Monday, January 31, 2011

Call to action

"Man has a large capacity for effort. In fact it is so much greater than we think it is that few ever reach this capacity. We should value the faculty of knowing what we ought to do and having the will to do it. Knowing is easy; it is the doing that is difficult. The critical issue is not what we know but what we do with what we know. The great end of life is not knowledge, but action. I believe that it is the duty of each of us to act as if the fate of the world depended on him...we must live for the future, not for our own comfort or success."
Admiral Hyman Rickover

Sunday, January 30, 2011

General Henry H. Arnold on Integrity

This covers a very wide field.  To touch upon one or two , - it means, for example, maintaining the courage of one's convictions. By no means should this be confused with stubborn thinking. Stubborn thinking is as outmoded as the ox cart. Its exact opposite, resilient thinking, is Today's Must: a man must be able to accommodate his thinking quickly and accurately to his rapidly changing world; nevertheless, it must be his thinking, - not someone else's.

Personal integrity also means moral integrity.  Regardless of what appear to be some superficial ideas of present-day conduct, fundamentally, - today as always -, the man who is genuinely respected is the man who keeps his moral integrity sound; who is trustworthy in every respect. To be successful, a man must trust others; and a man cannot trust others, who does not trust himself.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

TENTH Fleet Anniversary

Today marks the First Anniversary of the re-establishment of the TENTH Fleet and the initial establishment of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command.

How far we've progressed in one short year !

BZ Shipmates.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mesothelioma Screening

From the Civil War’s Ironclads to the technology-laden ships of today, US Navy vessels have been used by brave men and women to protect and serve our country.  The Navy defended the United States during the threats of World War II, among so many other conflicts, and even today, it sets out to reduce energy consumption and improve the future of our nation and the world.  Navy veterans and present-day personnel deserve recognition and thanks.  Unfortunately, these very men and women may face hazardous health consequences, stemming from the very ships they used in service.

Beginning in World War II, the US military sanctioned the usage of asbestos in building components of cruisers, submarines, carriers, and destroyers.   In fact, thousands of tons of asbestos were used to construct, maintain, and repair ships used, whether they were deployed for battle or kept in reserve.

Asbestos products, once sanded, sawed, cut, or heated, release microscopic fibers into the air.  Though these fibers are impossible to detect through smell, sight, or taste, they can be inhaled and ingested, building up in the lungs or stomach.  Navy personnel who worked at ship yards, either constructing, repairing, or scrapping naval vessels, were exposed to the effects of asbestos.

If inhaled or ingested, asbestos may lead to a deadly cancer called mesothelioma. Mesothelioma symptoms include shortness of breath and chest heaviness, and are often latent for 20-50 years after initial exposure.  This means that World War II veterans, and even some that work and live on ships today, are unaware of the existence of mesothelioma until long after the cancer has spread.

Mesothelioma life expectancy is short, generally anywhere from a year to a few months. Because symptoms are subtle and common, doctors often misdiagnose veterans.  When the correct diagnosis is given, mesothelioma treatment is often too late and ineffective.   Of the 25 million US veterans, about a million have been exposed to asbestos over an extended period of time. Through secondary exposure to asbestos, even family members of these heroes may be in danger of cancer.

To prevent mesothelioma from consuming the lives of those veterans and of current Naval servicemen who may be exposed, request a mesothelioma screening.  If you or someone you know has served in the Navy, undergo or recommend the necessary cancer precautions: talk to a doctor, ask questions, and request testing.  Early detection of mesothelioma can lead to successful treatment and a longer, healthier life.
Krista Peterson

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Hate To Write

"...likes to commit his thoughts to paper, which is something I never do if I can help it.  Details and writing get me bogged down immediately.  I hate to write...I get bogged down as soon as I have to assemble my ideas on paper.  I can do so if necessary, but I have to go off alone, be completely undisturbed, and labor excessively."

