Archive for the 'Navy' Category

Question: What do you get when you combine ballistic missile defense technology imported from Moorestown, New Jersey, with a former Soviet-Bloc Air Base in Deveselu, Romania?

Answer: The beginning of the next phase of a 135-year bilateral relationship with Romania and a brand new Aegis Ashore site designed to provide for the ballistic missile defense of NATO Allies in Europe.

AA DeckhouseDeveselu is part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach and the newest responsibility of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet. The drive southeast of Craiova, Romania takes you through what has rightly been called Europe’s breadbasket. At harvest time, the crops are piled up in sheaves. Bucolic fields stretch like waves as far as the eye can see. Then a gray mass looms on the horizon, and you do a double-take at what appears to be an actual ship steaming on the horizon, its hull obscured by a sea of green. What you are looking at is the profile of the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System usually associated with the Aegis DDG but now firmly planted in Romanian soil, a concrete example of our commitment to collective defense in Europe.

Aegis Ashore iAA Testings essentially the Aegis Weapon System built on land instead of on a U.S. Navy destroyer at sea. A major difference between the ship-based and shore-based systems is space. Hull space, size, weight, balance, and ballast are not limiting factors when installing equipment on a concrete pad in a warehouse that is quite literally in the middle of an old Warsaw Pact airbase.

This odd shaped deckhouse building is filled with the latest technologically and highlights the adaptive part of European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA). The deckhouse was originally built in Moorestown, New Jersey, then packed into 156 forty-foot containers and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. The pre-fabricated pieces meant that assembly of the 900 tons of steel occurred faster than it normally would when building a U.S. Navy warship.

On December 18, 2015, my good friend and one of the finest engineers in the world, VADM Jim Syring, Director, Missile Defense Agency formally reached the Technical Capability Declaration (TCD) milestone and handed the “keys” to Aegis Ashore over to the Navy. Sailors will now be the ones operating the equipment and testing the systems, instead of contractors. Sailors will train and conduct exercises until they and the systems are fully certified, similar to conducting “sea trails” with a new ship.

Aegis Ashore-Romania has one extremely important mission: ballistic missile defense of the population and infrastructure of U.S. and NATO allies. We hope that we will never need to fire a missile from Deveselu because that would imply a ballistic missile from Iran had been launched against a target in Europe. That said, the US military and our NATO allies must always be prepared to conduct this sort of mission precisely because we hope we never need to execute them. Capabilities, equipment, and training give credence to the words of diplomacy. Aegis Ashore is a major component of EPAA, which is the U.S. national contribution to NATO Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) and the collective defense of Europe.

141010-N-UN924-571The singularity of purpose of Aegis Ashore means that it must always be ready. The designed redundancy is robust, taking advantage of the large space to add more backup equipment. The technology is impressive, but like anything in the U.S. Navy, Sailors are the true heart of the mission. The Sailors who live and work in Deveselu are pioneers in the purest form. They are simultaneously standing up the first Aegis weapons system at a new base–Naval Support Facility Deveselu–and training to operationalize this system into EPAA and the NATO Alliance. And they are doing an impressive job!!!

AA All Hands CallThere has been a dramatic amount of progress made in the support facilities as well as the Aegis Ashore system since my last visit to Deveselu in February 2015. This month, Sailors are moving from CLUs (Containerized Living Units, pronounced “clues”) into new two-person barracks rooms that are comfortable but austere. Three of the nine rotational Aegis Ashore crews will be in Deveselu at any given time for six-month deployments.

The Sailors I met serving in Deveselu are extremely competent and highly motivated. I am confident that the perseverance they showed during the construction phase will continue as we move into the operational phase. I am proud of these Sailors, and appreciate all that they do on a daily basis to protect the United States and our allies. Think about them over the Christmas holidays. They are unaccompanied, away from family and friends, and keeping us safe. They have the watch…

AA Christmas Tree

3344532-9319612342-DavidThe USA can’t do it all in WESTPAC, and we shouldn’t do it all. When it comes to regional security, the USA does have comparative advantage compared to some of our friends and allies, specifically economic power, and technology.

They have comparative advantages in geographic location and manpower. If we can combine our advantages in to the right package, there is more then enough there to give China pause in her expansionist ambitions.

Over at The National Interest, Jerry Hendrix is thinking about this and thinking right;

There is a Goliath menacing the western Pacific. China’s construction of three huge artificial islands with obvious military capacity in the South China Sea has already destabilized the security equilibrium in the region. Given the rising tensions and outright challenges to the established international security order in the western Pacific, it is time for the United States to align its Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program with its Pivot to Asia initiative, in order to strengthen the region’s Davids.

Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Singapore have been increasingly united in their resistance towards Chinese aggression, but their unity, though powerful symbolically and legally compelling, can go only so far in the face of China’s rapidly expanding military capacity and capabilities. They will need new platforms adept at complicating China’s territorial designs and integrating with allies, partners and neighbors.


Jerry covers the math well further in the article, but when reading it, I kept coming back to the title, If China’s Goliath Threatens Asia, Then Arm David.

