The mighty 97,000 ton Nimitz-class USS George Washington,

now in Atlantic waters off South America for UNITAS 2008.



O Globo, Brazil

U.S. Navy Shows That What America Can Do, Brazil Can Do As Well


"One hears much Spanish on board the USS George Washington, which is considered a model in terms of combat training and capability. Obviously, this capability is a function of the 'workforce' on board, and not the hardware or software of weapons systems. … we can and we must be as good as they [the Americans] are."


By William Waack



April 29, 2008


Translated By Brandi Miller


Brazil - O Globo - Original Article (Portuguese)

Few soldiers like to say that their activities are for political purposes - and the Americans that command the aircraft carrier George Washington are no exception. In a brief visit to the main vessel of the UNITAS maneuvers this Monday (Apr. 28), Admiral Phil Cullom, the commander of the George Washington Strike Group [see photo and video, right], only eluded to in the broadest possible way, the "political significance" of the presence of the George Washington in the South Atlantic.


Indeed, the arrival of the powerful warship for maneuvers - the heart of an attack force known as the Strike Group 8 - together with the Brazilian and Argentine navies, set an important political precedent. Amongst Brazilian Naval officers there was enormous discontent that three years ago, UNITAS (the official name of these maneuvers - Spanish for 'Unity') wasn't carried out because of political interference that Brazilian officials attributed to [Venezuelan President] Hugo Chávez.


"Since the Brazilian government doesn't provide us with the funds to reequip the Navy, why can’t they at least let us participate in these maneuvers with a fleet so much more advanced, so that we can learn things that aren't in the manuals?," asked a major Brazilian commander a few months ago, who preferred to remain nameless.


In that sense, the "message" given by the Americans is reasonably clear. The George Washington has 85 combat aircraft, including the Super Hornet, the most powerful carrier-based aircraft. On a single aircraft carrier of this class (the Nimitz) there are more late-generation fighter aircraft flying than the total number available to the entire Brazilian Air Force.


F/A-18 Hornet canopies get a cleaning, on the

flight deck of the USS George Washington.


I would venture to guess that American pilots and technicians probably fly more hours per week in conditions similar to the real thing (45 percent of flights, for example, are nocturnal) than their Brazilian and Argentine colleagues do in a year. One of the Brazilian pilots that watched the spectacle of ultramodern planes taking off and landing every three minutes (almost the pace of an international civil airport) from the flight deck of the George Washington, commented with obvious admiration: "What they do isn't that different from what we do - the difference is in the amount of times they do it."


Aircraft carriers have changed the history of sea warfare. The precise starting date is the beginning of the Second World War when in minutes, Japanese planes destroyed two formidable British surface ships. After that, and except for the use of strategic under-water weapons, it’s impossible to imagine the projection of naval power without on-board aviation. In this sense, the presence of the George Washington is - whether its admiral agrees or not - a clear display of military and political might.


The message has been known for some time by Brazilian Navy soldiers: we have very few resources to protect the sea that we declare to be ours. And neither do we have anything to compare with a "strike group" like that of the USS George Washington (the cost of construction for which was almost twice the Gross Domestic Product of a country like Bolivia, for example). 



I had another quite interesting experience on board that American aircraft carrier. Among the four thousand or so crew members there were several Brazilians. It’s good to stress the word Brazilian, because these sailors, although they wear the uniform of the armed force of another country, they continue to feel … Brazilian. In other words: they consider themselves profession American soldiers and Brazilians in heart and soul.


The names painted on the fuselages of modern fighter aircraft, the nametags on the uniforms of technicians and sailors and a great portion of the officials onboard are Latino. One hears much Spanish on board the George Washington, which is considered a model in terms of combat training and capability. Obviously, this capability is a function of the "workforce" on board, and not the hardware or software of weapons systems.


The same is true in construction: a Mexican or Brazilian with seven or eight months of residence in a large American city reaches, on average, during this same amount of time, the productivity of an American worker. In other words, these immigrants or children of immigrants aboard a naval weapon of the first world show the same pattern of technical efficiency and capability as "soldiers" of the first world.


My reading of this short visit by the USS George Washington has two angles. First: yes, these waters of the Atlantic must be ours not only by law, but in fact. Secondly: we can and we must be as good as they are. We just have to stop believing the wrong things. We must lose that "vira-lata" complex so well-described by Nelson Rodrigues, and so well embodied by Hugo Chávez.


[Editor's Note: The vira-lata complex was translated as the "mongrel complex" by this article in The New York Times , whereas Wikipedia (Portuguese) describes it as "an expression created by Nelson Rodrigues, which is the "self-imposed inferiority that Brazilians place upon themselves when confronted with the rest of the world ."






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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US April 30, 8:14pm]