Admiral Raymond Spruance

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The United States Navy's 2011 Top Five Communication Themes

  • America’s Navy - A Global Force for Good 
  • The Navy is the branch of the military that fights on the water, under the water and over the water. 
  • What the Navy does is important: water covers 70 percent of the Earth’s surface; about 80 percent of the world’s people live near the ocean; about 90 percent of all international trade travels by sea. 
  • The Navy is America’s away team, meeting threats and providing assistance wherever needed. 
  • The Navy is leading our country’s efforts to reduce energy consumption and achieve energy independence – initiatives that might win our next war, or even avoid it.
Navy Outreach RHUMBLINES is HERE.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Update from RADM Deets on the IDC

I recently visited a number of Navy and Joint commands in five European locations to talk to many of our Information Dominance Corps (IDC) members about our way ahead in this new warfare area. My team and I met with members of all of our IDC Communities: Intelligence (1830/IS), Information Professional (1820/IT), Information Warfare (1810/CT), Meteorology and Oceanography (1800/AG) and the Space Cadre. We visited NCTS Sigonella, NCTS Naples, 6th Fleet, NAVEUR, USEUCOM, USAFRICOM, Menwith Hill Station, and JAC Molesworth.

My team was comprised of representatives from all four IDC Communities (and an aviator for good measure), from a variety of commands and staffs:

CAPT Joseph Kinder (C6F) – Information Professional (1820)
CAPT Alfred Turner (OPNAV N2/N6) Intel (1830)
CAPT Joseph Boogren (PERS 47) Information Warfare (1810)
CDR James Gateau (EUCOM) Information Professional (1820)
CDR Howard Watson (OPNAV N2/N6) Aviation (1310)
CDR Christopher Gabriel (AFRICOM) METOC/Oceanography (1800)
LCDR Peter Bouras (OPNAV N2/N6) Intelligence (1830)
LCDR John Hill (OPNAV N2/N6) Information Warfare (1810)
LT Julia Poth (NNWC) Intelligence (1830)
ISCS Tonya Gray (OPNAV N2/N6)
ITCS Ronald Ramsey (OPNAV N2/N6)

Our series of global IDC Road Shows is designed to provide detailed information about the IDC, our individual communities, and the vision for our Navy’s way ahead in Information Dominance. We allowed all the time that was needed to answer the many questions we got from our Sailors and civilians. The best way to get the straight story is from the source, so my presence and that of the dedicated team that I took with me is critical to ensuring that everyone understands where we’re headed and why.

The rest of the story is in the INFO DOMAIN Winter Edition HERE.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

LCDR Mark Venzor - Most promising engineer or scientist

LCDR Mark Venzor recently received the 2010 Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Award Corporation (HENAAC) Most Promising Engineer or Scientist - Advanced Degree Award during the “Tribute to our Hispanic S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Military and Civilian Heroes” recognition ceremony. 

Venzor is currently serving at Navy Cyber Forces (CYBERFOR) as the Force Diversity officer. During the past year, he implemented a domain-wide diversity strategy that integrates national and regional outreach, community service, mentorship, diversity training, and strategic communication in support of the Navy’s and CYBERFOR diversity policy.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A note on Admiral Ernest J. King

Admiral King was a harsh taskmaster; he did not suffer laziness or shoddy performance gladly.  He could be publicly abusive of subordinates to an extent the code of military command behavior does not countenance; praise he dispensed rarely and in private.  One of his daughters said of King, "He is the most even tempered man in the Navy.  He is always in a rage." Sometimes he seemed to go out of his way to find fault.  On the bridge of a ship, a junior officer said, "he was meaner than hell."  But those who measured up to his exacting standards knew a different King.  He could be impulsively considerate and generous; he looked after his own people; officers he relieved would be given obscure but honorable billets; his flag lieutenants were able to humor him and be relaxed about it.  "I suppose that his reputation was that he was difficult," said an officer who worked closely with him. "I never thought so." And another: "I never had a harsh word from Admiral King.  I never met a finer gentleman."

From COMMANDER IN CHIEF - Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his lieutenants and their war
Eric Larrabee

Friday, January 21, 2011

Information Warfare Officer Community Management Guidance From RADM Deets

1. The IW Officer community is rapidly evolving to meet new and expanded Navy and Joint IO missions. In addition to our strictly cryptologic and SIGINT missions, there is a growing demand signal for IO leaders at sea and at Joint commands in most IW pay grades. These new IO billets represent key mission growth that is vital to global naval and Joint operations. Consequently, IW officer career planning must adapt to ensure a stable and maintainable workforce capable of fulfilling current and future requirements.

