Prior to the airing of CARRIER, Rear Admiral Peter H. Daly took time to answer the following questions exclusively for the CARRIER website.
Q: What is it like to command the Nimitz Strike Group?
A: Nothing else in my naval career compares to the challenge, opportunity and sheer joy of being in command at sea. The work we do overseas is critical to our Nation’s security and an important force in the security and stability of the world as a whole. The people who do this work man the ships and fly the planes are typical Americans; they come from every part of our country and every walk of life. In the Navy and Marine Corps, they are given a sense of purpose tied to the reality of our work. They see that what they do is important. They are well-trained and highly motivated. So, doing such important work and leading these amazing people makes commanding a carrier strike group simply one of the best possible jobs on this planet!
Any success a naval leader may enjoy is underpinned by the hard work and support of all the people who work in the chain of command. Each day, our Sailors and Marines perform magnificently throughout the world out to the far corners of the earth. Although the series focuses on the carrier, the Strike Group composition includes all the commands listed below, each in turn led by capable officers who ensure the Strike Group works together as a team that is more than the sum of its parts.
Though I had overall responsibility for the entire Nimitz Strike Group, I was actually just one of more than 15 officers who served in a position of command during this deployment. The other elements of the strike group included:USS Nimitz Flagship and Information Warfare Commander
Carrier Air Wing Eleven Air warfare and Strike Warfare Commander
VFA 41 Fighter/Attack Squadron
VFA 14 Fighter/Attack Squadron
VMFA 232 Fighter/Attack Squadron ** USMC
VFA 94 Fighter/Attack Squadron
VAQ: 117 Airborne Early Warning Squadron
HS-6 Anti-Submarine Helicopter Squadron
VAQ: 135 Electron Attack Squadron
VRC 30 (det) Carrier Onboard Delivery
USS PRINCETON Cruiser and Anti-Air Warfare Cdr + helo HSL 41 (det)
Destroyer Squadron 31 Surface and Sub-Surface Warfare Commander
USS CHAFEE Aegis Guided Missile Destroyer + helo HSL 37 (det)
USS HIGGINS Aegis Guided Missile Destroyer
USNS BRIDGE Logistics Sustainment + helo HSC 21 (det)
Submarines We had various submarines assigned throughout
Q: Describe the mission for the ’05 deployment of the USS Nimitz?
A: Though a deployment is always anything but routine, the Nimitz’s 2005 deployment was in fact fairly typical of what the Navy does every day. Our overseas deployed naval forces are critical elements of U.S. national security and economic well being. Just like the Nimitz, these naval forces are forward deployed 365 days a year, concentrated in key areas such as the Arabian Gulf and western Pacific, but also moving through and operating in all the world’s regions. They provide a visible, credible, and consistent symbol of America’s commitment to global security and the free flow of commerce. With this “persistent presence,” they operate in peacetime maintaining regional stability, reassuring allies, and deterring potential adversaries. The long-term, steady state engagement of our naval forces around the world is a powerful tool for peace and a ready force for war.
The fact is, you never know when you leave port what your mission might be. A good example is when the Nimitz left Hong Kong and was called upon to stay in the Western Pacific instead of proceeding to the Arabian Gulf more directly. Naval forces provide a ready, highly responsive, militarily credible and relevant capability to achieve national policy that is forward and on scene. We can respond to regional political-military crisis swiftly, bring deterrent power to bear, signal U.S. resolve and commitment, and reduce tensions and restore stability. That’s because we provide immediately employable warfighting capability that gives the President unconstrained options operating from sovereign U.S. territory on the high seas, not only in hostilities, but in humanitarian crises that require our nation to deliver timely and effective aid. But even when there isn’t a crisis, our mere presence helps to build a regional environment conducive to U.S. interests by demonstrating our commitment to peace, reassuring global commercial interests, building partner capacity, and dissuading would be opponents.
Q: What were the biggest challenges for that deployment?
A: Maintaining combat readiness is our top challenge. Even as we conduct missions that engage with our friends and allies or that support worldwide humanitarian efforts, we have to be proficient in all the major warfare areas in which we may be called upon to fight. Our people must hone their skills and the weapons systems they employ need to be fully ready. Second, the environment we operate in at sea is extremely unforgiving, and we need to be able to conduct operations safely. Third, we need to develop our people so they advance personally and professionally even while conducting deployed operations. These were our biggest challenges.
Q: What were your most memorable moments for that cruise?
A: It was memorable for me to meet with Iraqi counterparts, both in Iraq and on the Nimitz. After previous deployments to the Arabian Gulf, it was a new experience for me to work with the Iraqis. These are a proud and good people striving to pull their nation up after decades of living under a brutal regime. They are committed to their country and their people, and I honor their courage. Supporting these people is important, but it is also hard. Operating in the Arabian Gulf is physically and emotionally demanding. But by far the most memorable times were those standing on the bridge watching the last jet recover safely on deck after a demanding day of conducting operations over Iraq. Our pilots flew more than a thousand missions over Iraq supporting forces on the ground and they did it very well and without the loss of a single pilot or a single plane.
Q: There appeared to be several changes in itinerary during the course of the deployment. Was there a particular reason or is that typical?
