Friday, May 22, 2009

Aboard the Aircraft Carrier USS Nimitz: Part 2.

It took me a couple days to catch my breath after spending about 30 hours aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, a floating city with a punch.


As I blogged last week, the tail hook landing was something else. One second you’re flying, and the next second you’re stopped. But the entire crew at NAS, San Diego prepared us for the experience.

(An F/A-18 Hornet prepares to grab the 3-Wire.-Photo by John W. Scherer)


As soon as we landed, flight operations continued with fighter jets landing and taking off within a few feet of us.


We were quickly ushered inside for a briefing. When you’re on an aircraft carrier there are a lot of do’s, and especially a lot of don’ts. Aircraft carriers are warships, and they are dangerous places to work regardless of what your job is on the ship. Operations continue 24 hours a day and crewmembers work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week with no days off.


Our first stop was the bridge, which is a great place to observe flight operations. The captain of the Nimitz, Michael A. Manazir, showed us around. Seeing how the crew's focus was on the bridge (and everywhere onboard) was incredible.

(John W. Scherer with Captain Michael A. Manazir)

(The discipline, organization and pride are evident.-Photo by John W. Scherer)


The world situation being what it is, we were on an official wartime footing while at sea. No room for mistakes. And they don’t make any aboard the Nimitz. Many of the crew are just kids in their late teens or early 20’s. We don’t pay them nearly enough for the sacrifices they make to keep us safe and free. Their families make huge sacrifices, too. Imagine having a loved one gone for six months at a time.


With over 1,100 feet of length, a flight deck 4.5 acres in size and a crew of some 5-thousand men and women, everything about the Nimitz impresses. The enemy never sleeps, and neither does the United States Navy. The Nimitz represents the best of the best. I was just so proud to meet the officers and enlisted crewmembers.

(Some of the folks who work the toughest job in the world: keeping us free.)

(Prepping an A-6 Intruder for flight.-Photo by John W. Scherer)


If you love peace and quiet, an aircraft carrier isn’t the place to be. It’s noisy all the time, everywhere you go. It’s not just the jets, but the powerful catapults that launch the planes, the arrester gear that stops the planes plus the noise of machinery, the crew and the sounds of a warship at sea.


As big as the ship is, space is at a premium both on the flight deck and below deck. Privacy is also at a premium. Yet, thousands of crewmembers, men and women, find a way to make it work. The key is training and discipline. After a 12-hour day, most of us would just like to hit the pillow. Not aboard the Nimitz. Crewmembers are working on getting degrees, advancing their skill sets, taking care of laundry and of course grabbing some chow. Talk about appetites!

(John W. Scherer presents the Nimitz with a complete Video Professor learning library.)


Ultimately it’s the flight operations that absolutely stun you. Planes landing and taking off just a few feet from where you’re standing takes your breath away. Another thing you never do on an aircraft carrier is let your mind wander.

(Open 24/7, the ship never sleeps.-Photo by John W. Scherer)

(The “Island”-Photo by John W. Scherer)

(The fighter behind John will go from zero to 160 knots in just seconds.)

(The “Cat,” a.k.a. world’s biggest slingshot!)


The bottom line is that I can’t think of a better career for a young man or woman than our military. It’s not for everyone because you can’t just be “anyone” and make it aboard a ship like the Nimitz. The skills, the discipline and the focus on excellence are of the highest level. There are no unimportant jobs. Pilots; the crew both above and below the flight deck; the specialists who work on the bridge, prep the planes for flight, manage the weapons systems, choreograph the ballet of dozens of planes taking off and landing at the same time; the engineers who manage the nuclear propulsion systems and even the cooks all play a key role in keeping the ship, shipshape.


I just don’t have the words to describe the pride I have in them, the feeling in my heart knowing they take the battle to the enemy, the knowledge that they volunteered to do it and above all how they work with a level of pride and excellence that is far too rare these days.


There are simply none better anywhere. Their work gets far too little attention or appreciation. The last thing you want to do is mess with them. They’ll hit back and hit back hard. It’s their job, and they’re committed to it 24/7, 365 days a year.

(John W. Scherer makes a new friend aboard the Nimitz.)

