Archive for the 'naval academy' Tag

Today, 27 May 2016, the Class of 2016 will be graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. The Naval Institute shares the words of a commanding officer to his son on the occasion of his son’s graduation from the Naval Academy in June, 1955.

As today’s graduates enter commissioned service, these words of sixty years ago ring true.

To the Class of 2016, the Naval Institute extends heartfelt congratulations.

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I, as many alumni, believe that USNA is a national treasure and should continue. BUT – to do so, it must be able to continue to demonstrate USNA is required. It must demonstrate that it is effective in carrying out its primary mission – to “graduate leaders dedicated to a career of naval service.”

Recently, in response to a FOIA request, after almost 3 months, USNA has been unable to provide even the definition of “a career of naval service,” let alone an evaluation of its mission effectiveness.

Captain Westbrook’s article does not, unfortunately, support his premise that USNA is needed. In his response, he fails to provide the proof he says he will. His article does not prove:

  1. That USNA accomplishes its mission;
  2. That USNA produces, in the long term, better officers than NROTC or OCS;
  3. That USNA provides officers who have (using Westbrook’s quote of Huntington’s 1950 tenets) more expertise, are better able to execute their responsibilities or have more “corporateness.”

150701-N-TO519-254Westbrook’s cost analysis is flawed. One must compare the total cost to the Navy to produce a commissioned officer. He rejects that concept, seemingly because it costs the Navy significantly more, as Fleming pointed out, to provide a commissioned officer from USNA than from any other source.

If USNA is cost effective and mission effective – if its officers are better and stay in longer – then the higher total cost to produce a graduate can be accepted. Unfortunately, neither Westbrook nor USNA has provided the data to substantiate that.

One can tell when one’s argument is unconvincing. Westbrook resorts to ad hominem attacks – such as inferring Fleming is a “charlatan.” That’s what one does when one’s “facts” don’t support his premise.

The measure of whether or not the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth is whether or not, compared to other officer accession programs, USNA is graduating leaders who are more dedicated to a career of naval service and are more competent officers throughout their career. Unfortunately, Westbrook’s article provides no proof of either.

I think USNA should continue – want it to – but taxpayers need for USNA to demonstrate that the officers produced are worth the additional “fully burdened” cost to operate USNA.

I hope it will – and soon!

This is a response to Bruce Fleming’s article published on on 7 March. His article was titled in the hyberbolic terms and vernacular one does not normally expect from college professors: “Let’s get rid of Annapolis: Our military academies screw taxpayers and the students — and serve only the powerful brass.”

I am writing from aboard the Sixth Fleet flagship, USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20), steaming in the Adriatic Sea. Despite submitting this rebuttal to the editors of soon after Fleming’s article was published, they have refused to print my response. Many thanks to the U.S. Naval Institute Editors for including in here.

In response, I offer your readers an alternative to Mr. Fleming’s rant: the perspective of that of a U.S. Navy Captain, at the point of 23 years of active duty service. I am a Surface Warfare Officer, which means that during my numerous tours of duty at-sea I drive warships and lead the teams of great Americans who serve in these vessels. Leading the crew of every Navy ship is the small cadre of commissioned officers charged with developing, training, and managing the current and future operations of ship and crew. Approximately one third of these officers began their careers one hot summer in Annapolis as new Naval Academy Midshipmen. As any number of the leadership classics written by democratic statesmen or capitalist magnates explain: peak-performing teams require bold, qualified leaders. In the military, we call them officers, and the U.S. Naval Academy produces some of the best.

150701-N-TO519-191As part of Samuel Huntington’s 1950’s classic The Soldier and the State, he presented his readers with the seminal treatise on military officers. He wrote that though there are many vocations and jobs that are beneficial to society, he defined four as the only true professions: law, medicine, clergy, and military officership. Huntington identified three key principles required to meet his definition which serve to bind these professions to their respective duties: expertise, responsibility, and ‘corporateness’. His essay, a subset of the larger tome, is a quick read and I encourage your readers to examine it in detail. But here I will quickly attempt to paraphrase Huntington’s key tenets:

Expertise: The inherent professional education and experience that separates professionals from laymen, which can only be instilled initially by institutions of research, history, and education. This expertise is perpetuated between the academic and practical sides of a profession through professional writing, journals, conferences, and the circulation of personnel between practice and teaching.

