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Some of you might be surprised to learn that captains of the U.S. Navy’s largest, most complex, and most expensive combat ships — aircraft carriers — are typically not surface warfare officers with extensive experience commanding other navy ships. Instead, they are typically career naval aviators. This is not because a carrier’s only important task is aviation. From navigation to air defense, to the running of a multi-billion-dollar nuclear reactor, the successful functioning of a carrier requires the careful orchestration of a diverse set of expertise. Yet career naval aviators are chosen to lead carriers because launching and recovering aircraft is the most important thing a carrier does. It is the carrier’s raison d’etre.

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