That got me thinking of Malcolm Gladwell’s TED Talk, The Unheard Story of David and Goliath. As with many things in the Bible, it isn’t quite what you think it is at first glance;

So David, in that story, is supposed to be the underdog, right? In fact, that term, David and Goliath, has entered our language as a metaphor for improbable victories by some weak party over someone far stronger. Now why do we call David an underdog? Well, we call him an underdog because he’s a kid, a little kid, and Goliath is this big, strong giant. We also call him an underdog because Goliath is an experienced warrior, and David is just a shepherd. But most importantly, we call him an underdog because all he has is — it’s that Goliath is outfitted with all of this modern weaponry, this glittering coat of armor and a sword and a javelin and a spear, and all David has is this sling.

Well, let’s start there with the phrase “All David has is this sling,” because that’s the first mistake that we make. In ancient warfare, there are three kinds of warriors. There’s cavalry, men on horseback and with chariots. There’s heavy infantry, which are foot soldiers, armed foot soldiers with swords and shields and some kind of armor. And there’s artillery, and artillery are archers, but, more importantly, slingers. And a slinger is someone who has a leather pouch with two long cords attached to it, and they put a projectile, either a rock or a lead ball, inside the pouch, and they whirl it around like this and they let one of the cords go, and the effect is to send the projectile forward towards its target. That’s what David has, and it’s important to understand that that sling is not a slingshot. It’s not this, right? It’s not a child’s toy. It’s in fact an incredibly devastating weapon. When David rolls it around like this, he’s turning the sling around probably at six or seven revolutions per second, and that means that when the rock is released, it’s going forward really fast, probably 35 meters per second. That’s substantially faster than a baseball thrown by even the finest of baseball pitchers. More than that, the stones in the Valley of Elah were not normal rocks. They were barium sulphate, which are rocks twice the density of normal stones. If you do the calculations on the ballistics, on the stopping power of the rock fired from David’s sling, it’s roughly equal to the stopping power of a [.45 caliber] handgun. This is an incredibly devastating weapon. Accuracy, we know from historical records that slingers — experienced slingers could hit and maim or even kill a target at distances of up to 200 yards. From medieval tapestries, we know that slingers were capable of hitting birds in flight. They were incredibly accurate. When David lines up — and he’s not 200 yards away from Goliath, he’s quite close to Goliath — when he lines up and fires that thing at Goliath, he has every intention and every expectation of being able to hit Goliath at his most vulnerable spot between his eyes. If you go back over the history of ancient warfare, you will find time and time again that slingers were the decisive factor against infantry in one kind of battle or another.

So what’s Goliath? He’s heavy infantry, and his expectation when he challenges the Israelites to a duel is that he’s going to be fighting another heavy infantryman. When he says, “Come to me that I might feed your flesh to the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field,” the key phrase is “Come to me.” Come up to me because we’re going to fight, hand to hand, like this. Saul has the same expectation. David says, “I want to fight Goliath,” and Saul tries to give him his armor, because Saul is thinking, “Oh, when you say ‘fight Goliath,’ you mean ‘fight him in hand-to-hand combat,’ infantry on infantry.”

But David has absolutely no expectation. He’s not going to fight him that way.

So the Israelites up on the mountain ridge looking down on him thought he was this extraordinarily powerful foe. What they didn’t understand was that the very thing that was the source of his apparent strength was also the source of his greatest weakness.

And there is, I think, in that, a very important lesson for all of us. Giants are not as strong and powerful as they seem. And sometimes the shepherd boy has a sling in his pocket.

Let’s stick with this angle on David vs. Goliath.

If we want to help our Davids, how do we do that? By using each partner’s comparative advantage, and acknowledging critical vulnerabilities as well – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We should make sure we keep our Davids light, mobile, efficient and deadly. If we do that, who knows, perhaps we too can stand in the distance and watch them fight and win for themselves.

Yoda_SWSBIt might be chic to paraphrase Yoda during the week of the Star Wars premiere, but perhaps it is time for our Navy to channel his teachings.

Admiral Hyman Rickover is famous for being the father of our Nuclear Navy. His antics are legend today. The force of both his personality and his intellect cemented the Navy’s contribution to our nation’s strategic nuclear deterrent in a way that perhaps no other individual will ever match.

For his Nuclear Navy, Rickover was fond of saying, “Trust…but verify.” While that phrase may have achieved some success in the nuclear community, its misuse in other naval communities has done more harm than good.

Let us not be fooled by syntax. “Trust…but verify” is an oxymoron. When it is misused elsewhere in the Navy, it can have a deleterious effect.

To Risk, or Not to Risk?

In his seminal book “The Black Swan,” Nassim Taleb argues that people tend to underestimate seemingly infrequent, yet cataclysmic, events, and therefore make dangerous risk decisions. The phrases “once in a blue moon” or “almost zero” lull us into a false sense of security. We mistake “absence of evidence” for “evidence of absence.”

One of the few communities in the world where this is not a problem–a community where, arguably, risk is put in a chokehold by SOPs, checklists, and the like–is Rickover’s Nuclear Navy. This is appropriate and good – even one small accident on a nuclear-powered ship is one accident too many. Not only are our nuclear ships expensive, but the psychological investment our service and the American people have placed in their safe operation is profound.