Responsibility: Governed by a canon of ethics, empowered by law with authority—but also regulated by the State, with an auditable process for promotion and certification by qualified peers. And in the case of military officers: sworn by oath to serve the fundamental foundation of our nation’s laws. He noted that responsibilities of commissioned military officers, unlike any of their civilian professional counterparts, includes the “management of violence.” This responsibility does not include the authority to start the next war, but rather depends on the intellectual skill borne of near-continuous study throughout a career, to ensure that, if possible, the officer’s actions may avoid the next conflict.

Corporateness: Empowered by custom, history, and collective discipline of the group, professionals engender the trust that society places on them through the self-regulation of their members. An officer’s commission is the legal right to practice his or her profession, just as the license to practice applies to a physician. Through a combination of professional associations and an efficient bureaucracy, the integrity of the commission is maintained, and levels of competence are rewarded over time through the promotion of the best and fully qualified.

Mr. Fleming’s narrative misses the point that institutions like Annapolis, our nation’s other esteemed Service academies, and the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) units across the country’s university system, are the crucible of the cultural indoctrination and education in which the principles above are imbued.

I will attempt to provide the “proof” that his article demands:

I consider myself uniquely qualified to respond to his article, since I am independent of any of the forces of nepotism which he alleges. I have no children nor relatives enrolled at any service academy, past or present. I was not educated at the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA), but was a 4-year Navy scholarship student at a respected private institution, Tulane University. I entered that program following three years of high school as a scholarship student at a small private school in Tennessee, where I washed dishes every day after lunch to fund my tuition and academic aspirations—there was no “brass” supporting my college plans. When I applied to the Navy for educational opportunities, I received the offer of both an ROTC scholarship and was also accepted to Annapolis. Absent the nepotism Mr. Fleming suggests, I was offered these options based on my own academic merit, not due to any connections with USNA alumni, siblings, or school administrators. My ultimate decision to attend Tulane ensures that today I write not from a position as a USNA alumnus, but as an independent observer unaffected by Fleming’s allegations of the hush-culture of a “henhouse guarded by foxes” (his terms).

I am also qualified to respond to the numerous fiscal errors in his article, since I periodically have served tours of duty ashore as a Navy budget officer when I have rotated ashore between sea duty assignments. A level-3 certified defense comptroller, I am intimately familiar with the financial analysis required to run the United States Navy, which if it were a for-profit business would rank #9 on the Fortune 100 based on annual budget and overall manpower. I have done cost-benefit analysis of nearly every aspect of naval service, including the fully-burdened cost of education and training of officers and enlisted personnel. The only “smoke and mirrors” (his term) on this topic are the specious sound bites he presented as fact to his readers regarding return-on-investment for the education of the seed corn of our professional officer corps.

As with all statistical analysis, charlatans can use samples of data to suit their needs. For example, “9 out of 10 doctors surveyed prefer this product . . . ” can be misleading if an advertiser gets to pick which group of ten doctors out of a much larger survey group to meet their needs. Similarly, Mr. Fleming’s misleading figure of “fewer than one in five” officers in the Navy graduated from Annapolis is a selective manipulation of the facts to fabricate a dramatic sound bite. In fact, the Annapolis-trained portion of the total number of ALL officers serving in the Navy, including reservists, officers of the restricted line (the support branches), staff corps, doctors, lawyers, dentists, professional engineers, and the prior-enlisted technical leaders of the Limited Duty Officer/Warrant Officer “Mustang” corps represent close to that smaller slice of the overall pie chart.

