In responding to a question posed at the recent USNI/AFCEA WEST 2015 Conference regarding ‘tell-all’ books that have been published MCPON Stevens answered, in his words, “with a thought”. His thought was that a chief petty officer is a humble, quiet, servant and he took some time to expand upon what that means. MCPON stated that “not quiet in the sense that when we talk, we don’t talk about ourselves, we talk about our people.” Just as MCPON was commenting with ‘a thought’ in response to the question posed, I comment here with a thought and how I came to that thought.
In being a deckplate leader one has to stop talking as much as they did as a junior sailor. In many if not most instances the junior sailor is the one that is doing the end-point task required of the mission. Whether that is sweeping the deck, performing maintenance, or standing watch they are the one who is on station doing the physical actions required–their duty. In performing their duty it is incumbent upon them to report the varying degrees of success they achieved to their leaders so that an accurate depiction of reality is understood, so that the next decisions can be made by leadership. Deckplate leadership is the first point of contact with reality, the first link in the chain of command to understand whether the P-way is clean, that all hands are present and accounted for, that the engines are being properly maintained and capable of performing missions.
As a junior sailor I was asked if I had accomplished the duties I was assigned, and I would relate the ‘why’ I had varying degrees of success. My chain of command always had questions for me, always had a reason for me to say more. As well, my personality is such that I want to say more than less, and to opine on things I had little experience to accurately speak towards. What resulted from this tacit training was that, as I had my first few instances of having service members serving in my charge, I wanted to talk more to them than I did to hear from them. This is not to say that there were no conversations that were had, or that I would constantly tell them they were wrong. Rather, it is that based on the experience I did have doing the tasks (usually mundane) assigned to them I would extrapolate from what they attempted to relate to me and assume I knew reality rather than probe for more information from them and make sure I understood what they were relating to me.
A leader has to be humble, not assume they can extrapolate answers from what their sailors say to them. When they talk to their sailors they have to know how to ask the right questions, they have to know how to lead their sailors to relating the correct details and information, leaders have to know how to teach their sailors to talk to leadership and inform leadership’s decision making process. All this starts with being a quiet, humble, servant-leader. You won’t hear what is being said to you if you’re not being quiet, without humility there is hubris, as the first link in the chain of command you are leading your sailors and serving the chain of command–you are a vital conduit through which decision makers base their decisions on.
Of course, there is an additional dimension beyond the direct performance of duty for a leader to understand. And again, humility in terms of “think more of others” means to me that I have to know my sailors: who that sailor is; what their abilities, strengths and weaknesses are; and the challenges each sailor faces in their personal life that can affect their ability to do their duty. This abstract dimension informs my decision making in terms of what duties are assigned to a sailor to most effectively accomplish the division’s mission. A sailor facing issues in their personal life will perform their duty differently than a sailor who does not have similar issues, a sailor who is not motivated performs less well than one who is–I have to know the ‘why’ behind it all.
A leader serves their sailors in that the Navy is ripe with tasks sailors cannot accomplish successfully on their own. Look no further than administrative paperwork and you’ll find that everything that a sailor might want to do with their career requires explaining/mentoring the details of what they’re interested in, informing them of what paperwork must be done, how to access the programs and databases required, double checking that all supporting documentation is being provided and that the paperwork in accurately filled-out, and certainly that the paperwork is forwarded up the chain of command and onto Naval Personnel Command, and that the sailor is kept informed of the progress of their paperwork. As a leader and especially a deckplate leader, one is leading that effort and serving their sailor by informing them of the process as it progresses.
There are a very few broad things (with a lot of details behind them) a leader must do to effectively lead. As we develop as leaders most of the lessons to learn are subtle, and to an extent we must unlearn what we were accustomed to as junior sailors. MCPON’s thoughts at WEST highlighted for me notions I was only starting to grasp at, but now have a deeper appreciation for. “People first” because leading people is the hard part, and leading them effectively ensures the mission is accomplished.
The illustrious Charles Berlemann and LT Hipple (pictured on left, in a way) started up a conversation on facebook earlier based on Dr. Holmes’ latest at The Diplomat, How Not to Prepare for War.
Our conversation centered around whether or not Dr. Holmes is correct in asserting that that peace time militaries shy away from making scenario’s too difficult, and whether or not our Navy should “make the simulation harder than real life.”