2. The fundamental building blocks for a successful naval career remain unchanged, and include, first and foremost, sustained superior performance across a variety of assignments including tactical and operational jobs, sea and air tours, leadership positions, interleaved with joint experience and built upon a strong foundation of SIGINT and IO skills and experience. Effective mission execution in wartime demands that we reward proven performance in challenging circumstances with advancement and expanded responsibilities.

3. The priority for assignment will always involve detailing the most talented officers to the most demanding positions and a successful assignment process includes milestone screening. One of the questions that leadership hears most often from IWOs is about career paths: “the right jobs,” promotion criteria, and the like.  Establishment of the screening process and advertised milestone jobs will bring a new level of rigor to career management and help to clearly define what is necessary for you to achieve a successful career."

Other aspects of the message have changed sufficiently so as not to be relevant any longer under the Information Dominance Corps umbrella.  The full message/memo is (was?) available on the IWO page of NKO.  Not sure those pages (NKO) or the pages on are maintained (updated) any longer.

From RADM Deets' guidance in 2007.  I've not seen an update.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Healthy Perspective on Retention in the Navy

The skipper of Navy Information Operations Command Pensacola has a great perspective on retention.  You can read about it HERE.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mark Your Calendar - 11 March 2011

Navy Tightening Up PRT Standards

Male Body Fat Standards:

Age 17 - 39: Max of 22% body fat
Age 40 and over: Max of 23% body fat

Sailors who exceed their allowable body-fat are deemed "overweight." They are screened by medical personnel, and then entered into a mandatory weight-loss program. While in overweight status, sailors are ineligible for promotion, ineligible for many volunteer assignments and schools, will adversely effect their Navy FITREP and are not eligible to reenlist.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Centennial of Naval Aviation - Milestone from this day 100 years ago

Aviator Eugene B. Ely is seated in his Curtiss pusher biplane on board USS Pennsylvania (Armored Cruiser # 4), during preparations for his return flight to Tanforan field, San Francisco, California, 18 January 1911.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Father of the American Navy - John Barry

Few Americans are well-acquainted with the gallantry and heroic exploits of Philadelphia's Irish-born naval commander, Commodore John Barry. Obscured by his contemporary, naval commander John Paul Jones, Barry remains to this day an unsung hero of the young American Republic. As most naval historians note, Barry can be classed on a par with Jones for nautical skill and daring, but he exceeds him in the length of service (17 years) to his adopted country and his fidelity to the nurturing of a permanent American Navy. Indeed, Barry deserves the proud epithet, "Father of the American Navy," a title bestowed on him not by current generations of admirers, but by his contemporaries, who were in the best position to judge.

In the space of 58 years, this son of a poor Irish farmer rose from humble cabin boy to senior commander of the entire United States fleet. Intrepid In battle, he was humane to his men as well as adversaries and prisoners. Barry's war contributions are unparalleled: he was the first to capture a British war vessel on the high seas; he captured two British ships after being severely wounded in a ferocious sea battle; he quelled three mutinies; he fought on land at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton; he captured over 20 ships including an armed British schooner in the lower Delaware; he authored a Signal Book which established a set of signals used for effective communication between ships; and he fought the last naval battle of the American Revolution aboard the frigate Alliance in 1783.
Excerpt from the complete article HERE.

The U.S. Naval Academy has agreed on a memorial sight near the pedestrian gate at USNA, the naming of that gate honoring Commodore Barry, and naming the area the “Barry Plaza.”

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Admiral Hyman Rickover on "Man's Purpose in Life"

Most of the work in the world today is done by those who work too hard; they comprise a "nucleus of martyrs." The greater part of the remaining workers' energy goes into complaining. Employees today seldom become emotional about their organization or its output; they are only interested in getting ahead. And many organizations are killing their employees with kindness, undercutting their sense of responsibility with ever-increasing permissiveness. This is a fatal error, for where responsibility ends, performance ends also.