But Rickover’s “trust…but verify” for his nuclear force has spread to nearly every corner of our Navy. It is on conventionally-powered ships, squadrons, staffs, and small units around the Fleet. Whether this translates to unnecessary administrative paperwork, voice reports, or simply standing around and waiting depends on your experience. It reflects a misapplication of Rickover’s phrase.

Trust vs Question

Webster defines “trust” as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” Trust carries a very positive connotation; it implies knowledge and autonomy. Sailors work hard to gain trust and display these sacred character traits.

Webster defines “verify” as “to prove, show, find out, or state that (something) is true or correct.”

As leaders, by definition, one cannot “trust” a person yet continually feel the need to “verify” what they do. It is either redundant or self-contradictory; in either event, it can lead to waste or, paradoxically, feelings of mistrust.

We should make an exception here, however: there is a difference between questioning and trust. Rickover intended his phrase to develop a corps of operators that would dig deep into their systems and know them down to each individual electron. This type of tactical expertise is what we seek and exercise daily in our Navy.

Questioning can be good; for instance, when junior sailors question in order to seek a full understanding of tactics, processes, procedures, and strategy. Questioning can also be positive for senior sailors, to gain situational awareness or correct inaccuracies.

But when we allow “trust…but verify” to be applied to individuals and organizations, and not specific systems, something insidious happens in our service.

Over Your Shoulder

Too often today, “trust…but verify” is used to micromanage fleets, squadrons, and individuals. Instead of trust and leadership, we perpetuate a system of management and leadership-by-checklist. We do not “question-up,” in order for juniors to gain knowledge and understanding; we “question-down,” in order to show off our specialized knowledge or cover our administrative requirements. “Trust…but verify” is not the appropriate response to a draft PowerPoint presentation, nor should it be the checklist-mandated response to a time-sensitive target request.

As the results of the most recent JO Command Survey show, there is at least the perception that even commanders of ships and squadrons–historically coveted positions–enjoy very limited, narrow trust. Many junior officers and enlisted, when considering the “stay/go” decision, question whether they want to continue such a tenuous trust proposition.

If we are to counter this trend, and better foster trust both up and down the chain of command, we should do a few things:

-Encourage ingenuity and proactivity. These should be core tenets for prospective Sailors at each of our accession sources, but they should be more than simple words–we should show them what we mean. What does a proactive, trusting ship or squadron look like?

-Talk about risk and personnel. If our hesitancy to fully trust people is because we think they will fail, we have an unfortunately low opinion of our Sailors. Are we bringing in the right folks? Giving them the best possible training to be proactive, learning professionals? Some ships and squadrons encourage questions and collaborative learning, but these units are the exception–not the rule.

-Be open about trust. Either you have it, or you don’t. The middle road, where we promote people on paper but not in truth, slows down the already-sluggish bureaucracy and fosters a trust environment counter to the ideal.

Trust is hard–but so is leadership. To paraphrase an overused cliché: “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.”

“Trust…but verify” has worked for the Nuclear Navy at the systems level; we must confine it to those parameters. In leadership, tactics, operations, and strategy, what we need is, “Trust. Period.”

Or, begging Admiral Rickover’s pardon, perhaps we make room on our mantle for Yoda: “Trust, or Trust Not. There is no ‘Verify.'”

December 20th marked our first month as Naval Innovation Advisory Council fellows, stationed in Silicon Valley. Imagine an aviator and a SWO standing at the doorstep of Silicon Valley; it has been an experience akin to Alice’s entry into wonderland. As we’ve been exposed to several corporate cultures centered on innovation, one theme continues to prevail: TRUST.

Trust requires vulnerability and leads to profound mutual respect. With trust comes openness, and with openness comes true innovation. Without trust, the best ideas remain close to people’s chests. With openness, people are more apt to engage in difficult conversations, an essential component of great collaboration. If you’ve ever experienced great collaboration you will know that it becomes much easier to frame problems and in turn, find solutions. It all starts with a solid foundation of trust among all of the organization’s members.

We are intrigued by the way top executives frequently hold open dialogue with all members of their company even (especially) about sensitive matters effecting company strategy. They trust their employees to keep the sensitive information close and the employees trust their executives to take their feedback seriously.

The Department of the Navy will only achieve organizational honesty and institutional integrity if we trust each other… And this is difficult.

How do we overcome our negative reactions to internal threat, embarrassment, perceived loss of power, and new perspectives from E-1 to O-10?

Are my Navy teammates comfortable showing me their vulnerabilities? If not, why?

How can trust be restored?

There is hope to answer these questions and enhance the level of trust in our organization. Building and restoring trust becomes easier when we focus on mutual purpose and respect. Destructive disagreement can be overcome by respect built on our common pledge to support and defended The Constitution of the United States of America.

RUSTLAMTRHREAfter the Russian moves in to the Crimea, there was a fair bit of goofing at the old Russia hands in the Pentagon who were excited after years of being ignored, shuffling around the halls waving dusty Harvard Graphics slides to anyone they met – but that cute phase is long past.

Almost everyone appreciates that, while not the Soviet Union, the Russian bear still demands respect. Encouraged by their victory over the USA in the strategic direction in Syria – expect Russia to continue to push the envelope of their regional influence back to her traditional boundaries.

