Monday, June 30, 2008

In case you didn't hear him the first time

"We will still need men and women in uniform to call things as they see them and tell their subordinates and their superiors alike what they need to hear, not what they want to hear . . . More broadly, if as an officer you don’t tell blunt truths or create an environment where candor is encouraged, then you’ve done yourself and the institution a disservice.

The time will come when you must stand alone in making a difficult, unpopular decision, or when you must challenge the opinion of superiors or tell them that you can’t get the job done with the time and the resources available . . . There will be moments when your entire career is at risk."

Secretary of Defense, Dr. Robert Gates

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Naval Aviator Number ONE

Theodore Gordon Ellyson, CDR, USN

Submariner and
Naval Aviator Number One

At the age of 14 Ellyson saw a fleet of Navy ships enter the harbor at Hampton Roads, Virginia, and was so impressed by the sight that he decided Navy life was for him. Soon after, he boarded a northbound train for Annapolis, hoping to enroll in the Naval Academy. At Annapolis an official asked him why he wanted to become a Navy officer and Ellyson replied without hesitation, "I saw the Fleet come in." "Spuds" loved the Navy so much that he once told his wife, "Even you come second." The only thing he loved as much as the Navy was accomplishing things before anyone else. By 1911, he had successfully merged both passions, becoming the Navy’s first pilot.
  • Ellyson was the first naval officer assigned to aviation duty.
  • He assisted in the search for a shipboard launching device for airplanes and on September 7th, 1911 made a successful take-off from an inclined wire cable device.
  • In 1912 further development led to his successful catapult launching in a seaplane and the Navy’s first flying boat.
-- Taken from the website -

The Library of Congress holds most of the written documentation of CDR Ellyson's life. Included in that documentation is the correspondence he shared with with wife, friends, family and fellow Naval Aviators. In today's world there is very little correspondence shared in that way. E-mail and telephone calls are the primary means of communication. Unfortunately for all of us, those exchanges are not recorded for history and thus that rich history is greatly reduced. The value of the written word, largely forgotten, becomes that much more valuable. Heed Admiral Jim Stavridis' words to "read, think, write, publish."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Captain carried them all

The Captain carried them all.

For him, there was no set watch, nor any
established time to rest and retreat from the
harsh conditions of the sea.

He was wonderfully reliable, uncomplaining,
and ready to take any watch, no matter the hour
or the situation.

He was the kind of Captain to have.
From The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat, as quoted in DESTROYER CAPTAIN by Admiral James G. Stavridis, Commander, U.S. Southern Command

Friday, June 27, 2008

You own the difference

"When you have a difference of philosophy with your boss, he owns the philosophy and you own the difference."

Former Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Wynne

"Mike has demonstrated a willingness, at great personal cost, to live by the same standards of accountability he has instilled in so many people over so many years." Secretary of Defense, Dr. Robert Gates upon SECAF's resignation.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Developing Senior Navy Leaders

How Might Future Changes in the Navy Affect Requirements for Expertise?

We examined the Navy’s structure, its force development, its doctrinal documents, and its technology acquisitions for the past decade and the next decade to forecast how the demand for domain-specific expertise may change in the future. The areas of domain-specific expertise with the strongest evidence of increasing future importance to the Navy are: (top three)

• Information Warfare
• Information Operations
• Information Technology

From the RAND Report Developing Senior Navy Leaders - Requirements for Flag Officer Expertise Today and in the Future - 2008

Building a force of cyber warriors

The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military is making progress on quickly adapting to ever-changing cyber technology, but nowhere near fast enough. “We build an application the same way we build an aircraft carrier and about as fast,” Cartwright said. “We have to figure out a way to change that.”

He said the problem is based upon a “Napoleonic command and control” structure that makes the cyber organizations fight over who’s in charge. “The technology is not what paces us, it is the culture,” he said. One of the other challenges is building a force of cyber warriors, Cartwright said. He said the military has to figure out the appropriate skills, schools and rank structure to build a force capable of both the “defend and operate skills” and the “exploit and attack skills.”

