To Our Readers

By John Flanagan

Saturday, July 3, 1999

Your tax dollars at sea

THE Navy flew several groups of business people, politicians, journalists and other opinion leaders out to the aircraft carrier Constellation last weekend. The sailors and aviators put on a powerful display of air and sea might while the brass did their very best to sell the idea that a strong Navy is good for Hawaii, America and the world.

The huge ship with its crew of more than 5,000 and an attending task force maneuvered in the blue water about 150 miles south of Pearl Harbor. Turning into the wind, she catapulted her fighters -- F-14s and F-18s -- into the air or recovered them. Planes roared into the arresting gear, throttles wide open in case the hook missed the wire.

Meanwhile, the combat command center tracked incoming "bogeys" and "Kilos" in a war-game exercise and the deck crew performed an intricate dance, keeping 50 or more airplanes moving in perfect synchronization.

At least a half-dozen times our guides called attention to the average age of all those hard-working, experts out on the deck in their goggles, helmets, ear muffs, life vests and color-coded jerseys. Depending on who told you, it was 20, 21 or 22.

Suffice it to say they were young and mostly men, although the numbers of women are growing, especially on the newer ships.

Constellation is beginning her last cruise. Launched in the early 1960s, she's headed to the Persian Gulf, with a detour through Korean waters. If things go as planned, she'll bring the crew home before Christmas and face decommissioning. A new carrier will take her place projecting the will of the United States of America on the global stage for the next 30 years or more.

Impressions? Today's Navy is not a spit-and-polish showpiece. It is no-frills, professional and burns an awful lot of bunker oil and JP-4 jet fuel.

It's active, competent, committed. We taxpayers were left with the impression that we definitely get our money's worth -- but it's a lot of money.

John Flanagan is editor and publisher of the Star-Bulletin.
To reach him call 525-8612, fax to 523-8509, send
e-mail to or write to
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.

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