Looking out a window

That turns out to be a mirror.

“There’s definitely a SWO culture. Thrive off of getting as little sleep as humanly possible, think Aegis is the greatest thing to happen to the human race, make fun of the folks who ‘don’t get it,’ talk down about the non-watchstanding supply rates, and you’re ‘in.’ It’s a bit like high school. SWOs eat their young. You earn respect for ripping into people and just being generally ‘hard-core.’ ”

A male O-4 select reported: “SWOs eat their young. Your job: stay on the good side of the bullies, the feared and unrelenting senior officers on your ship. Avoid being on the receiving end of their wrath. I am ashamed to say that I contributed to this culture to avoid finding myself on the other side of the table. To deal with the bullies, you become a bully. And, if you survive, you wear your SWO pin ‘like a badge of honor.’ ”

Why do I say this report is a mirror? Because the tones it strikes are not that far off from the ones the submarine force hits. Granted, I’d like to think that the officer corps is a little less “vocal” in its admonishment of junior officers, but I may have had the benefit of being on some good boats.

But the other points: lack of sleep as a badge of honor, talk down to those who don’t understand the culture, etc etc. They all ring true for those below the waves as well as above.

The quote that really struck me is this:

Finally, we would do well to awaken the spirit of the guidance offered by legendary naval officer John Paul Jones, whose “Qualifications of a Naval Officer” are particularly poignant and relevant to the current challenges facing the surface fleet:

“It is by no means enough that an officer of the Navy should be a capable mariner. He must be that, of course, but also a great deal more. He should be as well a gentleman of liberal education, refined manners, punctilious courtesy, and the nicest sense of personal honor.

“He should be the soul of tact, patience, justice, firmness, and charity. No meritorious act of a subordinate should escape his attention or be left to pass without its reward, even if the reward is only a word of approval. Conversely, he shouldn’t be blind to a single fault in any subordinate, though at the same time, he should be quick and unfailing to distinguish error from malice, thoughtlessness from incompetence, and well meant shortcoming from heedless or stupid blunder.”

I’d offer that these traits are not relevant only to the challenges facing the surface fleet, but to submarines as well, if not the whole of the Navy.

Because they are the traits of the professional naval officer.

To me, the most important part of my job is never about the technical aspects. Being a great sub driver, how efficiently you can get to PD, what was your ORSE score … none of that was the big flick stuff. Taking care of your people was the important job. And by “your people” I mean everyone on the ship, because everyone has an effect, and a capability to help, everyone else: up and down the chain. I remember once talking to my XO about something that was unrelated to my department but needed to get done. When asked why I was talking to him about it I said I was just trying to take care of my guys. He said to me, “But you’re the Nav…”

I told him, “Sir, I’m a department head, they’re ALL my guys.”

I always figured that if we took care of each other, the other stuff would work itself out. So far it’s worked out ok for me, so there must be some truth in the idea that if you take care of your people, they’ll take care of you.

That’s not to say I have been the best, the ideal Naval Officer. I haven’t. I’ve had moments of weakness where I let the situation get the best of me and resorted to overt chastisement to get my point across. I’d be lying to you if I told you I never did it. But I’d also be lying if I said I never thought about it later and regretted doing it. It always seemed to me that if I had to yell, I’d already lost the argument. Yelling from a position of authority is akin to beating your subordinate to follow your will. There is nothing honorable about it. Merely authoritative.

Sounds like the surface fleet needs to re-think what it means to have the honor of leading men and women on the waters of this great world. But I’d argue they’re not the only ones, just the only ones in the spotlight.

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