Editor’s Note: From time to time, we will publish anonymous content from the Fleet, which we believe adds value to the conversation on making the Navy better. We still believe the best way to publicly offer criticism of your own team is to stand proudly and put your name on the line, but we acknowledge how difficult that can be. Our hope is that these authors will shape their ideas based on the feedback they get, and continue the conversation under their own name – here or elsewhere.
I’ve spent my entire career of nearly 20 years engaged with the Chiefs mess. At every turn I’ve seen abuse of subordinates, contempt for authority, and a complete and utter lack of even fundamental leadership skills. I must acknowledge upfront there are many outstanding Chiefs, however I’d argue they are good leaders despite being Chiefs. Rate and rank don’t make you a leader, who you are and the influence you carry makes you a leader. I’ve spent some time trying to find a way to express how fundamentally broken and toxic the mess is, and I’ve come to conclusion the best example is their most cherished text… the Chief’s Creed. I purpose this analysis of the Chief’s Creed in order to better understand the flaws in the structure of the Chief’s Mess. There are there three main trends in the creed which underpin the entire document: tradition, obedience and privilege. Fundamentally it reads more like a mafia initiation ritual, than a promotion oath in a modern military organization.
In Canada in 2017 an undercover agent was inducted into the Bonanno crime family, and for the first time a transcript was captured of the ritual. “The reason why we’re here is from this day forward, you’re gonna be an official member of the Bonanno family, From this guy, this guy, this guy, everybody approved it, so from this day forward, you’re a member of the Bonanno family. Congratulations. You only answer to the Bonanno family.” Remember these words as you read the creed below and remember these folks go out into the woods and bury their E6 and below white covers in the ground during Phase 2. Also remember they differentiate between New Chiefs and “made”, I mean, “genuine” Chiefs. Chiefs make Chiefs, as they say.
Starting with tradition, it is baked into the organization so deeply they put “Sense of Heritage” on their Chief Evaluations. While this may have some value, in a warfighting organization where our adversaries are constantly moving forward it is dangerous to be so reliant upon “the way things have always been done.” RDML Grace Hopper is credited with once saying “The most dangerous phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.” While a sense of heritage is critical for understanding the ebb and flow of history when it comes to the Navy, it shouldn’t be a bullet point on an evaluation in a contested organization. This also explains why as a caste they are not willing to embrace new ideas, further complicating progress within the Navy. The Chiefs mess is all too often the loathed “frozen middle” and their arrogant obstinance is arguably a threat to national security.
Moving on to obedience, they refer to themselves as a “fellowship” multiple times and often refer to themselves as a “brotherhood” or “fraternity”. One line captures this internal organizational loyalty best “…exclusive fellowship and, as in all fellowships, you have a special responsibility to your comrades, even as they have a special responsibility to you.” This implies that the bond between Chiefs is greater than the bond with their superiors or juniors. In fact, only one line in the entire creed addresses the rest of the Chain of Command at all, “Their actions and their performance demanded the respect of their seniors as well as their juniors.” In that line the phrase “as well as their juniors” seems tacked on as an afterthought and more importantly doesn’t even apply to them respecting their subordinates but is used in terms of the rest of the Chain of Command up and down respecting THEM. There is also a sense that Chiefs grant themselves special privileges and authorities while enforcing obedience within the Mess. “Your new responsibilities and privileges do not appear in print.” “It shall exist only as long as you and your fellow Chiefs maintain these standards.” I would postulate this is why Chiefs have a tendency to cover up their own scandals and take care of one another to the detriment of the rest of Navy and their own Commands. It is clear the Chiefs have a higher loyalty to the Mess than to the rest of the Fleet.
Finally, the most toxic aspect of the Creed are the references to privilege. In multiple locations they appoint themselves as privileged subject matter experts above all else. At times referring to this privilege directly in two forms as an “exclusive fellowship” and in internal “special” responsibilities. I’d ask who enforces this subject matter expertise, and more importantly in a world of warfighting the Navy needs people who can evolve their worldview to rapidly changing threats vice troglodytes and luddites who fall back on “the way things used to be.” The history behind the term “Goat Locker” further enforces this heritage of privilege. The Chiefs traditionally were responsible for the Ship’s goat, a critical source of sustenance for a sea going vessel. They were granted this privilege by being the “enforcers” for the Officer caste of the Navy. The concept of privilege has no place in a military organization and erodes true Leadership. Leadership is about serving those under you, ensuring their success. This is why in the Marine Corps the Officers eat last… they don’t have a special mess with special cherished plates, Ice Cream Machines, Fresh Cookies, and quesadillas on deployment.
