USS Bataan Captain J.C. Carter on the New Greatest Generation: ‘There’s No Quitting’

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Broadcasting live from the flight deck of the USS Bataan in New York for Fleet Week, SiriusXM host Stephen K. Bannon had the honor of interviewing Captain John “J.C.” Carter for Thursday’s edition of Breitbart News Daily.

Bannon asked Captain Carter what it was like to return to his hometown of New York in command of a U.S. Navy flagship.

“New York City, especially being from Long Island, has a deep and profound place in my heart, in my life,” Carter replied.

He told the story of how his grandfather, “an uneducated plow boy from Michigan,” was drafted into the Navy during World War II and served aboard the destroyer USS Cole, escorting liberty ships.

“At the end of the war, the Cole pulls into piers in the Brooklyn Navy yard, they give him his last paycheck, and essentially drop him off and say, ‘Hey, good luck, young man,’” Carter recalled, adding:

Not knowing much, and not knowing a whole lot, he decides the one thing he’s really qualified to do is shovel coal in the Long Island Railroad. So he gets a job on the Long Island Railroad, and one of the stops was in Islip on the Montauk route, and another stop was in a small hamlet in East Quogue. So he meets my grandmother in Islip, and steps off the train in East Quogue.

This is where the couple would make their home.

Carter said his grandmother never stood a chance because his grandfather was both a Navy man and a “pretty strapping dude, a pretty handsome guy.”

“Seventy-five years later, to be his grandson, from where he came from, and to pull one of our carriers into Lower Manhattan, it’s just absolutely surreal,” the Captain said. “I’ve had an amazing career, twenty-seven-and-a-half years. Bataan is the third ship that I’ve commanded. This is probably my last port visit – my change of command is 10 June. For it to all end this way, you couldn’t write it any better.”

Carter said that in his youth, he did not see himself becoming a naval officer someday. “I certainly saw myself in love with the sea and doing something in that regards,” he said. “Clearly, the Navy gave me a gift; I could never have afforded to go to the University of Rochester without a scholarship. That’s how I ended up at the University of Rochester. I kind of fell into the job in the Navy and absolutely fell in love with it.”

“My first ship I met on deployment, right at the beginning of Desert Shield/Desert Storm. It’s been who I am, and what I’ve done, for a very long time,” he said.

Bannon asked if the pressure of commanding a major Navy combatant was comparable to the portrayal of ship command in popular fiction, from Star Trek to Master and Commander.

“I don’t generally worry about the actual pressures of command,” said Carter. “I think we all strive to do our best, day in and day out. We work relentlessly to make sure that everything we do is to the best of our ability. I have unbelievable people who work for me, I will tell you.”

He said proudly:

I have the utmost respect for the Greatest Generation, but when I was off of Libya and off Iraq in 2014, and we were deployed for nine months – we spent 135 days continuously under way, for multiple contingencies – I saw kids work the flight deck 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, flying sorties and all that. And I will tell you, there’s no quitting, these kids, professionals with thousands and thousands of hours of flight deck operations without incident.

“Certainly, there’s the pressures of command, but I would say more it’s the absolute blessing, to be able to lead these fine Americans every single day,” Carter declared.

Bannon recalled discussions on Breitbart News Daily throughout the week on the Greatest Generation versus millennials, and the feeling that “there’s a core in this generation that could be the next Greatest Generation in America,” led by our all-volunteer military.

Carter said there was no doubt in his mind about that. “I think they have clarity in what their mission set is. A lot of them are somewhere around that post-9/11 period. A lot of them are extremely patriotic,” he said. “As you’re standing down here in New York City, a dear friend of mine that I played baseball with died in the North Tower. It is still very much a part of their psyche.”

“The events of 9/11 forever changed our military,” Carter said, then added:

I think it gave them and us – all of us – a ton of clarity that our job is to be fighting this battle, and it’s an away game. Our job is to make sure it’s never going to be a home game; it’s never going to be fought on our turf. They take that mission, and that desire to serve and protect, very seriously.

Bannon recalled that USS Bataan was one of the first Navy ships to respond to 9/11, to serve as a hospital ship. Sadly, there were not many wounded survivors of the World Trade Center collapse.

“It was one of the ships that was crucial in Libya. It was involved in Haiti. It’s been involved in numerous military combat operations,” Carter said of his command, noting the significance of its name, which honors the heroes of the Bataan Death March. “We were on standby in ’14 to evacuate the embassy in Libya. We flew strike missions into Iraq with the Harriers on ISIS, while we were out there, also.”

Carter said he would tell young people considering a career of military service that “service to something above themselves, having that type of an experience – whether they do it for 4 years or 30 years – is critical in their self-development.”

“I’m not saying the Navy or the military is, but whether it’s the Peace Corps or volunteering for some NGO or IGO, I think taking that time to kind of discover yourself, and serve a higher purpose, I think is what is really critical,” he added. “It’s always a pleasure to me. I stay in touch with many of the sailors that have worked for me, that have gotten out.” He elaborated that “to have the opportunity to watch them grow and develop, and know that a lot of that, where they are today, is based on their initial service in the United States Navy is just so absolutely exhilarating.”

“When you look back after a 30-year tour, it’s not about all the ships I’ve commanded and all that; it’s about the legacy that you push forward with this generation,” he said.

Bannon cited the significance of the Navy’s nuclear reactor program and the high performance demanded of all who serve in that capacity. Carter noted with amusement that their extraordinary professionalism had rendered Navy nuclear reactors all but invisible to segments of the public that normally grow very agitated at the thought of a reactor in their vicinity.

Carter said:

I used to have this conversation all the time with my sailors. I live in downtown Norfolk. I’d tell them, you know what, if Old Dominion University decided today that they were going to put a small research reactor on their campus and operate it, and do some research on it, I said there would be protests up and down the streets in Ganton and all the rest of it. But I said, on any given day, there’s probably seven or eight nuclear reactors in operation on the naval base there, and people simply don’t even think about it.

“The Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program has had such a long history of safe operations, and that comes from that initial drive of Admiral Rickover’s that, you know what? We’re going to do this right, we’re going to be demanding, and we’re going to hold our folks accountable,” he observed. “And then, in turn, we’re going to provide the United States Navy with one of the greatest combat capabilities, which is obviously the ability to travel long, long distances without ever having to refuel.”


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