However, the express charter of the Service Academies is to primarily train officers for service in the Unrestricted Line (URL). Unrestricted Line Officers are those trained to aspire for command of ships, submarines, aviation squadrons, special warfare commands, and other units of combat arms. The U.S. Naval Academy provides approximately 1/3 of the graduates for each of these communities. A very small number of Annapolis officers graduate annually with commissions into the staff corps communities, primarily due to being unqualified for the URL billets for medical reasons.

Within my own community of Surface Warfare:

  • 29% of my peers who serve in ships were Annapolis graduates,
  • 35% from ROTC,
  • 26% from Officer Candidate School (OCS),
  • 6% from enlisted-to-commission programs,
  • 4% from all other sources.

Annual officer accessions vary slightly by graduating year, community choice, and the needs of the Navy, but the approximate 1/3 USNA and 1/3 ROTC share of commissioned officer average remain consistent year after year within the URL.

150917-N-ZZ999-023The seventy-seven Navy ROTC units, comprised of students from 156 universities across the country produce the largest volume of annual accessions as noted above. Depending on the commissioning university, the cost of the tuition alone exceeds the tuition equivalent at Annapolis, including all of the essential costs that Mr. Fleming believes are frivolous, to include room, board, and medical coverage. An “apples to apples” cost comparison is avoided in Mr. Fleming’s article, in which he provided a fully-burdened cost per student . . . not the same as tuition cost. His estimate, like a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, utilizes the Naval Academy’s annual budget appropriated by Congress to operate and maintain the U.S. Naval Academy, and divides that figure by the total student body to derive a cost-per-student of nearly $400,000 from recruitment through graduation, or almost $100,000 per-student/per-year.

This figure seems outrageous, but when compared to a fully-burdened cost of state universities and private universities, which are funded from a combination of state taxes (state schools only), multimillion dollar endowments, and income from research and sports contracts, the total cost to educate of nearly $100,000 per-student/per-year is right in line with upper-tier institutions.

For example, at my own alma mater, the cost of annual tuition, room, board, and medical insurance is priced at $66,700 per year in the 2016-2017 academic year catalog. Tulane University’s audited financial statement reflects annual non-tuition “operating income” from endowments, gifts, grants, research, and other contracts at over $520 million per year. With minor exceptions (specifically, insurance and interest on debt) Tulane and other universities spend their annual expenditures on the same sort of expenses that the Naval Academy executes in their annual outlays mentioned in Fleming’s article, daily operations of the university, maintaining facilities including prestigious on-campus historic homes for their most senior educators, grounds keeping, staff salaries, etc. When the $520 million operating income is divided by Tulane’s total full-time student enrollment of 13,449 students this year (undergrad and graduate), the per-student costs borne by the university is $38,664.

Adding the university-paid share to the student-paid cost of tuition and fees, the fully-burdened cost of a Tulane education costs over $105,000 per-student/per-year, exceeding total annual costs per student at the USNA.

I did not include the data from Tulane above to “toot the horn” of my own institution, nor to show the inflation-adjusted value of my own degree. I chose Tulane because it is a fair comparison to the Naval Academy’s undergraduate programs by metrics of student selectivity, demographic diversity, average SAT scores, academic attrition rate, and even overall varsity sports performance. Additionally, like Tulane, much of the Naval Academy’s extracurricular activities for students and much of the sports activities are provided by active alumni associations funded solely through the donations of their members. Even the sports performance of both schools is on par and is merely average to above-average in most categories based on respective conference records (with a few shining exceptions in some years). My apologies to both Green Wave and Naval Academy sports fans out there, but this similarity is a testament to both institutions whose primary focus is on academics and the insistence that the student remain priority in all of their “student-athletes”.

Based on these facts, taxpayers who fund the U.S. Naval Academy’s annual budget are getting their money’s worth: Annapolis graduates receive a comparable upper-tier private university education, and at a comparable cost.

The ultimate question of value and return-on-investment is that at the Naval Academy, the product is so much more than merely a bachelor’s degree; Annapolis builds leaders. The “proof” of leadership that Fleming demands, for which fortunately there is no classroom test, can only be borne by the time-tested observations of naval history, by by the current observations of my peers, and by the Sailors we lead.