My reply to the good LT was that I agree with Dr. Holmes, we should be making our training harder than real life. But, I also want to know what the logical limit to such a line of thinking is–that we need to falsify ‘harder than life’ before we can say what our training should really be.
The Kobayashi Maru is a striking example from science fiction of a no-win scenario used to train a ship’s crew. But, such training immediately runs into the limits of human endurance already strained by the daily routine of shipboard life.
Many moons ago, aboard the SAN ANTONIO, I placed my first suggestion in the CO’s box. I suggested that we run DC drills that ran about a day or more. The COLE, SAMUEL B. ROBERTS, and STARK all had GQ set for longer than any DC drill I had ever ran.
The thing about it though, all those ships are afloat today, or made it to their ‘naturally decided’ DECOM date. So, while I point to those examples of why we should train harder, the examples already show training programs that were (at least back then) able to train their crew well enough so that the ship didn’t have to be given up.
So, what is it?.. Is our DC training a mere shadow of what it once was? It is only half what it should be? Or, does the fact that the US hasn’t lost a ship in decades mean that we don’t need to radically alter our training paradigm today?
Somethings just don’t change. Like, getting that letter. Waiting to see if your loved ones, your friends, your family; waiting to see if they wrote back to you. Knowing in your hand is that letter, which they once held, which was written in the very place you hold so dear: Home.
“I pray that you are in good health night and day, and I always make obeisance before all the gods on your behalf. I do not cease writing to you, but you do not have me in mind. But I do my part writing to you always and do not cease bearing you (in mind) and having you in my heart. But you never wrote to me concerning your health, how you are doing. I am worried about you because although you received letters from me often, you never wrote back to me so that I may know how you.”
1,800 years ago. That same sense which is so real for those who have deployed, was felt. It was known. I immediately identify with the sentiment uttered by a Roman Soldier in a land far from home.
We know the Soldier’s name, Aurelius Polion and it seems he wasn’t getting replies to his letters. Which, yeah, is the worse part–waiting, wondering if your absence is felt. You know that life is still going on back home, yet you don’t know what those goings-on exactly are, especially when all that was had for communication was papyrus and the hand carrying of letters across Continents.
Today, I sit at a computer, watching the curser blink as thoughts of what to say race through my mind. But, the effort is no different, the thoughts are much the same. There’s a very good reason why we include the phrase, “those who have gone before us” in the Sailor’s Creed, we find that reason in reading and identifying with the words of Polion.
In trying to come to a better understanding of what the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell should be, I came across at old (from 1988! ) essay written by Stephen Rosen titled New Ways of War: Understanding Military Innovation (h/t Adam Elkus for the lead on it). Rosen’s essay details the full evolution of innovation, what innovation is as a process, and how ‘disruptive thinking’ is only the first step and is not innovation in and of itself. Innovation doesn’t truly take hold until the intellectual, technical, and political aspects of the new idea has matured. While the tempo of technological change can be breathtaking, institutional changes in the service still have a tempo that iterates at a generational pace. For Rosen, innovation is not complete until an innovation has been fully developed into doctrine and operational paradigm. In other words, only once the disruption from new ways of thinking has dissipated can the innovation process be considered complete.
The organizational struggle that leads to innovation often involves the creation of a new path to senior ranks so that a new officer learning and practicing the new way of war will not be hunted aside into a dead-end speciality that does not qualify him for flag rank.
Rosen frames military innovation in terms of there actually being three struggles: intellectual, political, and technological. He observes this in three case studies. However, in my remarks here, I shall only stick with one of the examples: development of carrier warfare by the USN.
Rosen pays special attention to how Rear Admiral Moffett performed his duties as the first Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics. Rosen accounts how at first, aviators objected to the notion of a battleship sailor being chosen to lead the newly minted BuAer. However, they would come to find that it was Moffett’s ability to wage the political struggle, and his ability to articulate the role of the carrier in warfare – in a manner that met the evolving nature of the intellectual struggle – that warranted his selection. As Rosen states
The intellectual redefinition of naval warfare from combat among battleships to the development of mobile air bases at sea would have been futile if the political struggle for power within the officer corps in the Navy had not been fought and won by Moffett and his allies.