General James E. Cartwright, VCJCS, USMC

Once those forces are determined, the organizations will have to be built in such a way that they can present those forces to combatant commanders for employment. He said the backbone of the cyber warfare force needs people who are able to use constant innovation and adapt to constant change.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

It's Our Ship

Publish Date:5/12/2008
Price: $25.99
Size: 6" x 9"

Five visitors have been selected to get a free copy of this book.

I’m a big fan of Captain D. Michael Abrashoff’s leadership methods and his books. His latest, IT’S OUR SHIPThe No Nonsense Guide to Leadership is the third in a series based on his command tour aboard USS BENFOLD (DDG65) and building on his experiences with leaders in the business world. In this third book, I see Michael’s growth as an author and as a leader. The third book includes some snippets from the story outlined in his first best sellerIT’S YOUR SHIP. Sure to be a best seller in its own right, IT’S OUR SHIP provides a great blend of Michael’s own story with those of other proven leaders in the business world. These are stories worth telling and Michael tells them exceedingly well. In his latest book, he takes you back to USS Benfold, then to The Container Store, Pitney Bowes, Aflac, 1-800-GOT-JUNK and many other commercial enterprises before ending where he started - USS BENFOLD. From each enterprise, he brings together their leadership lessons with his and demonstrates that these principles work in every environment. All it takes is "collaboration" - the key word in this book.

I come at the three books (the second was GET YOUR SHIP TOGETHER) from a different perspective and much more critical eye than most readers. I was commissioned the same year (1982) Michael was – though from Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island rather than the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. We both assumed command in 1997 (though my command was a shore command) and we both worked for the Secretary of Defense (though mine was Donald H. Rumsfeld – as fine, patriotic, and honest a man as ever served (twice) in that demanding position). When I assumed command, I was taking over for an interim caretaker Commanding Officer who was nurturing a command back to health after two failed Inspector General inspections (somewhat like the Operational Propulsion Plant Examination that USS BENFOLD had failed before Michael assumed command). I know first-hand the challenges of command. I retired as a Navy Captain in 2006 with a career spanning 30 years of service as an enlisted Sailor and a commissioned one. I am a Navyman. I fully appreciate the context of his books and the purpose for which they were written. Read these books, apply the principles and watch your people grow, succeed and surpass your expectations.

I know that the leadership principles that Michael outlined in all three books work. They work extraordinarily well, when properly employed. They worked for him, they worked for me, they work for Commanding Officers at sea and ashore today, and they will work for you. Captain Abrashoff is a masterful leader and brilliant storyteller. I’ve gone back to do some research and can’t validate that “virtually all 310 Sailors were deeply demoralized” or that “clearly his (the former CO’s) leadership had failed”, as Michael has described the situation. I say this, because statements like these are toned down a bit in his second and third books, which shows Michael’s growth as both author and leader. While this over-dramatization tells a better story, Arleigh Burke destroyer Sailors are the cream of the crop of surface Sailors. Michael started off in a far better position than a reader might otherwise think, though he and his crew faced significant challenges and overcame them together to achieve remarkable successes by any measure.

Commander Abrashoff assumed command of a nearly new Arleigh Burke destroyer and inherited a crew that suffered the natural trials and tribulations of pre-commissioning a ship and ‘bringing her to life.’ The truth of the matter is that three of the officers under the former CO and the former CO himself are all Navy Flag officers today – the enlisted Sailors of that first crew went on to enjoy great success as well. The first CO of USS BENFOLD was certainly doing something right and continues to do well on active duty today. I think it’s more a matter of different approaches to leadership – there are many ways to effectively command an Arleigh Burke destroyer.

I give you my own insight so that you understand fully that there is no doubting that Commander Abrashoff’s approach is successful – and he fills you with genuine confidence that you can be equally successful (that in itself is a sign of a good leader). Leaders everywhere would do well to make his three books a part of their libraries – but only putting them on the shelf after they have devoured every word. I remain a student of leadership and Michael’s books have contributed greatly to my education. I could have used them at the start, in the middle and at the end of my Navy career. I read and reread them today. And I will, again, tomorrow. I hope you'll join me. You will not regret it.

