I've been in Hawaii for the past week and before envy strikes, let me hasten to say that I'm here for work. Still, it's impossible to deny that Hawaii, specifically the island of Kauai, is a wonderful place to work. Johnny always accompanies me and we get the same condo every time so it sort of feels like we're coming to our place. The weather was more than usually rainy this time but that rarely matters here. Showers rush in, sometimes light and sometimes amazingly heavy, and then dissipate as quickly as they came. Fortunately, mission day was not affected by the weather and it all went well.
So what it is I'm doing here? This test was actually a Japanese test, where they demonstrated on their fourth and final Aegis ship they are capable of conducting ballistic missile defense making them the only country outside of the U.S. able to perform this mission. At all our missions, international guests are invited to view the event and I, along with a number of my co-workers, are assigned to drive them to the base and escort them as they are not permitted to wander around the facility on their own. At times, it's a bit like herding cats - the operations center is crowded and we have to know where our "guys" are at all times so the escorts continually confer with each other to make sure we know where everyone is.
When we first got to the range, we learned there might be a delay and in fact, there was. It was fairly short though and as we got closer to the target launch, the room, which had been clamoring with the voices of many different languages, grew quiet. The target launched! It leaves the island of Kauai and we can hear it roar overhead as it speeds it way into space. Our eyes are glued to the screens - we are anxious to see the ship release it's missile. It does, so another hurdle has passed and we hold our breaths for the end game. The missile achieves a direct hit! The room erupts in cheers and the Japanese, for whom this mission is critically important, are thrilled beyond belief. We in the U.S. are also happy - the success of our allies is a high priority and we couldn't be more delighted.
Check out this You Tube video - the Public Release Quicklook of the mission. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pr9WY2Xyj0
On another note, I had the privilege to escort several Naval Officers from the Republic of Korea. One of them spoke English quite well and we had an interesting philosophical conversation on the way out to the range (it's a long drive as speed limits are quite slow in Kauai). After discussing the difficulty of developing weapons that are sophisticated enough to combat the evolving threats our enemies are building, he mentioned that when he was a young, he believed the world could be made a better place. Searching for the right word in English, he said he was "idealistic" in his youth but now...not so much. I smiled and confirmed that it is so with many people but with age comes the realization that humans never change. There will always be those who seek to destroy rather than build up and that is why our job remains necessary. Evil is ever present. He then said, somewhat wistfully, "But I do not want to...", again he hesitated before saying, "I want to have hope". I told him that is why I believe faith is important - it allows us to hope for a better world and for an ultimate triumph over evil. He agreed and we discussed that for awhile. It was just an interesting conversation to have and it is experiences like this that make me love my job.