Monday, March 15, 2010

In his own hand

The Vice Admiral who wrote my first set of orders as a naval officer back in 1982 and I are still connected nearly 28 years later. Vice Admiral Lando W. Zech Jr., was the Chief of Naval Personnel when I was commissioned an Ensign from Officer Candidate School at Newport, Rhode Island.

Little did I know that he had also written the orders on CWO3 Wallace Louis Exum, sending him to be our navigation instructor at OCS. He was 55 years old and nearing the end of his long and illustrious Navy career - 43 years in all - with 18 of those at sea. He taught us well - lessons in navigating life. I couldn't use a maneuvering board to save my life, today. That lesson didn't stick.

Even though he lives only 5 miles away, VADM Zech still takes the time to write me a note "in his own hand" every couple of weeks on his official Navy stationary. When his health allows, I pick him up and we enjoy lunch at his favorite place. A legendary submariner, VADM Zech also served as the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I am anxious to hear his views on women in submarines. He is a progressive, forward thinking man of incredible objectivity. I am sure he has given it much thought.

1 comment:

Dean said...

Mike, I'm sure I've told you this before:

When I received my naval aircrew wings in 1980 (on Okinawa), the certificate was signed by Lando W. Zech...which in 1980 struck me as a name borrowed from Star Wars:-).

This gave rise to my personal theory that names which sound unconventional offer an edge in advancing to flag rank...

Without digging into a box, I don't think there are many other pieces of service documentation I have that --30 years later-- I can say with 100% certainty who signed it (unless of course the CO had to sign something in my service record related to my Article 15 a year later...but that's another story).

I'm sure mine was one of hundreds that either he signed, or the staff prepared for an autopen...bit he and I are connected, even if he doesn't know it.

I hope today's Captains, Commanders and CPOs are able to find similar connections with those who went before them.