Captain Dyer - Cryptologist Number ONE ?

Captain Thomas Dyer, as Admiral Nimitz's intelligence officer, was directly involved with the interception, decryption, and subsequent intelligence information reporting which led to the shootdown and death of Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. His efforts led to the breaking of the Japanese merchant shipping and transport code and the main Japanese weather code.

From February 1946 to June 1949, Dyer was assigned to the Naval Security Station, 3801 Nebraska Avenue, Communications Support Activity in Washington, DC (precursor to the Naval Security Group) as chief of processing and technical director. In 1947, he was designated the first (?) Navy Special Duty Officer (Cryptology). Dyer was a leading member of the Navy contingent that joined the fledgling Armed Forces Security Agency in June 1949 and, along with Captain Laurance Safford, was in charge of all daily AFSA operations.

Taken from the National Security Agency website.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Idealists write history's stirring chapters

"You may find people who will contend that patriotism is something to be a little bit embarrassed about or that honor is somewhat outdated as a notion and that concentrating on America's imperfection makes you a realist. Not so. That's the sign of a cynic. Being a cynic is easy. You can just sit back, heckle from the cheap seats, while others serve, storm beaches, build nations, meet their destinies."

"Idealists write history's stirring chapters; cynics read those chapters and seem not to understand. Choose to be an idealist. There have always been those who contend that what's wrong with the world is America. Don't believe it."

Former Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld

Monday, June 23, 2008

I simply will miss putting on the uniform

"I am sad to leave. It is not that I am sad to put down any of the things that I just talked about. I simply will miss putting on this uniform, going to work each day and trying to do the right thing for PFC Pace, wherever he or she may be serving. And I will miss being able to walk out and hug them and tell them I love them.

I asked the good Lord when I took over this responsibility to give me the wisdom to know what is right and the courage to do it. To the best of my ability, I've done that. I made a promise about 38 years ago to Guido Farinaro, Chubby Hale, Whitey Travers, Mike Witt, Little Joe Arnold, Freddie Williams, John Miller, that I would serve this country in whatever capacity I could for as long as I could, and try to do it in a way that would pay respect to the sacrifice that they made following Second Lieutenant Peter Pace in combat."

General Peter Pace, Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, upon his retirement

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Naval Aviator Number Thirty-three

"He spoke in a low voice and used few words. Yet, so great was his concern for his people - for their training and welfare in peacetime and their rescue in combat - that he was able to obtain their final ounce of effort and loyalty, without which he could not have become the preeminent carrier force commander in the world. A bulldog of a fighter, a strategist blessed with an uncanny ability to foresee his enemy's next move, and a lifelong searcher after truth and trout streams, he was above all else - perhaps above all other - a Naval Aviator."

Admiral Arleigh Burke speaking about his superior, Admiral Marc A. Mitscher's, leadership abilities. From the book - LEADERSHIP EMBODIED - The Secrets to Success of the Most Effective Navy and Marine Corps Leaders.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lambert Wickes

"Lambert Wickes exemplified a number of outstanding qualities as a naval officer. He was an accomplished seaman; he had a genuine interest in the welfare of his men; he was deferential to civilian authority; and he was a resolute quarterdeck warrior."

Wickes commanded the Reprisal in the Continental Navy.

Friday, June 20, 2008

So, I ask you: read, think, write, publish.

"There is great value to reaching out to young officers, contractors, to tap into that energy and get it into publication. You have to get out there and write the article, take the criticism. Don't wait for the perfect article. Writing can be painful. The value to the community is there."

"So, I ask you: read, think, write, publish."

Admiral James G. Stavridis
Commander, U.S. Southern Command


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Leave no doubt in the minds of the officers

"A commanding officer should discuss with his officers his philosophy of the mission and importance of the Navy; what he feels his ship contributes to the Navy’s mission, and what the persons in the ship can contribute to the successful accomplishment of the ship’s mission. These discussions should reveal to him which officers are motivated to employ leadership for improved efficiency and which require more motivation and direction.