It is well known up and down the Chain of Command that the Chiefs Mess is a problem and fundamentally broken. I’d argue this entire creed, the different uniforms, concept of entitlement and internal loyalty above all else within the mess sits at the core of the issue. While this separate caste was required in a pre-industrial world, it is no longer. No other branch of the military has a specially anointed entitled caste of bureaucrats right in the middle of the organization the way in which the Navy does. We are the only branch of the Military to have a special entitled caste of middle managers. Point blank, the Chiefs mess is an institutional cancer eating operational effectiveness for the benefit of a few self-appointed leaders.
Today, with education being widely available via the internet compounded with the rate of change of technology and threats, they are often no longer the subject matter experts. To put that in perspective there is an E4 in the Coast Guard with a PHD right now. I’ve personally had lawyers, electrical engineers, and people who are now Vice Presidents at JP Morgan work under me.
Finally, the concepts of “carrot-and-stick” management which are baked into the DNA of the mess, while outstanding for physical style tasks of pulling sails up and rowing… these approaches do not generate the results desired in a modern context and often do harm. Time and time again this carrot-and-stick approach has been studied and repeatedly has been debunked, in a modern warfighting organization it is becoming less and less valuable. We need leaders and managers who are able to embrace the adjacent possible, vice ignore it due to their own incompetence and cowardice towards change.
I’d argue if you want to fix the mess, you must take away their “special” privileges and get more than a single afterthought reference to their subordinates in their Creed. Your rank or rate doesn’t make you a leader… who you are and your influence upon others makes you a leader. In the Navy a substantial section of the fleet has zero respect for their Chiefs outside of fear of reprisal and punishment. That isn’t a healthy foundation for any organization or relationship. With our problems manning the fleet, the leadership of the Navy should ask why so many young Sailors walk away early… remember people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers. Risponiamo solo al Mess, SHIPMATES!
This post originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.
In a shadowy, torch-lit supply storeroom, a circle of silhouetted figures doff their boat cloaks, revealing an assortment of naval officers all in different uniforms. On the Uniform Board, officers are identified and ranked by the uniform they wear. The senior board member wears Service Dress Khaki, with full Zumwalt-Navy beard, and a tobacco pipe for good measure. Even though he hasn’t been authorized for wear in years, none of the other board members have mustered the courage to tell him to step down. Nobody messes with Service Dress Khaki.
Service Dress Khaki: Now call to order this meeting of the Supreme High Council of Naval Sartorial Affairs! What Old Business do we have to bring forward?
Formal Dress: Sir, people are still confused by the Prototype Working Uniforms, especially since we just transitioned to the Type III. Oh, and NWU Type I still won’t go away.
NWU Type I: HEY, I’m still authorized!
<chorus of groans> Someone mumbles “Nobody likes you.”
Service Dress Khaki: Ugh, okay, I’ll have another ALNAV sent out about the Prototype Working Uniform and perhaps rename it the NWU Type IV. That should clear everything up. Flight Suit, please escort NWU Type I outside. And, for God’s sake, keep him away from the open flames.
Flight Suit gives NWU Type I an atomic wedgie and drags him out kicking and screaming.
Service Dress Khaki: Ok, what New Business is there?
NWU Type III: Sir, the rollout of our new SWO Bomber Jacket is going swimmingly. We published this picture on social media to rave reviews!
Service Dress Khaki: Excellent! The troops asked for bomber jackets, and we deliv-
Salty: <emerging from the shadows> Ahem . . . we did not ask for bomber jackets. We asked for bombers. Like a Sea Control Bomber.
Service Dress Khaki: Wha? Who is this? Who let him in here?!?
Service Dress Blues: Sir, this is a random midgrade officer with an inflated sense of self-importance and a mediocre sense of humor.
Salty: A couple of innovative young officers floated the idea of, instead of retiring the B-1, transferring it to the Navy for antisurface warfare. Certainly the idea has its flaws, but we have an increasingly urgent need to position maritime firepower in the Pacific beyond what our traditional framework can provide. The idea of a Sea Control Bomber should be studied, at a minimum. You gave us jackets.
Service Dress Khaki: Exactly, we gave SWOs these stunning new black leather bomber jackets!
Flight Suit: Uh, boss, we don’t actually call them bomber jac-
Service Dress Khaki: Go back on oxygen, Flight Suit!