A: Yes, that is typical. In this business, you never know when you leave port where you might end up. Naval forces, both Navy and Marine, are inherently responsive and flexible. Naval forward presence has become one of the most accepted and effective tools in the kit of US foreign policy. While the reason we spent more time in the Pacific in 2005 can’t be discussed here, the fact we can have an entire Carrier Strike Group turn on a dime is well understood by friends and foes alike. Other naval elements such as our amphibious Expeditionary Strike groups with embarked Marine Expeditionary Units also provide powerful options for national leadership. We are ready wherever and whenever the order comes.
Q: What were your favorite ports of call during the deployment?
A: My personal favorite port of call was Hawaii on the return trip. My wife and son came to visit and we were able to enjoy Hawaii as a family for a few days. After the separation of deployment, I was very happy to see them. My son stayed with me and sailed from Hawaii to San Diego for the Tiger Cruise. It was quite an experience for an eleven year old to sail on the carrier and see flight operations close up. It was also very rewarding for me to have my son onboard. My favorite overseas port was Perth, not so much for me as for the crew. There is a bit of history here. Nimitz had been in commission for over 30 years and had sailed the world and made many port calls. For some reason, whenever an Australian port call had been scheduled, something always came up and the ship never went there. When we departed the Arabian Gulf in late September there was significant anticipation for our next port Perth, Australia and even some people who were worried that Nimitz had an Australia “jinx.” (Sailors can be very superstitious.) Well, we did make it there and I was very happy for the crew that we broke the jinx!
Q: Can you share the decision-making process for determining the ports and why these were selected for this deployment?
A: Within each area of operations, ports are selected by the combatant commander of that area to meet his security and engagement objectives. For instance, we may be seeking a better, more productive working relationship with a given nation. The port call may be conducted in conjunction with training exercises conducted between that nation and ours both at sea or ashore. The port visit on either end of the exercise allows us to strengthen relations with local militaries, interface with the public, and, when appropriate, host government officials onboard. We also look to include ports that provide a quality port visit for the crews of our ships. You can see in CARRIER that they work hard afloat and getting a few days off in a foreign port is a good experience and a way to unwind from life on the ship. And, of course, it is always good for the U.S. to have people such as our top notch Sailors out and about in a foreign land, showing the people there our character and open, friendly, and genuine nature!
Q: What were the challenges of having a production company with four camera crews on board ship for the entire deployment?
A: My biggest concern was that the presence of the film crews would be a distraction from our mission. We conduct very dangerous and stressful tasks in an inherently unforgiving environment throughout the deployment. We worked very hard to keep focus. For the same, I was also concerned about the safety of the camera crews. Our Sailors are intensely trained for their jobs and accustomed to keeping a wary eye for danger. Someone staring through a camera lens is less so, so we had to be very careful not to get them into a hazardous situation.
Q: After watching CARRIER did you learn anything about the ’05 deployment that you didn’t know or that surprised you?
A: I was most surprised by some of the feelings several of our people shared on film. In many cases these were deeply personal. In the age of MySpace and social networking sites, there is definitely a generational difference in how young people are willing to discuss personal matters openly.
Q: What do you think the audience will find most surprising about service on board a carrier?
A: I think the audience may be surprised at how young our people are and how much responsibility they get at a young age. The average age on the Nimitz was 22. I think viewers will be struck at the racial, ethnic, gender and socio-economic diversity of our Navy. I think they may be surprised at how we can take an inherently chaotic, dangerous process like carrier flight deck operations and make it all work. It is all accomplished by our well-trained and hard-working Sailors and Marines.
Q: What do you hope the audience will come away with after watching CARRIER?
A: I hope they get to know our people as individual Americans who made a choice to serve. These young people are amazing. There has been a lot of focus, rightfully, on the WWII generation and this was highlighted in Tom Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation. To my way of thinking, the real miracle of our Nation is that each generation, in turn, steps up to serve. For over 200 years, Americans have fought and died for the freedoms we all enjoy. I hope the viewers will appreciate this group of young people who have stepped up to serve ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things.
Q: Who are your military heroes and why?
A: Chester Nimitz. He was a demanding leader who expected the best in his subordinates and always gave them as much responsibility as they could handle. Starting after the defeat at Pearl Harbor in 1941, he overcame immense challenges and won the war in the Pacific in WWII. He was a man of keen insight and vision. I also admire the fashion in which he dealt with other egos calmly and effectively, never letting his own get in the way of the mission, the Navy, and the Nation.Horatio Nelson. Bold and brilliant, he achieved phenomenal success by forging a band of brothers with his commanders. He exhibited trust, compassion and care for his people that was not in vogue in his time.
Profile of Rear Admiral Peter H. Daly
Rear Admiral Peter H. Daly, U. S. Navy, is a native of Chicago and a 1977 graduate of the College of the Holy Cross. He received his commission through the NROTC program at Holy Cross and, after initial Surface Warfare training, reported to USS Roark (FF 1053) as Gunnery Officer, Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer and Navigator.
After earning his master’s from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., he reported as Engineer Officer in USS Stump (DD 978) and later served as Executive Officer in USS Hercules (PHM 2) and then as Executive Officer in USS Yorktown (CG 48). He would command USS Russell (DDG 59) from her commissioning in May 1995 through October 1996, which included Battle Group operations and Maritime Intercept Operations, enforcing U. N. Sanctions against Iraq.
He would complete tours as Executive Assistant to the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Executive Assistant to the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, Deputy Director for Resources and Acquisition (J-8) in The Joint Staff, Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and as Commander, Carrier Strike Group 11.