In line with that, everyone should keep up to speed with the latest Russian naval developments. With both domestic use and sales on the international marketplace, our Sailors of the middle of the 21st Century will have to know Russian hardware as well as their fathers knew Soviet Hardware at the end of the 20th.

You can go ahead and put on your Christmas vacation reading list the latest from ONI, The Russian Navy: A Historic Transition. You can download at the link or read below … but this is an excellently digestible UNCLASS primer.

Just a few pull quotes:

The new technologically advanced Russian Navy, increasingly armed with the KALIBR family of weapons, will be able to more capably defend the maritime approaches to the Russian Federation and exert significant influence in adjacent seas. This multi-purpose force will be the forward-layered defense of Russia and its maritime exclusive economic zone and will be able to promote Russian diplomatic interests, advance maritime science, combat piracy, and provide humanitarian assistance.

It will also provide a flexible platform for Russia to demonstrate offensive capability, threaten neighbors, project power regionally, and advance President Putin’s stated goal of returning Russia to clear great power status.

They have a mission as we do. They also have catch-up to play, and some grievances to work on. They are not Western, nor Eastern – they are Russian.

Part of being Russian, they like to follow their plans – if they have the resources to do so. As their capabilities and resources grow, where will they go and what will they do? Well, they will tell you.

The Navy’s peacetime missions are:
Deter. Maintain strategic nuclear deterrent forces—strategic nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs)—in permanent ready status, able to deliver a timely retaliatory strike or deploy in times of growing tension to deter an attack against Russia.
Defend. Maintain and deploy constant ready general-purpose naval forces to protect and defend Russia’s national interests both in adjacent seas as well as in more distant waters.
Demonstrate. Use the select deployment of general-purpose forces as an “instrument of state” to support Russian foreign policy.

In times of increased tension and war, the Navy’s priority missions are:
Protect. Protect the sea-based strategic deterrent force.
Interdict. Interdict or blunt an aero-space attack against Russia from the maritime directions.

Note their ease of discussing nuclear weapons. Don’t discount it, not a bit.

Again, read it all – especially the end of it. A lot of the old Soviet Navy gear will begin to fade year by year, and the newer stuff will take its place. Some of which we have seen in use in Syria. It will give the Russians not just a new look, but new capabilities and a new mindset.

Oh, and the pic above, there is another one for PACFLT in the report. I like the above though as it gives a nice insight in to what the Russians see as “their” naval zone of influence. What we think of the Caribbean and the waters between Guam and San Francisco? Yep, perhaps what these waters mean to the Russians.

Ponder, then ponder some more next time someone starts to speak of no fly zones, maritime exclusion zones and all that.

Russia Pub 2015 ONI by CDR Salamander

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity.
Without it, no real success is possible.”
-President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Character is the most fundamental and indispensable quality of leadership. As junior officers, we serve as a critical link between the enlisted sailors and senior officers. Without the vital component of steadfast moral integrity, our ability to accomplish the mission would be severely degraded. Too often we have seen the results of epic failures in an individual’s character. These events erode the public trust in our military, but more importantly, it erodes the trust our enlisted men and women have in their officer corps. In order for the military to refocus it’s leadership balance we must all reevaluate the process in which we lead.

To accomplish this rebalancing, I propose a four-tiered pyramid entitled “The MP3 Model.” I have named these four tiers the Moral, Personal, Practical, and Professional levels. In this turbulent and challenging world, the Moral level must be the base of this leadership paradigm. Morals and ethics must be the guiding light for all leadership decisions. If we as leaders drift away from morality, the results can be catastrophic. A strong moral base is not something that you wake up with one day, it is the cumulative wisdom amassed over your lifetime that informs your decision-making process on a day-to-day basis. It should be a sensation that occurs practically subconsciously; however, there is a conscious component to morality. In his bestselling book, The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty, Dan Ariely showed in a variety of experiments that people in general performed to higher moral standards when simply reminded of these morals before taking the test. An example was having people sign a one-sentence statement at the top of the first page of the test that said, “I will not cheat on this test, and the work submitted is my own.” Just this small impetus dropped the amount of people who tried to cheat, (Ariely 2012). What does this mean to us as Naval leaders? It means that morality is largely a subconscious act, but that it is also a “perishable” skill. What I mean by that is it is easy to get caught up in the “daily grind” of work in the military, where you are just trying to accomplish the mission by any means necessary, and the lines between right and wrong become blurred. It is incumbent upon the junior officers of the Fleet to ensure we discuss these issues. There is absolutely no reason to require everyone to sign statements of morality as in the example; but having junior officers who stress the importance of moral righteousness and uphold the Navy’s values can and will make a difference in the future. Morality is the sine qua non of this paradigm and will ensure the integrity of our Navy.

MP3 PoulinOnce a sound Moral base is established, it will be the foundation for the subsequent Personal, Practical, and Professional levels of leadership. The Personal level is centered on the very basics; it is the individual’s presence, appearance, and overall military bearing. Rightfully so, the Navy expects this as a basic prerequisite for any Naval officer. A Naval officer must know the proper uniform regulations and follow them, be physically fit, be professional in his/her conduct with others, be proactive, be able to communicate effectively, and maintain high standards in others; simply the basics.