Salty: Anyways . . . what we need are real solutions for improving our warfighting effectiveness under existing budgetary constraints.
Service Dress Khaki: Look, you’re talking about innovative solutions that require congressional approval and cooperation with the other services. That’s hard and we might get yelled at! And now we have an Army guy as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense. Can you imagine how hard it’s going to be to get funding for the Navy? We here provide the only feasible means to effect lasting, positive change in the Navy . . . uniforms!
PT Gear: Don’t forget about the Physical Readiness Council!
Service Dress Khaki: Fair point.
Summer Whites: Sir, don’t you have a friend in the Army?
Service Dress Khaki: Who, Pinks and Greens? He won’t return my calls ever since he was reauthorized for wear. Hey, maybe I could ride the throwback trend and get myself reauthorized! I can see it now: “Wear the uniform of a Navy that’s actually won a great power competition!”
Salty: My point is the SWO community already has a solid culture and tradition. Yes, we have our share of problems to fix, but can we please stop trying to improve our culture by appropriating popular elements of others that have no connection to the surface community? Let’s look honestly at the issues we’re facing, and address them head-on without fear. Besides, we already had a pretty cool jacket—the Mustang Jacket. If you want to be innovative, why don’t you authorize it for wear ashore?
<Sitting in the corner wearing a Mustang Jacket, Coveralls looks up from his coffee, grunts, and nods.>
Service Dress Khaki: Well now you’re just talking crazy. You’re getting the bomber jackets. End of story.
Salty: Ugh, well fine. At least this means we’ll get to wear khakis again.
NWU Type III: Hey, I resent that!
<The meeting devolves into shouting and shoving. In the confusion, Prototype Working Uniform gets too close to a torch and immediately bursts into flames. Pandemonium ensues. Service Dress Khaki buries his head in his hands.>
Service Dress Khaki: Meeting adjourned, I guess.
This post was co-authored by Captain John P. Cordle, U.S. Navy (Retired) and originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.
Now that the legal dust has settled, maybe there is an opportunity to learn a separate set of lessons from collisions that occurred in the summer of 2017—on the legal front. Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, but we’ve met a few at cocktail parties. From the layman/surface warrior perspective, the process of assigning culpability for these events was . . . well, let’s call it a legal “near miss” of momentous proportions that presents a rich opportunity to learn lessons. In the spirit of the “Comprehensive Review” recommendation for becoming a learning organization able to transparently review mistakes without attribution, this article assigns no judgment on the character or professionalism of any individual, but attempts to capture an accounting of the facts and the consequences of actions and choices made. Since different generations of naval officers clearly view the collisions through unique generational lenses, Lieutenant Commander Jimmy Drennan caught up with retired Captain John Cordle to discuss the legal lessons the Navy can learn from events after the 2017 collisions.
Jimmy: So, specifically on the CO and TAO of the USS Fitzgerald, we went from negligent homicide charges to Letters of Censure, with all charges being dropped. Sir, I’m still trying to process everything that went down, but I gotta tell you, it sure seems like the Navy gooned this up.
John: Even well-intentioned people make mistakes. In my experience, the Navy tends to focus on the good things, only facing the bad ones when they happen. Looking back, I think Lesson Number One is the need for a cadre of professional investigators. I know this because I conducted the USS Porter (DDG-78) investigation, for which I was woefully unprepared. A post–major command captain at the time, my interaction with the legal process prior to this assignment was limited to a few cases of nonjudicial punishment as a commanding officer (CO), and yet I was put on a plane with 12 hours’ notice to conduct a full investigation of the largest major collision in a decade. I was handed a JAGMAN (Manual of the Judge Advocate General) on an unrelated topic as a template, given a one-hour training session with the force JAG, and off I went. I had great support from two JAG officers, who were indispensable both for their legal expertise and their former status as surface warfare officers and aviators. It appears that the current investigations suffered from some of the same challenges I had in reconstructing the event. According to Commander Bryce Benson’s rebuttal of his Letter of Censure, the comparison of the track provided as part of the prosecution differs greatly from one developed after the fact—this among other disconnects between the two documents shows that this is a challenging process. In my case, had we not found an audio tape, the events of that evening in 2012 probably would be much less clear. I attribute much of this to my own inexperience in this area—the investigating officers seem to have faced similar challenges. As the last person to conduct a similar investigation, I made myself available as a resource but was never contacted by anyone except the press. Had the Navy taken our team’s recommendation to install voice recorders on all ships, there would be audio of these two events to assist in the investigation and capture lessons. Learning occurs, but each team starts from scratch; we continue to repeat that process at our peril, unless we stand up a team of senior officers who are trained in the conduct of investigations and launch them for the next major event.