The sense of responsibility for doing a job right seems to be declining. In fact the phrase "I am not responsible" has become a somewhat standard response in our society to complaints of a breakdown in the system. This response is a semantic error. Generally what a person means is: "I cannot be held legally liable." Yet, from a moral or ethical point of view the statement is quite true. The person or organization taking this way out is truly not responsible; he is irresponsible.

The unwillingness to act and to accept responsibility is a symptom of America's growing self-satisfaction with the status quo. The result is a paralysis of the spirit, entirely uncharacteristic of Americans during the previous stages of their history. Even the complaints about high taxes and high prices are illusory. Behind them is hidden the reality that the majority, in terms of sheer creature comfort, never had it so good. Those who are still on the outside looking in are not strong or numerous enough to make a political difference.

The full essay is HERE.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Happy 71st Birthday Admiral




Thank you for your unselfish service and for your superb personal and professional example !!

Navy Ethos - A reminder

In reading this, it is easy to understand why Admiral Harvey had no other choice than to fire Captain Owen P. Honors.  Words have meaning and actions have consequences.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Service in the Navy - Our Challenge, The Legacy we leave

Commander Harvey as CO
It’s a Voyage of Discovery, continue to learn and apply what you’ve learned.
  • Invest yourself in your people
  • Set High Standards – for yourself and your team
  • Work Hard – know your stuff and set the example
  • Invest in your people – their professional development is your path to success
Admiral Harvey's full brief is HERE.

Link to his blog is HERE.

Strain of a commander

"Nobody can actually duplicate the strain that a commander is under in making a decision in combat."
—Admiral Arleigh Burke
USNA '23

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why we stay - and, apparently too many of you are staying

Lots of discussion in the milblogosphere about why mid-grade Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are leaving the service.  For all that is said about why they leave, why they stay is equally important. And, they are staying in large numbers - large enough numbers to require thinning of the pack.

In our community (Information Warfare), our Captains and Commanders are staying in such high numbers that our leadership has been forced to reduce the size of our promotion zones in those paygrades.  In a "promote to vacancy" environment, there are fewer vacancies today than there have been in the recent past.  Our promotion zones have been reduced by nearly 50% because our retention has been above historical norms.

The "curse of high retention" seems to be even more pronounced in the Unrestrticted Line (URL) Community (Surface Warriors, Aviators, Submarines and SPECWAR).  In the past few days, Navy Personnel Command released a Selective Early Retirement Board (SERB) message announcing the Navy's actions to ease the glut (100 Captains and 100 Commanders) of excess senior officers in the URL.  NPC cites high retention and low attrition as reasons for creating an excess of these senior officers.  So, they are going to get rid of some of them to make room for a younger, more capable group of officers.  This "force balancing" action will reduce the senior officer excess and will ensure a sufficient number of these officers are available at the right time in their careers to serve in critical Fleet billets.  The Navy will be keeping the officers who score highest at the SERB in leadership, integrity and superior performance. 

Staff and restricted line officers will not be considered for retirement by this SERB. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Vice Admiral Lando W. Zech Jr. - Father, Husband, Naval officer and Sailor

It has been a privilege to know him.  I am among the most fortunate of my generation to have been a friend to this member of the greatest generation.  What a gentleman !!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Quote for today

“In order to do something, you must be something.”

Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale
American Hero

Monday, January 10, 2011

Admiral Mullen on dissent

A particularly relevant topic on the agenda ((at a National Defense University conference on 10 January 2011 that will open an intensive assessment by the military of its professional behavior.)) is how the next generation’s generals and admirals should express their best, unvarnished military advice to the nation’s civilian leadership, and what to do when they disagree with the eventual policy. 

Admiral Mullen has said there are just two choices:
  • an officer obeys the policy and follows it with enthusiasm or 
  • resigns. 

Admiral Mullen in an interview with the New York Times.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My Heart is Heavy

Back in 1981, the Chief of Naval Personnel, Vice Admiral Lando W. Zech Jr. made a very wise detailing decision.  He sent CWO3 Wallace Louis Exum to teach celestial navigation at Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island.  I was one of hundreds of his students.  Both men influenced my Navy career greatly.  VADM Zech signed off on my first set of orders in June of 1982, sending me to Atsugi, Japan to fly with Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron ONE.  Thirty years later, both men are still in touch with me and we have developed into great friends.

