When a Naval Base Is a Classroom: Students Tour Aircraft Carrier, Submarine, and Battleship


Nearly 40 Schar School of Policy and Government students with an interest in national security applied their classroom knowledge to the “real world” as they toured an aircraft carrier, a submarine, and a battleship. Organized by the Center for Security Policy Studies, the late November trip offered students the unique opportunity to put their lectures and readings into perspective and learn that a picture on a slide does not do these ships justice.

Students departed bright and early at 7a.m. for Norfolk Naval Base, the largest naval base in the world. After a quick lunch, students boarded an aircraft carrier, the USS Stennis, named after the Father of the Modern Navy John C. Stennis. Ryan Berry, a former Naval Flight Officer and current Master’s in International Security student, led the tour along with Doyle Hodges, former Commander of the USS Ross.

“This is ‘American power’ in its purest form,” said Lexington, Mass., native Dave Fishman, Master’s in International Security student and an international programmer at the Department of Defense. “We’re very privileged to be able to study in the classroom and see everything come to life in the real world.”

The USS Stennis is one of 10 aircraft carriers in the US Navy. Each ship is roughly three-and-a-half football fields long and holds a crew of 6,000 during deployment. Students toured the hangar, the bridge, and the flight deck.

The next stop on the tour was the USS Nitze, a battleship named after former Secretary of the Navy Paul Nitze. Standing on the bow of the ship, students came face-to-face with a guided missile launcher before touring the ship’s living quarters and the bridge.

Finally, students climbed down the hatch and into the USS New Hampshire, a nuclear-powered submarine. Navy sailors guided students through the narrow halls of the submarine, recounting their experiences living aboard such tight quarters. The lighthearted guides made jokes about sleeping underneath torpedoes and questionable evacuation procedures as a few students exhaled nervous laughs.

“I love the Schar School because we are always getting really cool opportunities to gain experiences we wouldn’t otherwise be able to,” said Dejza Brower, a Master’s in International Security student from Richmond, Va.

“It’s so rare for undergraduates to have this opportunity,” said Mariam Abdellatif, a Government and International Politics major from Cairo, Egypt. “This has been an incredible perspective to have, and I think it’s important for students interested in security policy to see these things.”