Jimmy: I saw a TV show about an investigative service in the Navy . . . if only that were real we could leverage their expertise. Okay, it also seems like Navy leadership poisoned the case by talking about who was responsible and what they thought should happen before the investigation was over.
John: Yeah, that would be Lesson Number Two. Don’t talk about it. In naval heritage, the captain is responsible for everything that happens on his or her ship. However, there is a different standard for legal liability, and any comments by anyone in the chain of command during the investigation about the presumed outcome are manna from heaven for the defense team. Again, our warfare professional leaders are not necessarily well-versed in this restriction, so perhaps adding lessons to the capstone course for flag officers would address this concern. It is human nature to answer questions, but as a mentor of mine once told me, it is good practice to “never resist the urge to say nothing.”
Jimmy: We seem pretty good at stiff arming the press when it suits us, so why not here? It almost seems like the Navy did it on purpose to promote a narrative of individual, vice systemic, accountability, even at the risk of unlawfully influencing the court martial. Do you think the Navy responded to political pressure to hold someone accountable?
John. This is a tough one, (especially coming from someone who never served in the Pentagon!) but Lesson Number Three is to try to avoid political pressure. I have seen several collisions and some loss of life in my 30 years of service, and a lot of us older folks felt that (as shown by the difficulty encountered in making the case) the charge of negligent homicide against the two ship leadership teams was a stretch; in fact I think (as Kevin Eyer stated in his article “Negligent Homicides: A Bridge Too Far”), it had to be apparent to the prosecution teams from the beginning that these charges would be impossible to prove. This may be standard practice, but it sure feels like the TV show “Law and Order” approach—to treat professional officers and chiefs who made mistakes like criminals and bully them into taking a lesser plea. In the end, to the layman here, it seems like the Navy drove the outcome by charging them with something that it knew was not reasonable and had no precedent—in a world where precedent is king. This was a safe bet for an environment in which individuals are raised on a relentless diet of taking personal responsibility—represented here as “doing the right thing.” It just does not feel “just.”
John: OK, my turn to ask the questions. What did you think about the way things played out from your active-duty vantage point?
Jimmy: I would probably say Lesson Number Four is don’t rush to judgment. In a desire to react quickly, several cases of nonjudicial punishment (NJP) were held by officers who later were subject to punishment themselves. The Navy badly miscalculated its Fitz response actions on many fronts when it announced 17 August 2017 that a round of firings and NJPs would occur on 18 Aug 2017, only to revisit all of them after the USS John S. McCain collision on 21 Aug 2017. What did that second collision have to do with the individual punishments from the Fitz? If they weren’t final, why were they announced? For those of us serving, the whole process was hard to follow. Granted, just because I’m a SWO doesn’t mean I deserve a play-by-play explanation, but if I’m expected to wait until final adjudication for a “debrief,” why was I being told right away by Navy leaders that the officers and crew were negligent? Then, in the end, there was no final adjudication, which was frustrating for me. I can’t even imagine how it felt for the families of the fallen.
Jimmy: What is your biggest concern for the future?
John: I think it is the lost opportunities for learning that we will never get back. Lesson Number Five. Be more transparent on the lessons learned.
Jimmy: Great point. Two years after these events, the public has learned more from ProPublica coverage than from the Navy about the human interactions and mechanical failures that caused these events to occur. Two years of mentor sessions have been held using incomplete data leading to negative learning and confusion in the fleet about what to do to prevent recurrence. It makes you wonder: are we really doing everything we can to prevent these tragedies from repeating?
