Thursday, May 30, 2013

A couple of things about caring for Sailors that I learned at my first command - 1977-1979

Learning is a lifelong process.   "Stop learning - stop living" someone wise once told me.  First commands offer an incredible and long-lasting learning experience if you really pay attention.  I like to think that I did pay attention.

Some of the leadership best practices I picked up from then Captain James S. McFarland (a career long mentor and later-in-life friend):

- When Sailors reported to the command, he wrote letters to the parents letting them know that their son/daughter had arrived safely in a very distant Misawa, Japan and that his Chiefs would take care of them.  Commands which make this time are remembered long after the Sailor departs.  Some commands have the Department Head or Executive Officer do this.

- Most Sailors were sent to the Naval Air Facility (NAF) Misawa photo lab for their "official Navy photo".  Little did the Sailors know that the CO actually sent these photos back to the parents.  Captain McFarland also sent a copy of my Sailor of the Quarter (SOQ) photo to my parents, as well - along with a copy of "The Misawan" newspaper's SOQ announcement.  Sent in 1979, my family still has these.  Getting a photo of their Sailor means a lot to parents.  If you doubt it, ask a parent!


Anonymous said...


We have heard your tired refrain before. Everything was better before.

After awhile we just get tired of hearing how great things were.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1151:

If you don't like the blog, then stop reading it.
In this case Mike is merely pointing out an easy technique for CO's to employ to make Sailors and their families recognize they are appreciated. This has nothing to do with "how great things were".
Keep up the good work Mike.

Emily Cooper Harrison said...

I still have your letter to my son David Harrison.

Grateful protege of McFarland and Lambert said...

@anon 1151
It's not true that everything was better before. But there are many things that were done well by those who served under and with McFarland, Lambert others that remain effective today. Many of them are simple and effective and require relatively little effort. Personal outreach to loved ones from a Navy that can seem monolithic can go a long way to make the entire experience better for everybody. Why would you object to putting a proven successful technique into practice?
And be sure and send us the link when you have your own blog!

Anonymous said...

In this day and age...The Navy is one big Facebook Page. You want to see advancement results? Look on Facebook. You want to see a Command's SOQ? Look on their Facebook Page. I see "mentorship" happening via Facebook as well. It's getting BAD!

Times they be a changin'!

My beautiful daughters' mom said...

What a very classy thing to do! I can just imagine how much that must have meant to the parents of young sailors who were going off on their own overseas for the first time.


Anneli Kershaw

Anonymous said...

I am personally fond of the touch of pen to paper. In today's day and age where leaders lead from an email inbox those that take the time to write truly stand out. I have kept, and treasure, every letter any mentor has ever given me. I wish more leaders understood the impact of their actions and inactions.


Anonymous said...

Captain Lambert,
Another excellent reminder of the personal touch that is far to often pushed to the way side because we as leaders are "Too Busy"!

Sometimes we don't understand what a treasure those personal touches are until we are older and more mature.

I will never forget BMCM O'Toole (CMC) from my first ship. I was just a lowly E-2 but he never failed to greet me in the morning and ask how I was. He may or may not have cared personally but I felt honored to even be acknowledged by him.

Those personal touches are what stick in sailors minds. My ship is long broken up (Subject of a National Geo TV Show) but the memory lives on and a trait I have tried to perpetuate.
Very Respectfully,
George Laue

PS: Most things were better in the old days.