Technology alone doesn’t cause innovation, nor does it usher in a new way of war, neither does a good idea make it very far if the champion of that idea can’t help foster institutional change. Rosen cites the efforts of Moffet and so many others as having taken 24 years from the general board first considering naval aviation in 1919 to fruition with the publication of PAC-10 in 1943. A truly generational effort, that saw not just the technology of naval aviation develop, but the aviation career field take its initial shape, and the political structure of the officer corps evolve and the wider community adjust accordingly.
Rosen had to chose for his case studies large and significant shifts that do not often occur in militaries. Where the Navy finds itself today doesn’t nearly parallel the example of the development of naval aviation. However, this is not to say that there are no lessons to be gleaned from it, especially in regards to the intellectual and political struggles within the Navy.
People, ideas, hardware… In that order! — Col. John Boyd, USAF (ret)
Boyd was more right than he realized. Not only is that the order of importance for military leaders, it’s also the order what is the hardest to improve, and once improved that is the order which has the greatest impact. As well, it is the evolution of all three aspects that are required for innovation in the military.
If you’re in the neighborhood, join us for drinks and conversation 21 February, 1800 at Factor’s Row in Annapolis.
The groups listed share many characteristics, and have hosted their own local events before. Seeing the significant overlap between the organizations, it made sense to do an event which included them all.
I2 – “Innovators Initiative” is a group of USNA Midshipmen who began meeting to share their mutual interest in emerging technology and ideas. They are the ones behind the upcoming DEF(x) conference in Annapolis.
CRIC(x) – the wider community of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell.
CIMSEC – Center for International Maritime Security. If you’re like me, and find it difficult to make it to the CIMSEC DC meet-ups on a week night – this Friday Annapolis based meet-up is for you.
First, let’s not pretend that an ENS, JG, LT, or even RADM isn’t better or worse because of the degree they have. Secondly, let’s not pretend that the degree one earns determines who they are as a person–let’s not be education deterministic. Thirdly, there’s a nascent form of literacy emerging that combines both hard and soft sciences, and the Navy is largely ignoring it.
You walk through my door as a newly minted non-prior service ensign and I’m not going to care what school or what degree you earned from that school–you know nothing just like every other ensign in the Fleet. This isn’t a slight, this is a reality. All that is going to matter to me, to the LCPO, and to the rest of the guys in the division, is whether or not you’re a pleasure to serve with. There isn’t much more to belabor in this regard. As an officer with a STEM degree, you’re not going to be the one doing any of the labor that your education informed you how to do. You’re supervising at best, or drowning in administrative duties for the division that you know nothing about, because no one gets a college education in “Naval Administration.” What’s more, is that despite anything you learned from a college, you’re still going to have to get through your career field’s warfare pin qualifications before your superiors trust you to do the job. Your education only got you to OCS, or to your commissioning date, and the distinctions between where you chose to go to school are negligible to me, and non-existent to your most junior sailors.
Reading the words of officers in this ongoing degree debate strikes me as parochial and based in little more than confirmation bias. We all want to be emulated, we all want to champion the bits of wisdom we’ve picked up along the way. The path we’ve taken we know best, and so we can recommend it, as being so familiar to us. Neither side, neither the STEM-guys nor the liberal arts guys have much going for them to detract from the efficacy of the other guy’s degree. ‘With a liberal arts degree, one should be able to reason through the challenges inherent in emerging technologies.’ Or, ‘with a STEM degree, one understands the nuance, direction, and technical details of technologies, and the likelihood of its success.’ Those are both true statements. But, the reality is, that neither type of degree confers the wisdom required to actually make such a call unless years have been spent in the naval service learning exactly what the Navy is, how it works, and all it’s quirks–a degree confers no wisdom, just the greater ability to obtain wisdom, eventually. ‘Degree determinism’ is a red herring, a 23 year old is not yet complete as an individual nor as a sailor. Who they eventually grow to become is arguably more influenced by their naval experience than their undergrad experience (unless you’re an aviator, then you never grow up… heh.).
This isn’t an either-or debate. Quite frankly, it’s a false dichotomy, as indicated by the emergence of numerous multidisciplinary fields of study. A prime examples of which is Computational Social Science and Artificial Intelligence. Where the parameters of society and the mind, as defined by the soft sciences, are incorporated into programming and hardware design, that are rooted in hardware and software engineering. Advances in this field are indicative of the STEM-Liberal Arts dichotomy being false in an academic sense, but also demonstrate how the same dichotomy is false in terms of the Navy; where a junior officer has to manage people, and master their career field, and understand the nature of the technology which they will be responsible for.