John: You nailed it. I find it especially aggravating, having meticulously created a list of recommendations from the Porter collision that (still) have never seen the light of day, I am convinced that the filters applied by the “Comprehensive Review” (CR) and “Strategic Readiness Review” (SSR), however well intentioned, doomed some of the great ideas of the Fitz and JSM investigative teams to wither in oblivion. Even now, there is no consistent training session or consolidated lessons learned beyond the CR and SRR. For example, the Navy is putting commercial radars on the most sophisticated ships in the fleet to help them avoid collisions (this is an interesting commentary on the acquisition process, but beyond the scope of this conversation) but even more interesting is that, as I recall, the last ship to collide with a tanker—the Porter—had a similar radar and yet it didn’t prevent that event. So why would it do so now? After the Porter, the Navy implemented PQS and training on surface radars that was not there before. I have also not seen any accountability actions on the technical side, despite the fact that the CR and SR indicated significant shortfalls in technical design, operating procedures, training and maintenance supplied to the ships. Several bridge systems are not programs of record even today. Operators are easy targets for litigation, but it is tough to put a finger on a single individual in the technical side to “hold accountable.” This ongoing loss of learning opportunities is the most regrettable outcome of these legal proceedings, undermines a central tenet of the CR and SR, and was the motivation for this article.
Jimmy: A friend reminded me of the parallels to the two Boeing Max 8 collisions this past year, in which poor training and technical documentation may have contributed to the pilots’ inability to overcome the response of an automated system. In that case, it seems Boeing is being held collectively accountable for technical shortfalls, even though it’s probably impossible (nor warranted) to hold a single engineer or technician accountable.
John: My turn to ask a question. What message would you have for your senior leadership?
Jimmy: Send a consistent message. That would be Lesson Number Six. One senior leader tells congress “we have completed most of the steps” from the CR and another says we haven’t actually completed anything because we never truly will be “done.” One leader says that commanding officers should be given a medal if they push back based on their own risk assessment (i.e., “saying no”), another leader says if they can’t do it we will find someone (or some ship) who can. Talking points that prioritize “risk-taking” by afloat commanders should be reflected in accountability actions in collision cases—and articulated in terms of what to expect when risk is realized. From where I sit, waterfront leadership is skeptical of the Navy‘s commitment to truly learn from these mistakes and developing a culture of openness where saying no is a responsibility, not a career death sentence. Interestingly, the current Fitz CO is in the news for stopping work and calling out the shipyard for unsatisfactory fire safety . . . he doesn’t need a medal, but I’d love to see what affect that will have on his career (especially considering the urgency to complete maintenance on time). The public airing of the Navy’s letter of censure, listing charges as facts without a hearing, and the rebuttal letter by Commander Benson have been like watching a tennis match with no referee. Not following through with the court-martial left each of us to make our own conclusions, which doesn’t feel like the hallmark of a learning organization.
John: Quick note on the Fitz article—did you notice that it also says “the Navy has not released information about the root cause of impact of the OSCAR AUSTIN fire” that occurred back in November 2018? Another example of a potential opportunity missed to share lessons while litigation drags on and perhaps prevent a recurrence. That CO did exactly what the CR encouraged him to do, but the Navy failed to provide him with the lessons that he could have used to implement change. Not to mention the (very real) possibility that these safety issues in shipyards represent a larger systemic problem (see Lesson Five).
Jimmy: From down here in the arena, I have to agree on the skepticism. Anything else we are missing?
John: Yeah, now that you mention it —you gave me Lesson Number Seven. Consider the strategic context. Completely lost in all these conversations was the fact that for a ship in Seventh Fleet at this time, we were on the brink of war. North Korea was testing rockets and nuclear warheads that summer and the Commander-in-Chief was tweeting that any aggression would be met with “fire and fury.” Less than a year earlier, Navy ships came under missile attack in the Red Sea. The crews on these C7F ships believed they were in a similar position as a humvee commander driving through Afghanistan in a war zone. The Navy trains surface warriors to be just that and expects them to push the envelope to be prepared for a fight which, at that time and place, must have felt imminent. I have spent the night on a warship the evening before it launched Tomahawks and expected enemy counterattacks via missiles or mines. There is no way to replicate that feeling in a courtroom or living room. From what I saw in the legal process, there was no consideration of the mind-set of shipboard crews at the time. By the same token, public reporting has indicated a sense of complacency in some areas and toxic interpersonal relationships that contributed to watch standers not properly executing procedures that could have prevented the collision. This is tough to reconcile, but does not change the strategic context. I guess you never know how people are going to respond to stressors.
Before getting to the last lesson, a disclaimer: nothing here is intended to diminish the loss to the families and the Navy of 17 precious shipmates; as a former USS Cole (DDG-67) executive officer, I know this feeling all too well. If there is anything that could be done to honor the lives lost in 2017 and hold the organization accountable, it should be to build the learning organization the Navy claims to so vehemently desire and, instead of ticking items off a list that is now almost two years old, waking up each day and asking “what have we not thought of?” to prevent or mitigate another such catastrophe. The events of 2017 probably were avoidable but driving ships is a dangerous business—this also could happen to anyone in command, and any current or former commanding officer who thinks this could not happen on their watch is a fool—a dangerous one.