Today, very sadly, Vice Admiral Zech passed away and is no longer with us.  I saw him last week and he was in good spirits.  He was ill and weakened from his lengthy hospital stay - but his spirits were high.  He was very much an old school submariner and later a surface warfare officer.  My goodness, how he loved the Navy and his family.  After his retirement from the Navy, he was Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  He leaves behind a wonderful widow - Jo, 5 beautiful daughters and many grand children.  And a very sad Shipmate who will grieve deeply and keep his memory alive in all ways that he can.  Farewell Admiral Zech.  Those who knew you - loved and respected you greatly.  Those who didn't - missed out on a great experience.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Admiral Harvey has it just about exactly right

You have the appreciate the fact that the Admiral lays his cards on the table for all to see.  Check out his blog post on the firing of Captain O.P. Honors HERE.

Senator John McCain, acknowledging his own misbehavior as a Naval Aviator, said Admiral Harvey got it right.  He also went on to say that he was thankful for Captain Honors' many years of naval service.

Friday, January 7, 2011

"I've been thinking a lot about communications lately - Leaders must consider the communication factor as a key part of their leadership responsibility." - CNO

I think we do a good job of making information available to our people about things that affect their careers, their quality of life, and about achievements of individual Navy people and units.  I'm not sure we do as well in getting the word out to our people when problems arise, as, as a result, they get their information on these subjects based on other sources both external and plain old scuttlebutt...Thus there is a tendency to fail to communicate...when communication is vital, when our people want and deserve to hear from their leadership. When that happens, the only ...information that gets out is the rumor and scuttlebutt and that isn't good....Sometimes the rumor and scuttlebutt will turn out to be true, but most times it is speculative and almost always there are enough conflicting stories about important events that one can get just about any version possible, even remotely possible. 

Perception is reality for those who believe the perception.  Leaders must consider the communication factor as a key part of their leadership responsibility.  Our people have a right and a need to know the facts-what we know and, equally important, what we didn't know, but are working to find out...The best way to deal with rumor and to provide factual information and to be up front.

Chief of Naval Operations Weekly Message to All Flag Officers
12 February 1996

Thursday, January 6, 2011

CJCS Guidance for 2011

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen released his guidance yesterday.  His priorities:

  • Defend Our Vital National Interests in the Broader Middle East and South Central Asia
  • Improve Health-of-Force
  • Balance Global Strategic Risk
He also said the Joint Staff would publish Joint Force 2030.

I found this part curious (instrument of the state, as noted below):

"As we advance these priorities, our professionalism must remain beyond reproach.  The American people, and their political leadership, closely scrutinize our conduct, and rightly so.  Respect for them - and for our oath - demands that we continue to remain an apolitical instrument of the state.  That means being apolitical in our acts and in our words, whether outside the wardroom, on the flightline, within the barracks, or in the halls of the Pentagon. Over nine years of close quarter combat has changed many aspects of what we do.  It must not change who or what we are as a professional, disciplined force." 

Chairman's Guidance for 2011 is HERE.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Quality of Our Naval Officers

Sailors aboard USS ENTERPRISE and others have expressed their support for Captain Owen Honors on Facebook and on various blogs.  That is understandable.  Equally understandable is Admiral Harvey's decision to fire Captain Honors for "his profound lack of good judgment and professionalism while previously serving as executive officer on Enterprise calls into question his character and completely undermines his credibility to continue to serve effectively in command."  ((For my part, I was under the impression that Captain Honors' seniors had addressed the issue of XO Movie Night videos and the issue was closed.  I WAS VERY WRONG.))

Captain Dee Mewbourne's assignment to replace Captain Owen P. Honors as Commanding Officer of USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65) is a testament to the great number of high quality naval officers in our United States Navy. Captain Mewbourne's warfighter credentials (like those of many other Navy Captains) match or exceed those of Captain Honor.  Captain Mewbourne's judgment is certainly going to be better than Captain Honors'.  Navy Major Command Screening Boards have a tough job and do it well.  In their deliberations and screening process many great people don't make the cut because they have more fully qualified Captains than they have major command commanding officer slots to put them in. Some truly excellent Captains are denied an opportunity to serve in Major Command.