Like the title of this blog states. No one asked me what I think, and as an enlisted guy, what I think doesn’t matter much. But, the multitude of voices jumping into the fray regarding this topic has kept it on my mind.
It is interesting to note that the debate concerning any intervention into Syria is a binary one, where we debate either using hard power to ‘punish’ the Assad Government for use of chemical weapons, or we do nothing. This is interesting because somehow we are unable to publicly consider using soft power in this instance–we are unable to conceive alternate courses of action that circumstance demands from us.
Look at where the world is right now. First, at the UN Security Council Russia and China will block any punitive measures against the Syrian Government. Their reasons for this are varied, but we would be remiss to not acknowledge that Libya and Operation Unified Protector are not ancient history. Their begrudging acquiescence to western intervention was, from their perspective, too much. We shouldn’t now nor should we into the future count on any approval from the UNSC for military interventions in the old Soviet sphere. Syria is not a big enough issue to eschew the auspices of the UNSC, especially in light of the importance placed on UNSC authorization by NATO and the western powers in Libya.
While this may cause some teeth grinding among many, it should not. After all, the US was the cornerstone in designing the UNSC, and Russia and China are well within their rights on the UNSC to do as they do. So, what’s next? Something short of direct application of hard power.
The argument could be made that the transfer of small arms and ammunition to rebel forces in Syria is the ethical thing to do in light of our own forces not being permitted to take any action. However, taking such action does not lead directly enough to a desirable end-state for the current civil war in Syria. It leaves open too many outcomes and flies in the face of lessons learned from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
So, what is a best case for resolution to the Syrian civil war–what should we work towards?
In short, we should work towards: A much more friendly neighbor for Israel in any new Syrian government, Iran losing their proxy, Russia has loosing the lease on their naval base, the Russian strategic communication strategy they’ve employed being turned around and used against them, the Gulf Cooperation Council’s ability to handle situations like Syria being strengthened, and lastly that the United State’s position in global leadership reestablished.
Israel has spent the last two years in the eye of a hurricane. Most of Israel’s neighbors have experienced some degree of revolution and civil war. However, at least in the public’s eye, Israel has remained passive and not gotten involved in the Arab Spring. But, in regards to Syria, Israel has a real opportunity to change the dynamic on their Northern border. In fact, Israel has already begun to do this. Israel has spent much of the last 15 years on the wrong side of the news cycle in the Arab world and in the West. The pictures and videos of Palestinian teenagers throwing rocks at Israeli tanks can’t come across in favor of Israel. The narrative this has fomented has not been to the benefit of Israel, and yet it is not an accurate portrayal either.
Israel must do all it can to connect with the Syrian people by helping their refugees and victims of the civil war. This is vital because it enables another narrative to emerge that can in turn become the foundation upon the next Syrian government being friendly to Israel. In the best case, it would also allow for a new dialog to emerge with the Palestinians and others that to date have not had enough evidence for Israel to be an acceptable neighbor to them.
If Israel can build enough confidence with the Syrian people the likelihood of Iran maintaining their proxy in Syria becomes much more unlikely, and makes serious headway towards containing Iran’s influence to the Gulf. It is at this juncture that the interests of Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council converge, and it behooves both to work together towards their shared strategic goals. What’s more, the relationships established here between Israel and the GCC can be built upon in the future as needs arise.
Russia is attempting to rebuild their naval influence, and it is in the interest of the US and west to counter Russia’s waxing influence on the world stage. The Borei class SSBN, Bulava class SS-N, Neustrashimyy FFG, and missiles like the SS-N-26 and the jointly developed Brahmos missile all put into action the words of the Kremlin. This growing naval clout will depend on a Mediterranean port to extend Russia’s influence outside of the Black Sea. With a very real chance that Russia’s Navy could outnumber all other nation’s navies in the Mediterranean. If Russia seems assertive with their oil and gas reserves towards Europe, what will they do with the strongest Navy and a port in the Eastern Mediterranean?