Jimmy: That’s a great point. I have always said that the learning of lessons should continue long after the events and their aftermath. The most important ones are often the hardest to see and take the most time to implement, but it’s worth the investment. There is a new Readiness Review Oversight Committee structure in place to do this, so hopefully it will work; after all, this is about the lives of our sailors and the accomplishment of our mission—to win our nation’s wars at sea. Any final thoughts?
John: One, Lesson Number Eight. Learn from this tragic event as an institution. Develop a set of preplanned legal and leadership responses. Statistically speaking, there will be another collision.
Jimmy: Yeah, from a legal standpoint, we pretty much blew it this time—let’s hope the Navy will look hard at the lessons to not just prevent collisions, but also invest in a plan to ensure accountability when one eventually does happen again.
Just to sum up:
Lesson Number One is the need for a cadre of professional investigators.
Lesson Number Two. Don’t talk about it.
Lesson Number Three is to try to avoid political pressure
Lesson Number Four is don’t rush to judgment
Lesson Number Five. Be more transparent on the lessons learned.
Lesson Number Six. Send a consistent message.
Lesson Number Seven. Consider the strategic context.
Lesson Number Eight. Learn from this tragic event as an institution.
This post originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.
First, apologies are in order. I apologize for feeding into a media narrative that has caused you to become objects in a political game. I’ve tweeted and posted, and here I am writing this blog post, all because I was outraged by images, articles, and hearsay that indicate you complied with orders to hide your ship and yourselves during President Trump’s recent visit to Japan. Who knows what is actually true? (well, you do, but we’ll get back to that) It turns out the old Navy adage still applies: the first report is always wrong. According to our Navy Chief of Information, Rear Admiral Charlie Brown, the picture of the tarp over the ship’s gangway banner is not from the day of the POTUS visit (unrelated maintenance . . . I want to believe, I really do). CHINFO’s return to Twitter after a five-year hiatus is an amusing surprise in all of this melodrama, and I have to say I think he handled it well. He provided a nice anchor point in all of the spin by making it crystal clear that neither the ship nor her name were obscured during the visit. He later acknowledged the White House did in fact request that the Navy keep the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) “out of sight” but, apparently, somewhere along the line the Navy stood up for itself. I can only hope that happened before the request (order?) reached your ship.
Second, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. You owe the American people nothing but faithful dedication to your Oath. I’m sure many people are trying to contact you. I also wouldn’t be surprised if you were told by your chain of command to not comment on the story to anyone. It’s all white noise. What happened, happened, and it’s not your job to help people sort out the truth from the lies. If the Navy did agree to hide you and your ship, it will all come out eventually. If not, then there’s no story here except some staff weenie who no longer has a job. Our Acting Secretary of Defense says he doesn’t want the military to be politicized, and unfortunately that’s exactly what happened to you. You deserve better. You are United States Navy sailors, and I have an appreciation for what you endure. On the other hand, some of you were on board for the fatal collision in 2017 and I have no idea what that must have been like. I do know that none of you should be made to feel like your Commander in Chief can’t stand the sight of you.
Third, we can do better. Strange, stupid requests are made of the Navy all the time (I once received a phone call on the quarterdeck from a gentleman asking how he could arrange the filming of a motorcycle jump from one aircraft carrier to another . . . kinda wish I made that happen), but our job is to respond unfailingly with honor, courage, and commitment. I think we can take the President at his word that he was not involved in the request (although using the words “well-meaning” does sting . . . I don’t understand how hiding a U.S. warship in shame could be interpreted as well-meaning), and there also is no reason to doubt Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan when he says he knew nothing about it. CHINFO says the Navy didn’t act on the request. So, some White House staffer made a stupid request and initiated some staff churn in DoD, which is not surprising. The only relevant question is where did the insanity stop? How far it went is a good measure for the health of the Surface Navy culture. I can dream that the first SWO to see the request reacted with indignation and respectfully declined; however, I’ve made no secret that I believe Surface Navy culture needs reform and I don’t think we’re there yet. I guess I can take solace in that it’s not so bad that your shipboard chain of command never received any orders (or at least acted on them), and possibly never received the request in the first place.
P.S. If you’d like to tell me otherwise, feel free to reach out at email@example.com. 😉 #keepitsalty