On the train back fromÂ Washington last week, I was riveted to my iPod watching one of the best hours of television I’ve seen in a long time –Â the firstÂ segment of “Carrier,” PBS’ 10-part documentary, which followsÂ a six-month deployment of the USS Nimitz toÂ the Persian Gulf.
The episode is wonderful –Â informative, funny, inspiring, frank, andÂ beautifully shot. There are many interestingÂ moments throughout the show (as a father of two young daughters, I was particularlyÂ takenÂ by theÂ stories of the women serving in so many capacities onÂ the ship). ButÂ for the purposes of the blog, I want to highlight one theme that comes through right from the startÂ that I think is very much applicable toÂ citizen preparedness back here at home.
The first episode opens withÂ a stirringÂ three-and-a-half minuteÂ video overtureÂ accompanied byÂ a song from one of my favorites, The Killers, calledÂ ”All The Things That I’veÂ Done”. (You can view the segment at pbs.org/weta/carrier/full_episodes.htm). Towards the end of the opening montage,Â a senior fighter pilot tells the interviewer aboutÂ the ship’sÂ prevailing team-oriented, managementÂ philosophy:
“All the departments are vital to makeÂ a jet fly off a carrier to put a piece of precision ordinance onto a target…without one department, without religious ministries, without the legal department, without the reactor department, without supply department, without hot water cold water and steam for the catapults none of it works.”
During the show, thatÂ ethicÂ comes through repeatedlyÂ from the top levels of the ship, and itÂ filters down throughout the Nimitz — thatÂ an aircraft carrierÂ is only as strong as its weakest link and the enterprise will be strongest when everyone is doing their job all down the line. Further,Â and maybe even more importantly that objective can be compromised by anyone at any level. We need to bring that same approach in communicating with the public about our homeland security
The deck of the Nimitz from Carrier
I have had the opportunity to interview many political leaders, homeland security and emergency management officials, as well asÂ first responders. AndÂ almost all of them tell me how important the public is toÂ preparing, preventing and then responding to emergencies.
If they really believe it (and I think they do) thenÂ the first step is for themÂ to more activelyÂ tell us how and why we are important.Â In fact, I would argue that should be a priorityÂ of the next President to tell us exactly thatÂ – both encouraging and challenging usÂ to take on that responsibility.Â Understandably, people aren’t going to take on responsibility if you don’t tell them why and how they should.
Obviously,Â a kitchen dishwasherÂ is notÂ as vital asÂ aÂ NavyÂ top-gun airman to the ultimate objectives of the carrier.Â Nor is the average citizenÂ as crucial as a first responder to preparing and responding toÂ emergencies.Â However, as we see over and over, most recently during the recent floods, the public is a key element in dealing with disasters. And we alsoÂ have the ability toÂ hamper that process as well.Â It may well be partiallyÂ propaganda but you get a clear sense in Carrier thatÂ even the lowest ranking person on the Nimitz still feels part of a team.
Obviously, we have military — and uniformed responders –Â that areÂ on the so-called point of the spear. ButÂ the rest of us have a role too and right now our talents, energy and spirits are not being tapped fully. OurÂ leaders need to tell usÂ how and why we are important in order to fosterÂ the same team mentality at home that, at least accordingÂ to Carrier, the leaders of the Nimitz have successfully done on the water.Â