(The Nimitz packs a punch.-Photo by John W. Scherer)

(Don’t mess with the Navy, because this is what you get in return.)


My time aboard the Nimitz, getting to know the fine men and women who defend this nation aboard one of the most powerful warships in the world, is a memory I’ll keep forever.


I’m free to write this, free to come to work and run my business, not to fear someone coming to take me away in the middle of the night because of all the members of our military.


They volunteered for the job and make incredible sacrifices, and I hope this blog will make you think about them, even for just a few moments and appreciate what they do for us.


My trip was an absolutely incredible experience for a land-bound CEO who learned more than a few things and is better for it.


Thank you Captain Manazir and your entire crew; I salute you all.



John W. Scherer

John is CEO and Founder of Video Professor, Inc.

You can reach him at

Monday, May 18, 2009

Aboard the Aircraft Carrier USS Nimitz: Part 1.

A few years back I shared a story with you about my day spent aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain. I’m a member of the United States Navy’s Leaders to Sea program.

Leaders to Sea allows business, government and community leaders to get a first-hand look at how the wonderful men and women of the United States Navy do their jobs when at sea. It’s a great learning experience for all involved. During a standard six-month deployment, crewmembers work 12-hour days, seven days a week. No days off. Watching how their commanders keep them motivated is a great lesson for any CEO.

Note to taxpayers: I pay all my expenses from travel to food.

I was fortunate enough to get a second opportunity at sea, this time aboard one of the largest military ships in the world, the CV-68 aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

My day started at Naval Air Station, San Diego where I received a briefing about the ship, and of course all that’s involved when a civilian flies out to land on an aircraft carrier! Our transportation was aboard a Grumman C-2 Greyhound, a military twin engine turboprop for carrier onboard delivery, also referred to as COD. It ferries crewmembers, equipment, mail and any other necessities to and from ships like the Nimitz.

For those of you who’ve traveled on an airliner, you make a nice level approach, a gentle landing and you slow down gently until you taxi up to your gate. A carrier landing is completely different.

As we approached the Nimitz, it felt like we were just a few feet over the ocean. Because we were! We circled in a holding pattern on the starboard (right) side of the Nimitz until we were cleared to land. Then came a left turn for our downwind approach to the ship. Looking out the window, you see what a magnificent ship the Nimitz is.

At this point the aircrew is flying at an airspeed just fast enough to keep us in the air. The crew constantly adjusts the angle of the C-2 to compensate for the pitching of the deck, winds, etc.

Then, BAM! We hit the deck and stop. I mean STOP! As the tail hook catches one of five arresting wires on the ship, the pilot immediately goes to full throttle in case we miss the wire and have to take off and try again. Our crew gets it right the first time.

We quickly taxied into the very limited space available on the 4.5 acre flight deck, the crew folding the wings of the C-2 to take up less space, which is at a premium on the flight deck and below decks.

As we were escorted off the plane and inside the ship, a variety of planes were either taking off or landing within a few feet of us.

Exciting? You bet. What was especially impressive was the professionalism of the crewmembers as they choreographed all this. They’re mostly just kids in their late teens and early 20’s.

It’s truly an organizational wonder.

Aircraft carriers like the Nimitz and others in the fleet are the fastest and best way for this nation to deploy air power to protect America.

The ships are literally cities at sea. On a full deployment, over 5-thousand crewmembers call the ship home. In next week’s blog I’ll try and give you a sense of what life is like aboard the USS Nimitz.

My first impression so far is simply, WOW!

John W. Scherer
John is CEO & Founder of Video Professor, Inc.You can reach him at

Monday, May 11, 2009

It’s 2009, not 1809 folks.

As I write this, the state of Minnesota has one senator. The other 49 states have two each.


At issue is the highly contested race between former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic Challenger Al Franken. (Yes, the one from Saturday Night Live.) Franken won, but his margin of victory was so slim that an automatic recount kicked in, and the Democratic process got kicked out.


With Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania switching from Republican to Democrat, a Franken win would give the Democrats a 60 vote supermajority in the Senate, which means the Republicans couldn’t hold up legislation through filibuster.


