March 1, 2002

Somewhere in the Arabian Sea

Life aboard the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier that was stationed in the Arabian Sea and supported bombing missions over Afghanistan. Only a few dozen people on board actually fly jets. It takes the rest of the crew — over 5,000 people — to keep them in the air. This American Life producers visited the Stennis in 2002, about six weeks into its deployment. The hour is devoted to this one story.

Act One

Wendy Dorr and Ira Glass talk with various sailors aboard the Stennis, including Jessica Phillips, who just came on board six days earlier. People off duty play video games, work out, or practice in one of the ship's many garage bands.

Act Two

Ira and Wendy talk with sailors named Summer, Melissa and Jason about how rumors spread aboard the Stennis. The top brass learn of these conversations, and give the producers heat for trying to find salacious stories. A public affairs officer steers Ira to interview a sailor named Kevin. It turns out Kevin chose the Navy over jail time.

Act Three

Ira interviews the captain of the Stennis, James McDonell. The ship's executive officer Jeff Milller announces that the ship has a fresh water shortage.

Act Four

Wendy and Ira interview members of a squadron called the World Famous Screwbirds. As the pilots head to their planes for a mission, they explain how difficult it is to land a plane on an aircraft carrier. Alex Blumberg interviews members the Blue Diamond Squadron, who talk about difficult landings, what Afghanistan looks like from the air, and what it feels like to drop bombs.

Act Five

Wendy talks with sailors Cynthia and David, who are waiting for the 8PM movie to start. Wendy and Alex interview sailors in the mess hall. Officers talk about overseeing the enlisted men. In the officers' mess hall, the food reminds Alex Blumberg of US military superiority.

Act Six

Alex and Ira, bunking together, record what they think is a loud accident.

Act Seven

Chief Barbara Mendoza takes Ira, Alex and Wendy to the very back of the ship, the fantail, one of her favorite places on the Stennis. She wonders how many ships are on the floor of the Arabian Sea.