Much has been written about the responsibilities of command.  There is very little tolerance for error while executing those responsibilities.  We have an ample number Captains capable of stepping up to fill the gaps when others stumble or willfully impale themselves with their swords. Captain Mewbourne is the right man to take USS ENTERPRISE on her final sail.

How to Get Fired This Year

Key points from Captain Eyer's article on the subject in USNI Proceedings January 2011 issue:

Captains get relieved for two primary reasons—operational misconduct or personal misconduct.  Some examples follow.

  • Collision or grounding.
  • Personal misconduct.  One might also think that a given number of COs, for example, are fired for alcohol-related incidents. Again, this is untrue. Even if alcohol is cited as a contributing factor, it is almost never the central issue.
  • Fraternization and sexual misconduct.  In fact, by far the main reason captains are being fired is for charges connected to fraternization, sexual misconduct, or reasons connected to either of these. That includes the commonly employed justification “inappropriate relationship”—however that is defined. And apparently a captain can be fired for just this sort of thing, even if he is completely unaware that the violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice are occurring in his ship. 
  • Loss of confidence.  The main problem with loss of confidence is that it seems to be largely a catch-all, wildly inconsistent device by which the Navy makes examples of given commanders. No administrative proceedings are even required prior to relief. Someone just decides. In the recent past, two SWO captains collided with dhows in the Persian Gulf, yet they did not suffer loss of confidence on the part of their seniors. Another makes sexist comments in the heat of the moment, and he is relieved post-haste. Fair?
  • Bad command climate. Nothing leads to a loss of confidence as swiftly as a “bad command climate.” What is a bad command climate, exactly? Ships have good days and bad days. How much badness of command climate is necessary to get fired? How is it measured? Over how long a period? Who is measuring it, and what are they basing their measurement on?
What won't get you fired:

There are a number of commonly held misconceptions regarding why captains get fired from ships. In terms of operational misconduct, there is actually no risk of firing associated with warfighting incompetence. Also surprising, captains do not get fired for INSURV (inspection and survey of vessels) failure, or for that matter, any other kind of material inspection. In the past five years—a period of historically poor INSURV performance—only one ship CO has been fired for such a failure.

Join the United States Naval Institute and gain access other great articles about our naval profession.  You can read the rest of Captain Eyer's article HERE.

Captain Eyer is the recipient of "The Surface Navy Literary Award" which recognizes the best professional article in any publication addressing Surface Navy or Surface Warfare issues.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The headiness and loneliness of command

Every detachment for cause, as the administrative removal (of Commanding Officers) is known, comes across the desk of Captain Leo Falardeau, head of career development at Navy Personnel Command. Captain Falardeau said the violations often remind him of transgressions from another era, before blogs and cell phone cameras.

“I think there are some cases of guys just not recognizing that the behavior that may have been acceptable years before is no longer acceptable,” he said. “It wasn’t right years before — it isn’t right today — but they just can’t figure it out.”

Tougher enforcement isn’t behind the spate of firings, Captain Falardeau said. Instead, he believes they spring from two factors, one of which is the headiness, and loneliness, of command.

From the NAVY TIMES.  Full story is HERE.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Advice for the captain

The captain may be a better division officer, department head, or executive office than any person in his wardroom, but if he is doing these jobs, who is doing his job?  He would only be wasting that most precious resource, the skill and motivation of his officers.  There are times the captain should step in and exercise his talent, but he is in his command position primarily to supervise experts, not to constantly be one.  Captain, let your officers do their jobs.  Spend your major effort on building a wardroom  that works together, an officer team that the crew, the chiefs, and you can respect for its professionalism and leadership.