Next is the Practical level. As the world becomes dramatically more technologically advanced the Navy is likewise becoming increasingly technically driven. This level of leadership is thus focused on the technical expertise related to your job, whether learning the ins and outs of your aircraft fuel system, having an in-depth knowledge of your submarine’s nuclear reactor, or becoming an expert on demolition. This technical expertise is critical to successfully accomplishing the mission. What it means at the most basic level is simply to “know your job.” Admiral Chester Nimitz spoke on several occasions about the “readiness to serve.” As the leader of a division in a technologically advanced military, this technical expertise is an integral part of being able to serve when called upon; when the order comes to launch a torpedo or fire a missile, there must be no doubt up and down the chain of command that this task can be completed. Following this logic, it is unequivocally the responsibility of any leader to seek a level of professional knowledge that surpasses the level needed to accomplish the mission. President John F. Kennedy proclaimed that, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” The active leader understands this legacy and is constantly striving to learn more.

At the top of the pyramid is the Professional level, or more informally, the “change the world” level. This level is focused on an individual’s ability to lead sailors and marines in order to accomplish the mission. At this level, you must be able to concisely communicate your vision and your goals to your subordinates, while also providing feedback to your superiors about what you need to accomplish the stated mission. You must be able to make decisions quickly with little information, to look out for the welfare of your people both professionally and personally, to communicate effectively, to know every facet of the mission and devote your resources to accomplishing it, and you must be able to apply everything from the preceding three levels of leadership. Now, any person of sound mind and unyielding work ethic should be able to maintain the first three levels of the leadership pyramid without a terrible amount of difficulty. But being able to effectively employ your leadership skills across a wide spectrum of personnel and events is an exceptionally distinctive talent. The two best questions any junior officer can ask himself/herself at this level is 1) What can I do to make my division or unit more efficient and 2) What can I do to make my sailors’/marines’ lives better?

The Moral, Personal, Practical, Professional pyramid represents the pathway to sound leadership. The natural question is, is it possible to be an effective leader without one of the other levels? The answer is absolutely, but beware of the results. There are plenty of brilliant professional leaders in the military that may not maintain their personal or practical sides of leadership and are still successful. However, when you ignore one of these levels, it is as if that level on the pyramid is hollowed out, creating a “house of cards” that is trying to support the upper echelons but will likely fail. To ensure the integrity of our system we must all strive to maintain the four levels of leadership.

The importance of morality in leadership is not a new phenomenon. The most recent edition of the Navy Divisions Officer’s Guide notes that, “According to general order 21 (as first issued) leadership is defined as, ‘the art of accomplishing the Navy’s mission through people.’ It is the sum of those qualities of intellect, human understanding, and moral character that enable a person to inspire and manage a group of other people successfully. Effective leadership, therefore, is based on personal example, good management practices, and moral responsibility,” (Stavridis and Girrier 2004, 4). Moral leadership is therefore not a new idea, but does require occasional reflection.

There must be a reason that the Navy has had several high-profile scandals within the past couple of years, many with a principal moral component. Perhaps these incidents can be attributed to individuals who were caught up in the daily routine and not thinking through their actions. Regardless of the reason, these incidences are unacceptable. A Google search of “navy scandal” reveals the following top results: Navy Expels 34 Sailors in Nuclear Cheating Scandal, Navy to Retool Blue Angels after Scandal, Navy’s Bribery and Prostitution Scandal is Worse than Imagined, Three Admirals Censured, and many more. These episodes erode the public trust, which is absolutely essential to our continued operation. The military is rightfully held to a much higher standard than our civilian counterparts in a lot of respects. One of these episodes is too many, and several is an epidemic. What is particularly troubling is that a lot of these issues of questionable morals take place up and down the chain of command, even at the Commanding Officer level and above. It is incidences like the ones delineated above that underline the importance of why we all must rebalance and refocus our leadership. A strong Moral base will enable all leaders to make the best decisions at the Personal, Practical, and Professional levels of leadership.

Ultimately, the MP3 Leadership Model provides a guideline of expectations for successful leadership. All leaders in the Navy should strive to maintain the highest standards of Moral, Personal, Practical, and Professional leadership. Most importantly, we all must maintain our moral foundation. Our Navy’s moral core will invigorate and strengthen our resolve and enable the United States to continue to lead around the world. When he was retired, Admiral Stockdale spoke about the importance of character in leaders. He noted, “Character is probably more important than knowledge…Of course, all things being equal, knowledge is to be honored…But what I’m saying is that whenever I’ve been in trouble spots—in crises (and I’ve been in a lot of trouble and in a lot of crises)—the sine qua non of a leader has lain not in his chess-like grasp of issues and the options they portend, not in his style of management, not in his skill at processing information, but in his having the character, the heart, to deal spontaneously, honorably, and candidly with people, perplexities, and principles,” (Cook 2012, 13). The Naval leaders of today must continue to uphold this legacy as we move forward in a challenging world.


Ariely, Dan. The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY: 2012.

Cook, Martin L. 2012. Reflections on the Stockdale Legacy. Naval War College, June 1, 2012.

Stavridis, James and Robert Girrier. Division Officer’s Guide, Eleventh Edition. Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD: 2004.

