Monday, June 2, 2014

CNO's Advice for Newly Commissioned Officers

You will be looked at for leadership among the people that you lead -- your division, your platoon, your squadron. They don’t want to really be your friend, but it would be nice if you were friendly.

They expect a human being, not a machine. But they also expect a leader. They want somebody to stand up and show them the way. That’s what we’ve trained you to do. You need to reach within.

You need to guard your integrity. No one can take your integrity from you. People can take a lot of things from you, but nobody can take your integrity away. That is uniquely yours. Only you maintain and guard that. I assure you that will be challenged. But I also assure you that your integrity, the ability to always tell and insist on [the truth, to always come forward and deal with the facts, is the foundation of what we do out there. We must believe what everybody tells us. Our lives depend on it.

Your allegiance, when you take the oath momentarily, your allegiance is to the institution. It’s not to your buddy, it’s not necessarily to your shipmate or your wingman. That’s all very important. But the absolute allegiance of what you’re about is to the institution. Remember that when you take your oath 

Be kind to everybody. Treat everyone with dignity and respect, because no one in this institution you are about to join is unimportant. We can’t afford to have folks who are unimportant. If you go to sea, if you fly in a jet, a helo, if you’re out among SEALs, if you’re with an explosive ordnance detachment, each member of the team has a critical part. We need to treat everybody with that dignity and respect and that understanding that your life -- your life -- depends on it, and their lives depend on you.

With that, you have to learn to trust shipmates. I will tell you that will be unique. You have never had to trust anybody as much as you’re going to have to trust people out there that you’re working with. Your life will depend on it. That’s one of the unique parts of our business.

Learn your Navy heritage. Everything that you have on today, your hat, your shoes, the rank that you have on the insignia, is all built on a heritage and a legacy and it has a reason, believe it or not. But it’s true. Learn it and you’ll understand it. It defines who you are and who you will be.

You need to wear sunscreen, it will take 20 years for sun cancer to emerge, but it will emerge. If you are on the bridge or on the flight deck, If you go out and about in the sun, it’s probably the thing that will be the biggest threat throughout your life; more than anything else. Wear sunscreen.

Lastly, this is the only directive I’m going to give to you. You’ll get enough direction out there, but this is from me. I want you to call or write your mother once a week. No one has the unconditional love for you than that person and that’s why you’re here today, because of that.


Greg said...

I thought the sunscreen comment was a bit odd, but hey I guess it's not untrue. I know that he is trying to impress upon them that this is serious business by repeating "life depends on it" but the reality for most leaders are the challenges of the daily grind. Rarely will you fight the ship or even fight a fire, but your honor, courage, and commitment will be challenged daily in smaller ways. How will these leaders handle witnessing a hazing incident, learning about a sexual assualt in confidence, disovering cheating on an advancement exam or gundecking PMS/PQS, or welding without a firewatch, or discovering that your boss is having an affair with a junior in the chain...? Just because these aren't necessarily life and death doesn't mean they aren't important. And these are the things that we're much more likely to face. When time is short and the pressure is on to get underway or pass the evolution, the temptation to take shortcuts or look the other way intensifies. It takes honor, courage, and commitment to do what's right in these kinds of situations too. Navy leaders like to think big, which is great. We also need to think smaller.

Kevin said...

"But the absolute allegiance of what you’re about is to the institution." I know the oaths I took, enlisted and officer, and my ABSOLUTE allegiance is to the Constitution, not the institution [Navy]. The words have meaning, so hopefully there's a typo in here or perhaps the CNO misspoke.

Mike Lambert said...


You hit on several very real challenges for the new JO/leader in the Navy. Ethics for the Junior Officer is a real good book and is used in USNA/NJROTC courses. I don't know how much attention is paid in class but there a many case studies to guide a JO's actions when confronted with ethical challenges.

Gary O said...


Agree 100% with where our allegiance is. Hoping he misspoke as well.