Russia’s newly waxing influence on the world stage is in the interest of the US and West to counter. Over the Syrian civil war we find a moment to counter Russian moves. Russia has positioned itself through rhetoric as being against Western and US imperialist inclinations. The narrative they draw with their words is backed by the numerous interventions the US and West have been involved in since 2001. They are able to play against the sensitivities many citizens in the West feel for their Governments seemingly constant need to use hard power in dealing with the threat of terrorism.
In addition, Russia has been able to set out a predicted course of action that the governments of the West will take in dealing with Syria. However, in Russia’s most recent remarks they unintentionally highlight their own hypocrisy regarding Syria. The rhetoric from the Kremlin speaks only towards maintaining the status quo in Syria – a civil war that has caused upwards of 100,000 deaths; while also positioning itself to be the mediator (with the US following their lead) in any final peace settlement. The words they speak to the public are backed by their actions in supplying the Syrian Government with weapons.
The United States must take a global leadership role in resolving the Syrian civil war. However, as outlined above this leadership will not encompass hard power being directly applied against the Assad government. In assuming a global leadership position the US needs to build a coalition of nations to deploy humanitarian aid around the Syrian borders and augment the humanitarian efforts already underway there. In seeking to do as such, the US is assured to build a very broad coalition of Nations.
Any deployment of medical and humanitarian teams to include hospital ships would naturally need to have security provided for them. With having refugee camps and a robust security presence in Turkey, Jordan, and Israel the pressure on the Assad government would be great and the ability for any outside sources of support to smuggle in weapons to government forces would be greatly reduced. The presence of coalition forces along the Syrian border would approximate the desired outcome of hard power being directly applied.
In taking real action to support the victims of Assad’s government we are doing more than what the Syrian government’s supporters are willing to do. We highlight the hypocrisy of their words and place them on the defensive, having them to defend why they are willing to allow the disintegration of the ‘Paris of the East’. We bring the World towards examining the motives behind why China and Russia are willing to allow a country that holds chemical weapons to disintegrate into a failed state on Europe’s doorstep. And most importantly we place doubt in the world regarding the future of a world that has Russia with a fascist like Putin at helm.
Russia is content to allow Syria to destroy itself before they go ahead and try to broker peace. They are content with having a failed state far from their borders, but figuratively in the lap of the West. It is time to get ahead of their decision making cycle and help the Syrian people and thereby ensure that Russia does not enjoy undue influence over the Levant at the expense of the US, Europe, Israel, and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Between Europe, the US, Israel, the GCC there are many points where strategic interest converge. In years past, capitalizing on these shared strategic interests was the hallmark of American global leadership. The strategy I’ve laid out here can bring the US back to the role that so many other Nation’s admired in the US. This strategy does not rely on any direct application of hard power against the Syrian government. But, it also does not have the US and the West standing idly by as weapons of mass destruction are employed in a near-failed state.
Through our actions we must move our position on Syria from the very nebulous gray area that other nations exploit to weaken US position. We must, through our actions, demonstrate our willingness to limit suffering and for regional stability. Such actions are good for the US, for Europe, for Israel, and for the GCC, and certainly for the Syrian people. It increases our cooperation with allies and partners, it diplomatically isolates our competitors, and it takes the initiative from those who are willing to watch that part of the World burn.
The good CDR’s post helped to solidify in my mind some notions I’ve had for some time now. These notions concern why there is such fear and hesitation when it comes to writing as a Naval professional.
My hope here is to put forward a different perspective on writing professionally. I will start with the obvious, and work towards what may be less obvious. It is my hope that my thoughts here might make some headway towards changing the minds of readers, and in turn (and in some small part) the Navy’s culture. Additionally, all I have to say assumes that we’re all well versed in and practice good OPSEC.
There are issues, and what are to me warped perceptions regarding writing in both the institutional aspect Navy and on the part of individual Sailors. In my talks with others more well versed with the state of writing in other branches, it would seem the Navy has a better culture than most, but still it remains that there is much room for improvement.
Foremost is the impression of what it is to write. Many, who step up the first time confuse their trepidation with how their audience will perceive their writing. In this, it is assumed that their words will reverberate with great force, and be a bellwether for change.
In reality, no. It won’t be. Even articles published in Proceedings are rarely of exceptional paradigm changing quality. This isn’t the fault of anyone, or any single organization. It’s the fault of everyone. The ~2 megabytes worth of data (including pictures. If none, then ~150kB) you just introduced into the World is the equivalent of the faintest star you can see in the night sky. Even if what you wrote is considered on par with the greats, your impact will fall well short of making you a household name.