U.S. Department of Defense. The Armed Forces Officer. National Defense University Press, Washington, D.C.: 2007.

Editor’s Note: This semester the Naval Academy plebes in my naval history class were asked to write their ten page research paper on one of the former Commandants. 4/C Andrew Obst wrote his on Rear Admiral James Winnefeld, Sr. (USNA 1951), who served as Commandant from 1976 to 1978. Because of his contributions to Naval Institute Proceedings, Admiral Winnefeld is one of the featured authors in the Warrior Writers exhibit, on display at the Naval Academy Museum through 31 January 2016. Rear Admiral Winnefeld passed away a few weeks after meeting with 4/C Obst. What follows is what 4/C Obst took away from their meeting. – Claude Berube

Growing up, I always saw admirals in movies as being bigger than life, and untouchable. So as a plebe earlier this year, I was a calm and collected nervous wreak walking up the stairs to Memorial Hall from Bancroft for my interview with Rear Admiral Winnefeld. Pacing up and down the hallway for almost 30 minutes, checking my watch every minute then rechecking my planner four times to make sure the interview was in fact today. Precisely, at 1400hrs a sharply dressed older gentleman began walking up the stairs. Though he had been retired for many years, I immediately knew this gentleman was Admiral Winnefeld. As I approached him, he greeted me by my name with a pleasant smile accompanied by firm handshake. Once we reached the top of the staircase, we then walked to the exact spot where he took his oath of office, as a plebe in the class of 1947. He stood at that spot in silence for a moment. Upon taking our seats overlooking the ground, Admiral Winnefeld briefly glanced outside at the restriction muster, mumbling to himself something along the line of “some things never change,” complemented by a light chuckle. Seeing this I politely asked if anything really ever changes. His reply: “only to those on the outside”.

Winnefeld0001From this point on the interview started. Rather than just answering my question directly, Admiral Winnefeld would turn almost every question into a leadership lesson, by explaining his view on the question or subject then asking me what I would have done different. Prior to the interview, I expected our discussions to be full of official tone accompanied by generic responses. Admiral Winnefeld conversely, came across as a teacher. He wasn’t there to answer my questions for a paper. He was there to pass down his experiences as a leader. One response in particular that continues to stand out in my mind was if an officer serves his country, or his hometown. Rather than Admiral Winnefeld answering the question directly, he told to me that the best officers he has ever been privileged to work with care about their men, leading them on the ethos they were raised by. Admiral Winnefeld followed this with the question “which service better fit his description and why”.

It came time for the final portion of the interview, though I still had plenty of questions to ask about his wealth of knowledge. Admiral Winnefeld asked for questions to be stopped in order to ask questions about me. He wanted to know why I came to the academy, as well as what kind of officer I see myself as being in the future. Upon my responding, Admiral Winnefeld encouraged me to follow my goals as a leader not as an officer, explaining to me how I was going to be a great officer if I do this.

Walking out of Memorial Hall that afternoon I had empty notes for my essay, yet a full tank of lasting confidence accompanied by a wealth of knowledge on what it means to be both an officer, and an admiral.

Obst: What do you see as the role of a 21st century officer?

Winnefeld: A junior officer’s role is to lead through your men and in order to both be successful as well as make your men successful you must have your men be successful. Take care of your men they are the sole duty of an officer Your men’s success is proportional to your own success. Learn who your men are outside of the military. You are the source their source of information, as well as, trust.

Obst: What did you for in particular look in a junior officer when you were a senior officer?

Winnefeld: Ownership in what he does no matter what job it is he will take it over and is proud of his work. He must consider his own work important. He gets his work done and looks for more work to accomplish. An Officer who needs “fire control” – they are the ones who go places later in their career.

Obst:  You’ve been characterized as a “mild-mannered disciplinarian” [when you were Commandant.] Do you see this as accurate?

Winnefeld: I was never a screamer I never found that as an effective way to lead. As a leader always have a commanding voice, yet you give commands in a well composed manner. I learned my basic leadership as a Company Commander of the Color Company. I considered this the most important job in brigade and also most developmental as a leader. It showed how to work within and with the chain of command as well as how to effectively communicate.

Obst: As a young officer how did you take the role of having superior authority, yet inferior knowledge?

Winnefeld: Use your men not drive them. Do not narrow your field of learning. Your job is to lead men not equipment. All of your men are experts in their own job and piece of equipment, “you are to be the expert on your men. Work with and listen to them about their individual skill allow them to teach you in there area of expertise. Use what they know and trust them and their skillset. They will in turn trust you and your orders. Push your limits, learn as much as you can about the skills of your men.

Obst: As commandant what was your plan of attack regarding the integration of women into the Naval Academy?

Winnefeld: It was mostly all planned out. Shoes and equipment were the largest concern as most did not accommodate for woman’s body types. Lower leg issues were a large medical concern; this was fixed with tennis shoes the following year.

Obst: Did you feel pressure from Washington due to importance of this integration in regards to the woman’s rights movement?

Winnefeld: The senior officer’s job is to take care of the upper chain of command. It was my job to deal with the brigade not Washington. The Superintendent and I had a great working relationship; he had trust in me allowing me to run this process without anyone looking over my shoulder. Due to this, the process was much smoother and more effective. As an officer you must understand politics yet it is our job to lead people safely.