Such discussions should leave no doubt in the minds of the officers as to the standards expected of them in personal conduct, appearance, and performance. The desired officer-man relationship and the reasons that it is necessary should be well understood by all of them.

The officers should realize that leadership will be recognized and rewarded with additional responsibility and that performance will be objectively and honestly evaluated in fitness reports.

The commanding officer can continue to demonstrate his interest in leadership through personal example, supervision, inspections, discussions, criticism, commendations, discipline, disseminating information, concern for the welfare of individuals, and the many other attributes that have long been required of a dutiful commanding officer, while being ever mindful of the danger of developing “a one man ship.”

LEADERSHIP - NAVPERS 2932-3 (New 7-62)
Sometimes, we would do well to return to tried and true principles of Naval leadership. This is an excerpt from a Navy Education and Training (NAVEDTRA) Manual published in 1962.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

There is one man

"In each ship there is one man who, in the hour of emergency of peril at sea, can turn to no other man. There is one who, alone, is ultimately responsible for the safe navigation, engineering performance, accurate gunfire and morale of his ship. He is the Commanding Officer. He is the ship."

Joseph Conrad

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Command Excellence

"When I look at our best commands I see what has made our Navy great. These commands maintain a superior state of combat readiness and are known for their mission accomplishment. They have high retention and a strong safety record. This success always comes from the people working together in a command.

They have a sense of the command's mission and are committed to the command's goals. High morale, pride, and teamwork are evident at every level.

We need to share more of the best with the rest of the Navy. It is time to reaffirm not only our commitment to personal excellence, but also our commitment to command excellence."

Admiral C. A. H. Trost, Former Chief of Naval Operations
Graduated first in his class from the United States Naval Academy

Get your own Command Excellence materials here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Authority for constructive purposes

"Use your authority over others for constructive purposes, to help them – to watch out and care for them, to help them improve their skills and to advance, to ease their hardships whenever possible. All of this can be done without compromising discipline or mission or authority."

Secretary of Defense, R. Michael Gates

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Absolute right to expect ...

"A commander's responsibility remains absolute, and that commander must, and will, be held accountable for the safety, well-being, and efficiency of his command. This accountability may be exacted in various ways. In some cases, commanders may be called to account in a court of law . . . in all cases, they will be judged by their professional peers - those who have been subjected to, and exalted by, the same stringent requirements of command.

Our country, and every Navy man and woman serving at sea or ashore, has the absolute right to expect that our commanding officers will be the finest, and the most responsible, we can provide. I intend to make it so."

Admiral James D. Watkins, U.S. Navy

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Happy Birthday United States Army

"Two hundred and thirty-three years ago, the United States Army was established to defend our Nation. From the Revolutionary War to the Global War on Terror, our Soldiers remain 'Army Strong' with a deep commitment to our core values and beliefs. This 233rd birthday commemorates America’s Army – Soldiers, Families and Civilians – who are achieving a level of excellence that is truly Army Strong both here and abroad. Their willingness to sacrifice to build a better future for others and to preserve our way of life is without a doubt, the Strength of our Nation."

Army Secretary - Pete Geren

Friday, June 13, 2008

Strong Maritime Forces

"It has become fashionable for certain “armchair admirals” to question the need for strong maritime forces. They say our sea services are looking backward, that the days of fleet engagements on the high seas are over. Sadly, these pundits completely miss the point. There’s no doubt much has changed. But even more important is what has remained the same."

J. Michael "Mike" McGrath
Navy League National President

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It is not the critic that counts

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again.

Who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause. Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt, The Man in the Arena

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It's Our Ship

Here is a book worthy of adding to your library. Retired Navy Captain Mike Abrashoff has written another great book. You remember his book IT'S YOUR SHIP. This fine addition is IT'S OUR SHIP.