Remember this: you’re just part of the system. Your words will be absorbed, digested, and then repeated in a novel way that you may or may not agree with. What writing does is give others ideas that little belong to you once learned by them.
For COs, and senior personnel of all flavors, it’s important to remember that as well. That junior person whose 1k – 5k words you might fear is far weaker than it might seem. Take a breath and put their words in a perspective larger than your immediate concerns.
It may seem obvious, but the nature of writing online demands this be mentioned often – don’t call people names. This is worth mentioning since much of blogging and the resulting comments (especially the comments) turn into a bull session where finger pointing, name calling, and condemning of whomever the content of the blog involves. That’s not writing, just as you’re not a poet when you’re drunk and blowing off steam at McGuires or Seville Quarter.
Don’t mention names, mention ideas. I personally don’t care whom thought of what. Everyone has good ideas, everyone has a unique perspective. More often than not, those who are listened to the most are only the ones who can write the best, with their ideas hovering around 3rd rate. A given idea is not better just because it came from someone with senior rank. Neither should an idea be valued more from someone with name recognition more so than it is from someone without. The person doesn’t matter, the idea matters when it comes to discussing ideas. Of course if you’re rebutting someone else’s writing I get that a name must be mentioned. But, aside of ensuring continuity or getting a reader up to speed, don’t talk about people, just talk about the idea. The whole point of this is to remove ego from ideas as much as possible.
A second order effect of this notion is that there is significant benefit to someone writing anonymously. Based on my own personal experience, I would even encourage many to start off that way. Reflect on why you are motivated to write, is it to build name recognition, or to better your Navy? Exactly, in talking about ideas and not calling anyone names the need to have a face and name to the words quickly begins to evaporate.
Don’t value your life less than you do your career. A military full of people willing to give their life in the line of duty, but just as many who do not write for the sake of their career. This is so counter intuitive I don’t think I need to elaborate.
Unless your staff refers to you as the ‘old man/woman’ or ‘the boss’ you’re not making policy, and your words won’t either. What’s more is that your words do not reflect the official opinion of the Navy, you’re some rank just like a bunch of other people. Actions speak louder than words, if you comport yourself in a professional manner with good military bearing, then your words are just that – words – feeble, devoid of action words that are only an attempt to contribute to the discourse and bettering your Navy. The Navy and your boss do not have much to fear from you.
But, there is a logical limit to such a claim. I wouldn’t publicly write anything critical of a decision made by my direct chain of command, or a decision made by those I have to work for/with. Doing as such, and being publicly critical of colleagues, seniors, and shipmates is just bad form, rude, and yes probably insubordinate. But, giving a public opinion regarding a decision made echelons above can be (and should be written towards being) productive. Blogging: real time 360 degree evaluation of ideas.
We’re nearly 10 years into military personnel saying things they shouldn’t on social media and online. The first year I was in the Navy, my CO warned us at an all hand’s to ‘stop saying bad things about the command on Facebook.’ Such a scenario isn’t new, that happened nearly seven years ago. We know how to handle it, and we should all be used to this by now.
Never write to be thanked or praised. I’d rather have my Navy not care that you write than to have it formally recognize you for writing. Why? Because writing is not about the promotion of self. It is about selflessly working to improve your Navy and Country. Non sibi sed patriae, or don’t pick up the pen.
The Navy needs your ideas to compete with all the other ideas. The Navy needs you to be well read, and versed on how ideas compete with each other (how it happens online is not too dissimilar in how it happens anywhere else).
CAPT Hinkley and LTJG Hipple’s recent posts have served as something as a kick in the pants for me… It’s been a really long time since I wrote anything.
But, yeah, I’ve been busy…
I’m not in Belgium any more. I left at the end of February, at the last date that Millington said was possible without losing my billet and thus being removed from the Navy: 28FEB13.
In the present, I am at Corry Station, in Pensacola. Learning about the stuff that the aforementioned gentlemen wrote about. The thing about it though, I can’t write about what I’ve learned and am learning–its a different world I’ve walked into. From the completely open source world of social media into the Crypto-Tech world. I am at A-school. I am surrounded by boots. Every 45 seconds I am greeted in the P-ways with “good evening Petty Officer.” I am a class leader, I have a number of boots I am charged with keeping on task… And it is fascinating.