Obst: Do you like the idea of having a set standard across the military rather than various standards for men and women?

Winnefeld: The majority of billets require a much larger mental than physical need. It depends on the person more than it depends on their gender.

Obst: How about combat roles?

Winnefeld: These should be open for all members of armed forces yet the standard should be the same for everything due to having a need for the physical aspect. If a person can do it then let them have it. Ninety percent of our job is skillset.

Obst: Do you believe in a requirement for a person to be enlisted before being appointed to an Academy?

Winnefeld: When I was Commandant there was a high percentage of prior enlisted. Also previous college experience helps. By having all different sources of appointments as well as a multitude of commissioning sources the armed forces itself acts as a melting pot. Diversity allows our force to be stronger. A more dynamic wardroom is a more dynamic ship which is allows it to be both more versatile, as well as, effective

Obst: Is it better to serve for your country or your hometown?

Winnefeld: The best leaders have a solid moral foundation. They use this to make their decisions. Family is a way to both relate and stay grounded. It was most effective during Cold War. It allowed a leader to understand what he has back home and the value of not going to war. It teaches you how to be tactful as a person. Family is a backbone.

Obst: What differences do you see as a major difference between the Navy and Marine Corps?

Winnefeld: Marines are all about small unit leadership. Navy is more “force leadership.” Naval personal are typically more inquiring making them harder to lead. Marines will do anything for their country and have immense devotion. We need both elements in order to be an effective force.

Please join us for a special 2PM (EST) early edition of Midrats for Episode 310: Fleet Battle School

How do you design a game that has practical tactical application to the naval tactician? Even more ambitious, how do you make one accessible and understandable with the goal of making it a mobile wargame for eventual use by sailors and warfare commands.

For today’s show we will discuss one of the projects of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC), the game “Fleet Battle School.”

Our guests to discuss this game, gaming in general, and its practical application will be three individuals involved in the project; LT Matthew Hipple, Paul Vebber and Chris Kona. Chris Kona is a warfare analyst at Naval Undersea Warfare Center. A former submarine officer in the U.S. Navy, he was project lead for the CRIC’s Fleet Battle School wargame project. Paul Vebber is a retired SWO CDR who is a life-long hobby wargamer. He was one of founders of Matrix Games, the premiere publisher of computer wargames, working with them until their merger with Slitherine games. He currently works for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Mission Area Director for Undersea Warfare as Asst. Director for Concept Development, Wargaming, and Experimentation.

Join us live if you can (or pick the show up later by clicking here). Or pick the show up later on our iTunes page here.

“Consider that everything is opinion, and opinion is in thy power.” –Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. One of the great benefits of the Information Age is that it is easier than ever to write, publish, and share one’s opinions with a wide audience.

Blogging, as we practice it today, is no longer the purview of one narrow group of individuals, nor is it geographically limited to one’s parents’ basement. With largely ubiquitous Internet access, anyone can write a blog, and anyone can read a blog. Including junior sailors.

Which is what makes the recent rhetoric coming out of Ask the Skipper disappointing. Skipper—and many others—rightfully have an opinion on processes within Naval Aviation. Skipper has placed high enough importance on this opinion that he has written about it several times (here and here and here and here).

But here is where blogging meets reality: when the junior sailors and officers of the Carrier Air Wing-in-question read his words, they are not merely considering this from a process angle. They are developing opinions on the character and leadership abilities of their future Commanding Officer.

As far as I can tell, no blogger has not reached out to the individual-in-question to hear his side of the story. No one has discussed his background and leadership at multiple levels within Naval Aviation and command. No one has considered that we owe a healthy dose of fairness to our sailors, as much as we are owed fairness in our processes.

So these opinions on a man’s character and leadership are not based on reality; they are based on process conjecture. They have gone unchecked, and tragically, if they continue to go unchecked, will undermine the readiness of a proud Carrier Air Wing. That’s a very real thing to trifle with.

To be fair, Skipper has legitimate grievances with the process by which Naval Aviation leaders are selected. Many people do. The house needs to be fixed at multiple levels, from FITREPs to detailing to strategic communications.

But when we publish our opinions, we owe our audience due diligence. And when our opinions impact real people, through no fault of their own, we owe them common courtesy, as well.

Naval Aviation is full of reasonable, level-headed men and women capable of considering an issue from multiple angles. It is also full of incredible leaders. Everyone on this year’s CAG slate is an impressive leader worthy of the full faith and loyalty of their Air Wing. Of course, they will each have to earn it—but no one should have to enter that opportunity with undeserved prejudice.

keeping-time-with-biological-clock-articleIn our up-or-out system, not everyone can or should have a full active duty career option. By design, you need a large cohort of the young that will neck-down over time in to a small wedge at the top. Performance, boards, and life decisions of service members have always helped the culling as people progressed over time.

That many people leave early, even very promising people, is a requirement of our system. This simple fact should not be seen by itself as bad. With the many variables as are in retention, especially with abrupt budget derived demand shocks, adjustments will need to be made. However, we have enough historical aggregate data on retention vs. economic variables that in admittedly clunky ways, we can adjust the sweeten/sour knob to get our end numbers more often than not.

