorus and the Navy Warfare Testing Program which will, and I’m quoting the Navy press release,
    “…utilize mid- and high frequency active sonar sources and explosive detonations. These sonar and explosive sources will be utilized during Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW) Tracking Exercises, Mine Avoidance Training, Extended Echo Ranging and Improved Extended Echo Ranging (EER/IEER) events, Missile Exercises, Gunnery Exercises, Bombing Exercises, Sinking Exercises, and Mine Warfare Training…”
    The impact on marine mammals is potentially deadly, whales and dolphins beaching themselves to get away from the sound, their medium of communication.
    I am not anti military, but please consider what your presence on board the Nimitz ultimately represents.

  13. You Sir/Madam are an ass for using this event as a means of furthering your political agenda.
    Your post is a clear example of the old maxim: “Ignore everything stated before the but..”. As in your “I am not anti military, but…”
    Not Respectfully,