This is either good news or bad news depending on your party affiliation. What’s sad is that the election was held last November, 2008. Now it’s May, 2009. Since then there have been recounts, recounts of recounts and more court battles than I can count.


Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas is now talking about taking this to the United States Supreme Court should the Minnesota Supreme Court decide against Coleman. That would mean the people of Minnesota would be underrepresented for a full election cycle.


Shameful, and not what the people who founded this country had in mind back in 1776.


The people of Minnesota deserve better. So does the nation. It’s amazing in this digital age that so many states haven’t figured out something as simple as counting votes. Years after the debacle in Florida, lessons still haven’t been learned.


People elect their representatives to government, not lawyers and courts.


Millions of dollars have been spent, political bad will grows each day and the last thing anyone involved in all this cares about is what’s best for the country. Not the least of which being fair and equal representation.


Each state is supposed to have two senators. That includes Minnesota.


There has to be a better way. There must be a better way, and the folks in charge better find itand soon.



John W. Scherer

John is CEO & Founder of Video Professor, Inc.

You can reach him at

Monday, May 04, 2009

It’s not the first 100 days, but the last 100 days that matter most.

I did an interview this week with CNN Money. They asked me to grade President Obama’s first 100 days in office. Here’s a link to the article, which was published this past Wednesday.

You’ve likely seen or read dozens of stories about the administration’s “First 100 Days.”


The president has the best approval rating at this point than any president in the last 20 years. The only presidents in recent history with higher ratings were Kennedy and Eisenhower. Those were different times. This nation started becoming politically divided in the late 60’s. Today it’s as divided as it’s ever been. Deeply divided.


All this aside, I really don’t care as much about how the president is doing the first 100 days of his administration as I do about how he is during the last 100 days of his first term. That will dictate if he’ll get a second term.


Before going further, let me say outright that I want the president to succeed. If he does, so do we. If he fails, we fail with him, and failure is not an option. So, let’s see where we’re at the first 100 days.


Spending trillions of dollars we don’t have might work. It hasn’t in the past, but you never know.


GM® and Chrysler® going bankrupt, laying off tens of thousand of workers and dumping classic brands might work out. Billions in bailouts haven’t worked, that we know for sure. Detroit isn’t selling cars. Detroit needs to sell cars to survive. Everything else is just a soggy Band-Aid.


Maybe making the 93 percent of people who pay their mortgages on time also pick up the tab for the seven percent that don’t might work.


Maybe Iran, Cuba and Venezuela might become our BFFs.


Ambitious plans for high speed rail are compared with the building of the interstate highway system supposedly started in the 1950’s. Expensive then and even more expensive now. What is not reported is that the interstate highway system plan originated in 1921 and won’t be completed until this year when a section of the original plan is completed in Pennsylvania, 88 years later. That’s a lot of 100 days.


Massive solar projects in places like the Mojave Desert are already running into opposition because of the damage to the ecosystem that would result. The same folks demanding alternative energy are now heading to court to fight it.


Some banks claim to be profitable. Many of them are the ones that got TARP Money. It’s hard not to make a profit when you get free money. Why aren’t those banks lending money to responsible people to buy homes? If they won’t lend us money, when will they give the money back that we lent them? Maybe all this will work, but I doubt it.


Should the government become majority shareholders in banks and automobile companies? That appears to be the plan. Maybe it will work.


The president wants a healthcare plan on his desk by August, before the summer recess. It’s as ambitious an overhaul of anything in this country ever undertaken. Maybe Congress can get something done in the next few months. They haven’t gotten anything else done, maybe they can this time.


Then there’s Afghanistan and Pakistan.


Measuring the success of the first 100 days of a presidency is about as relevant as when a team scores on the first drive of a football game. It’s the score at the end of the game that counts.

As I said in the CNN Money article, I'd much rather see him focused on what gets people back to work. Imagine he said the following to a stadium full of people: "I have many things I can work on. Should I get us health insurance or should I get people back to work? Should I close Gitmo or should I get the economy going?"  What do you think they would say?

The president’s agenda is impressive and expensive. Ratings are high. I wish him well.


Let’s revisit it all in about 1,300 days.



John W. Scherer

John is CEO & Founder of Video Professor, Inc.

You can reach him at