It’s like seeing myself seven years ago when I was new to the Navy. The questions they have differ little from my own back when…. They’re so young though, my god. When you’re a boot, you don’t think you stand out that much. But, you do. The mistakes you’re going to make are predictable and understandable. My experience over the last two weeks of school reminds of a quote from Hobbes,
Prudence is but experience, which equal time, equally bestows on all men, in those things they equally apply themselves unto.
Experience, and in turn prudence, starts with bootcamp. It builds to some expertise in A-school, you reach the Fleet and it is there that you learn to be a Sailor. This fact seems to have been abused back when I came into the Navy. A-schools back then were afflicted with the vogue notion of CBT, or Computer Based Training. Where the Navy assumed boots to be cleaver enough to essentially teach themselves. I’ve been told that even some of the more technical rates were afflicted by this methodology as well. Even more so, instructors favored the term ‘you’ll learn it in the Fleet’ when a somewhat vexing question would be asked of them. Again, all this to me, strikes me as a perversion of how a senior Sailor understands how they became who they are.
A more accurate portrayal of the development of a Sailor (‘Sailor-ization’ is a term that should not be used. One does not simply make a person into a Sailor, a person must grow into being a Sailor–the onus is on the one growing.) is that no amount of schooling nor any quantity of sea stories can completely ready a Sailor for life at sea or in the Fleet. But, that does not mean there is not great efficacy for either. Rather, the senior Sailor needs to fully appreciate what they are able to impart to their junior classmate. Everything they have lived can impart a small measure of prudence into that junior Sailor. Indeed, I consider this a sacred duty for the senior Sailor.
Having that first or second class in the classroom is invaluable. Having a 2nd or 1st that can truly spin a yarn is worth every cent of their pay. A 1st or 2nd that boots are in awe of is your surest bet to creating a Sailor worthy of the Fleet. I sincerely doubt that becoming a Master Training Specialist ensures any of this. In fact, I am nearly certain it doesn’t. But, I am open to being corrected regarding this perception.
A-school is the last great chance for the military to hold onto their boots, and impart in them the words that need to resonate in their heads for the next 20+ years. Once they leave here, for many of them, they start their adult lives and it will be too late. The core of their professional-selves are set.
For the senior Sailor, what is important is that they learn about who they have grown to become in each conversation they have with their juniors. As you explain to them what you experienced in the Fleet you discover aspects of your experience that you possibly had not considered before. From their reactions you are allowed to, in some small part, relive that experience and see from a 3rd person perspective how that experience affected you. In spinning that yarn, you learn just as much as they are. There seems to be much emphasis on the underscoring of technical prowess in being an instructor at A-school, I hope the Navy appreciates this more ephemeral aspect of instruction as well.
You’d probably be floored to know that about 10% of my class has a 4 year degree. There are more than five others in school with me that have their masters. What’s amazing is that it’s fairly evenly split between guys as such either not knowing they could be an officer, and others who do not want to be officers. The lines between what an officer is and an enlisted guy is blurring. In many respects what it is coming down to is how a person was trained and treated. If I were given the power, I’d like to do an experiment and see if someone from high school, and only high school, could become as good of an officer as someone from college.
There are still some months I have left here at Corry Station. I am very eager to get to know more people well established in the community I am entering. But, even more so, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to lead in some small way the boots (to be sure, I use that term in an endearing way) in class with me. They are teaching me more than they realize.
The following post is by a friend of mine, Nate Hunt. Nate takes care of the family farm by day, and by night does CG renderings of North Korean missile launch sites. He often shares his work on facebook, where I’ve watched him hone his skills over the last few years.
A number of people have asked me to do short write-up describing a little about the current Tongchang-ri launch pad reconstruction work that I am working and why I am doing such a project along with the methods and tools I use for the reconstruction process.
To answer the first question, the launch pad reconstruction is actually a small part of a much larger project which scope is to accurately reconstruct not just the launch pad but the entirety of the North Korean West-Coast launch site that I am currently working on reconstructing in small stages with the launch pad being just a part.
The reconstruction is to provide a comprehensive reconstruction tool of said site for research and to help gauge changes to the site overtime which is useful if one has an accurate model to compare top down images with to better understand how things may be have been changed or removed over time.