Why the captain of a US Navy aircraft carrier fighting in the Red Sea is always posting about things like Taco Tuesday and cookies

  • The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is the flagship of the strike group handling the US Navy response to the Houthis.

  • Its commanding officer, Capt. Chris Hill, often posts online about dogs, cookies, and tacos.

  • There's a reason for these kinds of posts as his warship battles a dangerous threat.

The WiFi aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower isn't exactly the best, but for Capt. Chris Hill, the ship's commanding officer, it's enough to share his thoughts online.

Hill is leading a nuclear-powered carrier, dozens of aircraft, and thousands of sailors through a hot spot in the Red Sea, where fighter jets are always in the air, ready to strike the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen firing missiles into international shipping lanes.

But his social-media posts are often wholesome ones about cookies, dogs, Taco Tuesday, and his sailors, with much less about the fight in which his ship is involved and dealing with daily.

"We have a purpose here and everybody's kind of motivated by that," Hill told Business Insider during an interview aboard the Eisenhower last week. "At the same time, everyone still needs to be loved and valued. So I can provide that as a leader, potentially, but what about the loved ones back home — Mom and Dad, or spouses?"

Hill, a Massachusetts native, assumed command of the Ike nearly a year ago after more than two decades in the Navy. The aircraft carrier deployed to the US European Command area of responsibility in mid-October, and just a few weeks later the ship moved through the Suez Canal and into the Middle East region.

Capt. Chris Hill announces the names of promoted sailors during a ceremony onboard the USS George H.W. Bush in December 2017.
Capt. Chris Hill announces the names of promoted sailors during a ceremony aboard the USS George H. W. Bush in December 2017.US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joe Boggio/Released

Since then, the Eisenhower has been a lead ship in the US Navy response to the Houthis, who have been launching missile and drone attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The Ike's air wing has been involved in striking the rebels directly in Yemen and intercepting threats in the air.

Over the past few months, the ship captain has been posting regularly on his account on X. Since Hill set it up in November, it has picked up more than 64,000 followers. His bio touts his love for the Eisenhower, identifying him as the "proud Captain of the best damn ship in the Navy."

He posts frequently about topics including leadership, dogs, and Taco Tuesday. He shares occasional updates on the US Navy's efforts to stem the Houthi threat and images of flight operations on the Ike.

But a cornerstone of his content is the photos of sailors sitting in the captain's chair with cookies in their hands and a heartfelt message home. (This reporter tried several of the cookies, and they are, indeed, excellent.)

For his aircraft carrier to succeed in its mission, Hill said, the crew needs to have high morale, which is rooted in a combination of motivation, pride, and spirit.

Capturing this, he explained, is a two-pronged approach: Sailors need to feel like they're "loved and valued" by their leadership, and they need to have a mission and purpose.

"Mission and purpose is actually quite easy out here, because we're doing one of the original functions of the US Navy going back to 1775, which is freedom of navigation," Hill said, alluding to the multinational efforts to protect shipping lanes from the Houthis.

He added that the ship's crew is motivated by the task at hand, so the other part of the equation is making sure the crew feels loved and valued. This is where he ropes in families of sailors back home in the US.

Capt. Chris Hill, then-commanding officer of San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington, after receiving the Legion of Merit during a change of command ceremony on Aug. 6, 2021.
Hill receiving the Legion of Merit during a change-of-command ceremony in August 2021.US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Bellino

Hill said that when he started his account on X, the social-media platform formerly known as Twitter, family members would write to him and say they wanted to see pictures of their sailors. So he decided to call them to the bridge, put them in his captain's chair, give them a cookie, take a picture, and post it online.

The family members enjoyed this, and the requests just kept rolling in.

"The idea is Mom and Dad love the sailor more than I do," Hill said. "So if I can enlist them to be part of my team, sailors will feel loved and valued."

The efforts to keep morale up come as the Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group confronts a variety of threats, including some no one has ever faced in combat before, in a kinetic-weapons-engagement environment.

Captaining a flagship carrier in this situation is no easy task, but Hill has a lot of Navy experience to lean on.

Among other things, he has served as the executive and commanding officer of an airborne command and control squadron, a TOPGUN instructor, the executive officer of the aircraft carrier George H. W. Bush, and the commanding officer of the amphibious transport dock USS Arlington. He was also involved with Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve in Afghanistan and against the Islamic State.

Read the original article on Business Insider