We have run in to a little problem though. A difference that was manageable with a once small sub-groups of personnel, as that sub-group has grown by design as of late, has become a problem. A problem that is creating a more inefficient personnel system. One that is running in to a wall on the path to an externally derived end-state benchmark.

That problem is life. As reported in NavyTimes by Meghann Myers and David Larter;

For the first women to earn the coveted dolphin pin, it’s decision time about whether to stay in the Navy. And so far, only three of the original 24 have signed up.

“I would probably expect that most of the women are going to get out,” Lt. Jennifer Carroll told Navy Times. “I don’t know exactly what everyone’s personal reasons are for it, but I think a lot of it has to do with co-location.”

Carroll said she is considering leaving the Navy instead of becoming a department head, principally because it’s unlikely she’ll be able to find orders in the same area as her husband, an E-2 Hawkeye pilot.

Everyone here is aware of the top-down desire for a high % of female senior officers, sooner more than later, but is that achievable without excessive abuse to the larger system? Is such a targeted number of female senior leaders so high because it meets someone’s sociopolitical metrics? Sure, you can do that … but you will have to assess a lot more women coming in the pipeline. To make that number work, geometrically more, but the retention percentage difference won’t change. You will not be able to change biology and psychology. You will always be chasing the dragon as the ratios will always be skewed.

“Regardless of community or gender, committing to a department head tour requires dedication and sacrifice by our junior officers and their families,” SUBFOR spokesman Cmdr. Tommy Crosby said in an email. “Submarine force leadership remains committed to mentoring our junior officers, male and female, as they face this challenging decision.”

Factoring in those unplanned losses leaves the retention rate at 16 percent for the first submarine officers, Crosby said. … Crosby noted that retention for nuclear-trained women in surface warfare stands at 14 percent …

But within those communities is a great disparity. While 41 percent of male SWOs stick around, about 22 percent of their female colleagues do.

The problem is that we have a very powerful political movement that does not understand the military, but does know how to make a living off the heavily male skew in the military. A skew that, in many ways, exists for the same reason one exists in the NFL.

There are more varied physical requirements in our Navy than the NFL, thank goodness, so there are more opportunities for the average female to serve – but even that hits a wall unless you start to artificially pump the system.

Though women make up over 50% of the population, even if you removed all physical and cultural barriers to a desire to serve, you could never expand female numbers higher than they already are in a volunteer military, nor would you.

The reason? No matter how many people you try to brainwash in the socio-political reeducation “Lean In Circles,” most women want, if they have found a good enough mate, to have as full of a life as they can – as they define it. Biology gives a woman a very small window to do that.

For many women, two of the most significant parts of pursuit is to have a successful marriage and to raise the next generation.

For an officer that receives her commission at age 22, she comes off her first sea duty at age 25 to 28+/-. Let’s say they are average for their college graduate peer group and get married at 27. In line with most of their cohort, the average age of their first child is 30. Age 30, yes, you know that age. That is also the age that female fertility starts a steeper downward curve – dropping off very fast at 35.

What if they want to have 2 kids? 3 or even 4? Look at what is required in your 30s for a career officer. Grab a calendar. Grab a clock. Benchmark your life. Do the math.

As outlined in the referenced article, I am OK with this retention rate. As a son, husband, and a father; I respect that for women, life choices are more difficult and nuanced than for men – and in their 20s and 30s less flexible. Biology does not have a reset button or reward late bloomers.

The lower retention makes sense given the realities of life. In the end, we get a few years of service from outstanding JOs who just happens to be female. Smart, driven professionals who served their nation for a few years active duty, and then leave to raise the next generation of leaders, citizens, and even blogg’rs.

Maybe some will transfer to USNR, some not. Either way, we should support their decision and celebrate their service. We are a free nation, and this is the lifestyle choice of a free people. Let them leave with a smile and leave them with a smile … that will support the recruitment of the next cohort of servicemembers.

For those dual service couples who stay and try to make it work with the female staying on active duty? Well, here is some advice from my personal experience. The only 2-child female career active duty officers who have successfully made it work (success defined as an intact marriage and children not being raised by a 3rd country national), was when the husband shifted to USNR and became a full time house-husband. Good men, good officers all – but that kind of man is hard to find, and you have to find them. Men like that come as-is with their own sets of life goals; you can’t force-break one in a “Lean In Circle.”

Of course, some smart people know this math and social construct, but ignore it. Why? For some, it is complicated. They have zero top-cover to tell the truth. They are just trying to keep their head down until the PCS cycle makes it someone else’s immediate problem.

For others, it is simple; they need the issue. That is what justifies their job. It is what brings their paycheck. Create a crisis that cannot be solved? If you can make that a business, well hey – good work if you can get it.

What is our Navy to do? Speak the truth. Look for ways that produce more operational good than bad. Fight the need to make metrics for the Potomac Flotilla happy talk when they hurt the Fleet. More importantly, stop making our female Shipmates feel guilty or that they have done something wrong by wanting what is the right of every woman – to choose the lifestyle that they find fulfilling.

Half a decade or so of service as an officer in the world’s greatest Navy followed by raising a gaggle of great kids? Beats two divorces, weekend visitation, and a dusty 20-yr shadow box any day.

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