The Captain
Commander John L. Byron, U.S. Navy
USNI Proceedings
September 1982

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Command Excellence - The Commanding Officer

The CO in a superior command:

Targets Key Issues 
Gets Crew to Support Command Philosophy 
Develops XO 
Staffs to Optimize Performance 
Gets Out and About 
Builds Esprit de Corps 
Keeps His Cool 
Develops Strong Wardroom 
Values Chiefs Quarters 
Ensures Training Is Effective 
Builds Positive External Relationships 
Influences Successfully

Superior commanding officers focus on the big picture. They set priorities, establish policy, and develop long-range plans. They target only a few key issues at a time. In explaining his priorities, one CO says: "I regularly have captain's call with all paygrades so I can reinforce any points that I want to emphasize. I always talk about combat readiness, safety, and cleanliness. And whenever I ask them what my priorities are, they always tell me, "Combat readiness, safety, and cleanliness." Once they identify the critical needs of the command and chart a direction, these COs accomplish the command's mission by inspiring others and working through them.

This means that superior COs recognize the importance of their relationships with other people, and they concentrate on developing those relationships within and outside the command.

In dealing with the executive officer, superior COs are concerned not only with immediate issues but with overall progress: they look upon the XO as an assistant, but they know that this assistant is a future CO. Together, they discuss plans and review courses of action, and the CO is especially careful to keep the XO informed of command decisions. Whenever possible, the CO delegates, leaving room for the XO to function independently.

In the same way, the best COs develop their department heads and division officers, delegating work and meeting frequently for planning and review. They monitor morale and try to create a climate of mutual support. They take an interest in the well-being of their officers and express a willingness to talk about significant personal problems. They pay special attention to first-year officers, making sure they start out on a strong career footing. With more experienced officers, they provide opportunities for professional development and encouragement to move up through the chain of command.

Superior commanding officers are also sensitive to the role of chiefs and the chiefs quarters: It is the chiefs, they say, who "run the ship," who have that combination of management know-how and hands-on experience needed to keep the command's systems running smoothly and crew members working efficiently. As one CO put it, "The chiefs are the eyes and ears of the squadron. They're here all the time and know what's going on. I'd be a fool not to listen to them." These COs expect their chiefs to be involved in all phases of running the command, and they make sure the chief's role is respected.

Top COs know how to balance overlapping demands. They show great interest in and concern for their subordinates, yet they refuse to micromanage, to be constantly looking over people's shoulders to see what they're up to. By frequently getting out and about, these COs can express their interest in their personnel and get a feel for how things are going in their command. One CO states: "I've got a personal goal of seeing three people a day and just walking around and asking people, 'How's it going?' "

Much of leadership and management is influence, and superior COs are masters of influence. They know how to get people to do what they want them to do and to like it. A common trait of these COs is that they keep their cool; they are not screamers. But they do have a repertoire of influence strategies that they choose according to the situation and personalities involved. At one time, they may use reason and facts; at another, a judicious display of emotion and a loud voice. These COs know how to push the right buttons to get their people to make sacrifices and work exceptionally hard.

These COs have high standards, too. They want to be the best and they want their personnel to take pride in themselves, in the command, and in the U.S. Navy. They realize that without high morale, teamwork, and pride,  they cannot achieve and maintain top-flight performance. They also know that achieving their high standards requires high quality training, so they insist on training that is both realistic and practical.
Top COs know how to develop a superior command and how to convey the image of that success to important outsiders. They develop networks that provide essential data and support; they get help from their squadron or wing staff when preparing for inspections; and they aggressively seek out the most qualified personnel, necessary resources, and good schedules. As a result, they are often more successful than average commands in getting these things.

Not all the COs in outstanding units write out their command philosophy, but it is clear that they all have such a philosophy, that they are successful at communicating it, and that they persuade the crew to buy into it. They tell people how they want the command to operate and they set an example themselves. This results in high morale, commitment, and trust.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

CO USS ENTERPRISE under investigation

The Navy announced on 31 December 2010 that it had opened an investigation into "inappropriate videos"  produced by the CO of USS ENTERPRISE while he was the Executive Officer.  The Navy doesn't have much of a sense of humor nor any tolerance in the current political climate for this type of thing.  Captain Owen Honors could be the first CO in 2011 to experience his senior's "loss of confidence" in his ability to command.  He is a 1983 graduate of the United States Naval Academy.  He assumed command of USS ENTERPRISE on 6 May 2010.