Some may remember CDR Abrashoff from his command tour aboard USS Benfold. IT'S YOUR SHIP, his book about his very successful command tour, is a great companion tome to Admiral James Stavridis' book DESTROYER CAPTAIN which recently sold out its 'first edition' printing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Question your seniors; listen to your juniors

“Two weeks ago, I stood before the graduating class of the Naval Academy, and I told them to question you, their seniors, about the way we do things. Today, I urge you, in turn, to listen to them, your juniors. Learn what’s on their minds; come to know their concerns. … We need your help in bringing these issues to the forefront of a system that is mired in peacetime and must fundamentally change, one that puts our people at the center of the universe.”

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Monday, June 9, 2008

Emulate John Paul Jones

"Every officer of our Navy should feel in each fiber of his being an eager desire to emulate the energy, the professional capacity, the indomitable determination and dauntless scorn of death which marked John Paul Jones above all his fellows."

President Theodore Roosevelt

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Military service

"A young man who does not have what it takes to perform military service is not likely to have what it takes to make a living."

John F. Kennedy

Saturday, June 7, 2008


"We are only as good as our people. "

Admiral Gary Roughead
Chief of Naval Operations

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Naval profession

"Most of the elements of this essentially practical profession are open and plain for all to see. It has aspects, however, like all professions worthy of the name, that go deeper; there is an indefinable dimension, a sort of mystique that does not yield its secrets to the casual inquirer or, indeed, to many who wear the Navy's blue and gold for many years. Its deepest characteristics are as inscrutable as that combination of the sea and service to country that gives the profession its distinctive flavor.

Is it worth it? Every man must speak for himself. As for me, the answer is yes. It has been worth it, over and over again."

Rear Admiral James Calvert

Thursday, June 5, 2008

First Printing Sold Out !!

If you haven't already purchased Admiral James Stavridis' book, DESTROYER CAPTAIN, you missed your opportunity to own a First Edition copy. Not to worry, they are already printing the second edition. This is a great book. Required reading for those with any interest at all in leadership, the Navy, destroyers, command at sea, Sailors, Chief Petty Officers or serving one's country. I am biased, but this is a great companion tome for Michael Abrashoff's IT'S YOUR SHIP. Two completely different approaches to telling the story about the considerable challenges and rewards of 'destroyer command'.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Premier IW/cryptologic force

"The Naval Security Group is the premier military IW and cryptologic force in the world. Maritime Information Dominance For America is our value statement. An ambitious transformation is underway throughout our Service. We are developing a Human Capital Strategy predicated on “Right skill, Right time, Right place (R3)” principles that will deliver a combat-ready, mission-centric IW force."

"Our relevance lies in our ability to participate in, and add value to, time-sensitive targeting. Our success is measured by the degree to which we shorten the “kill chain” and control or destroy the enemy’s information environment. At the heart of our vision is the unambiguous acknowledgment that cryptology is a critical component of IO. We will achieve information dominance by taking advantage of our command of the sea with a network of highly automated, scalable sensors across all domains – air, sea, undersea and cyber. We will produce time critical information within the vulnerability windows of potential adversaries and deliver offensive, non-kinetic striking power."

Rear Admiral Andrew M. Singer - the final Commander, Naval Security Group Command

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

You are a leader

“Regardless of how long you wear the uniform, one thing will never change. You are a leader and the well-being of soldiers will be in your hands. You’ll be judged by how you discharge that duty. For if you strip away everything else about the Army, at its core, that’s what the Army is all about: Soldiers taking care of Soldiers.”

"The all-volunteer force is a national treasure, but it can’t be squandered. To sustain our Army, we must provide Army families with a quality of life equal to their service. As Army leaders, you must take care of Army families.”

Secretary of the Army Pete Geren to the USMA Class of 2008

Monday, June 2, 2008

Never rest on your laurels

"Carrying out the multitude of administrative tasks that fall to the leader is a chore that never ends. A problem solved, a decision made, leads one only to the next problem to be dealt with, the next decision to be made. It is a never ending series of tasks, each of which must be completed, each of which must be done well. The leader can never rest on his laurels for the next challenge is just hours, sometimes moments away."

Admiral Mike Boorda

Sunday, June 1, 2008


"The wonder is always new that any sane man can be a Sailor."

Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803-1882, American Poet, Essayist