PCA Southeast Michigan Region

From the Blog

It’s Not Just the Cars, It’s the People

By John Keilly

We often hear or see this PCA tag line.  The experience of most members confirms that statement.

Whether acquired new or used, for most owners a Porsche is an “extra” car.  Consequently, smart people who have achieved a degree of success in life are found throughout PCA.

On a recent “boys trip” to VA and NC, my long time friends and I met one of the most impressive people in PCA, Captain Daniel Grieco of the US Navy.  He’s the owner of a 944 and a DE Instructor in the First Settlers Region in Eastern Virginia.  There’s no doubt that he’s a good one, because in addition to being pleasant and personable, his “day job” involves some truly world class machinery in a demanding and exacting environment that leaves almost no margin for error.

For starters, Captain Grieco is a Naval Aviator – one of those exceptional pilots who fly planes off aircraft carriers.  The process begins with getting catapulted off the ship, going from zero to flight speed in 2 seconds.  Later, the real excitement comes when it’s time to “trap” (land) back aboard a moving ship.  Add to that the inky blackness of night in mid ocean and a pitching deck and the words “training, skill, courage and determination” hardly scratch the surface of describing what’s involved.

I was introduced to Captain Grieco by my good friend, Captain Dayton “Day” Ritt, USN (ret.).  Both are graduates of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD and both are Naval Aviators. However what they have in common goes well beyond that.  As if carrier based aviation isn’t exciting and professionally demanding enough, both have served as Commanding Officer (CO) of the Nimitz Class nuclear powered aircraft carrier, USS Theodore Roosevelt!  “Day” was CO from October 1987 to June of 1990. Captain Grieco has been CO of the ship since February, 2013.

The path to becoming CO of a modern aircraft carrier begins in naval aviation and then includes a variety of other assignments, before going on to schools in nuclear power and handling of large (very large) ships.

How large is the TR?  As Captain Grieco said, “Lay the Empire State building on its side — that’s an aircraft carrier.”  From the ground to the large observatory on the 86th floor, the Empire State is 1,050 feet.  The TR is 1076 feet in length.  Think about maneuvering a ship like that the next time you feel that handling your Porsche on the track is challenging!

This carrier is like a floating “building,” towering 20 stories above the waterline.  Other “numbers” are equally staggering:   beam 134 feet; maximum width 252 feet; flight deck area 4.5 acres; four bronze propellers, each 21 feet in diameter; ships company 3,200, plus another 2,480 people when the embarked Air Wing and its 80+ planes are aboard.

Operating and maintaining such an vital US asset and all its complex, high tech machinery is an awesome responsibility. Everything has to work right, every time.  In 2010 I attended a lecture at Michigan’s Ross School of Business on High Reliability Organizations and what other businesses can learn from them. Aircraft carriers, air traffic control systems and nuclear power plants were cited as among the most demanding environments.  Because carriers involve all three it’s easy to appreciate why every job on this ship is important – and why the captain told us that his daughter ribs him about growing prematurely gray.

We also met the ship’s Executive Officer, Capt. Mark Colombo and the Public Affairs Officer, Commander Evans.  To say that such people – and their support staff – are impressive is an understatement. This ship is obviously in good, highly capable hands.  Also impressive were the energetic and enthusiastic crew members we saw throughout every step of our three and a half hour tour.

Because my friends and I were guests of the former CO, we were given an extensive tour of the ship and treated like VIPs.  As you can imagine, a US aircraft carrier is host to a wide variety of US and foreign governmental and military officials and other dignitaries during port calls.  So, the CO and his team need to have political, diplomatic and public relations skills.

I am deeply grateful to my friend Captain Dayton Ritt for arranging this amazing opportunity for us and to PCA DE Instructor and Captain Daniel Grieco and his team for their time, hospitality and service to this country.  We wish them safe and successful seafaring.

Their ship is currently in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, having just come out of dry dock, where it underwent the mid-life Refueling and Complex Overhaul.  It is the only time the ship will have to be refueled during its anticipated 50 years of life.

This unique opportunity reminded us that we owe a debt of gratitude to all the men and women of our US Military, wherever they may serve.

The accompanying photos bring to life these excerpts from the ship’s Mission Statement:

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) is a key element of our country’s forward-deployed defense strategy. . .  TR is capable of projecting air superiority to all points of the globe.

The embarked Carrier Air Wing aircraft serve as outstanding instruments of peace. Anytime and anywhere TR reports for duty, she brings 4.5 acres of sovereign U.S. territory and 97,000 tons of diplomacy.

TR’s equipment and crew are always maintained at the highest state of readiness. This enables the ship to carry out a wide variety of missions . . .

People make TR . . . a floating city of 5,500 professional Sailors from every state in the Union. It is the veteran Sailor with gold on his dress blues and the young 17-year old, away from home for the first time, who provide TR with heart and soul.

Leadership, training and professionalism blend each of these individual personalities toward one goal … being ready to exercise the power of TR in support of the “Forward Presence” mission of the U.S. Navy.

For more on this impressive ship and its crew, please see http://www.roosevelt.navy.mil/