The real measure of leadership, and the inestimable value of what the Annapolis graduate receives during four years, is as much a product of the naval activities performed outside of the classroom environment as it is in the academic rigors. As Samuel Huntington’s tenet of “expertise” requires, the institution’s training and cultural indoctrination is primarily led by naval officers, most on active duty and several who are retired, who return to Annapolis to teach Midshipmen from their fleet and world experience. Numerous alumni with storied success in the Navy and Marine Corps as well as in civilian careers return to the campus to lecture and to share their varied expertise. The practical application of the tenets of service and of the Navy core values is further exercised by Midshipmen engaged in world travel during summer military training in the Fleet with Navy and the Marine Corps units.

150522-N-SQ432-878Mr. Fleming’s observation that many officers leave the service after five years is almost accurate, but his assessment that this attrition invalidates the entire training model is not. Many officers commissioned in Annapolis, as well as many of those commissioned from ROTC universities, do depart the service in predictable numbers after their initial service obligation. For Naval Academy graduates, the initial obligation ends between five and seven years, depending on community (Navy and Marine Corps aviation trainees, for example do not begin to satisfy their service obligation until after they receive their “wings”, a training process that takes approximately two years). The annual attrition numbers vary annually and are influenced by changes in global economic factors, ship and squadron deployment schedules, as well as the impact of naval service during a time of war that has had a measurable toll on those Navy and Marine Officers who witness it.

No system of recruitment in any major corporation, military branch, or government agency can accurately predict long-term attrition and retention rates, nor can it guarantee long-term retention. Therefore, like the Navy, other businesses and agencies recruit large numbers of initial trainees with the understanding that some will not make it all the way to the IBM boardroom, to the corner office, or to command of a ship, submarine, or squadron. None of those institutions, however, would consider their initial training programs wasteful or worthy of cancellation because some number of their initial applicants didn’t last beyond five years, or because the same number didn’t make it all the way to CEO.

The time Midshipmen spend in Annapolis is the crucible, but after four years, their commission and newly-earned rank of Navy Ensign or Marine Second Lieutenant is merely their “license to learn”. Our enlisted Sailors and Marines swear an oath to God that they will obey the orders of the officers appointed over them, and these officers do not take that obligation lightly. When they get to the Fleet, they embrace this obligation to learn and the responsibilities of active duty with vigor. I have witnessed many superb demonstrations of excellence, self-sacrifice, and devotion to their shipmates by junior officers from all commissioning sources alike. I imagine teaching college students of the age and demographic that America’s towns may send to Mr. Fleming’s English classes may be occasionally frustrating based on the bitter list of what he says “Midshipmen learn” in his latest article to criticize both his employer and his students.

Unfortunately, Mr. Fleming has only seen them perform in the classroom. However, my peers and I have seen them as junior officers in the Fleet demonstrating “what Midshipmen learn” and performing amazing acts of leadership and selflessness using what the entire institution gave them, not merely the time spent in class. Below are just a few of the anecdotes I have observed that featured resilient and resourceful Naval Academy graduates . . . all examples of what they REALLY learn:

  • A newly-qualified small boat officer I sent out at night in 7-foot seas intuitively changed procedures on-the-fly without asking, resulting in a much faster rescue of one of my crew who had fallen overboard.
  • On liberty in St. John, USVI, an Ensign intervened in a deadly attack in a bar, saving the life of one of our Chiefs who was in trouble.
  • An Ensign who returned to work just days after a miscarriage to make direct contributions to execute a complex mission she had originally planned, upon which hundreds of Sailors depended.
  • A Lieutenant (j.g.) who arrived first on the scene of a major fire onboard the ship, evacuated two injured Sailors from the space without any protective equipment, then returned with only an oxygen bottle and mask and fought the fire for five minutes until he was relieved because an ammunition magazine was on the other side of the bulkhead.
  • A Lieutenant (j.g.) who designed and built a shower and bathroom facility out of spare parts to ensure dignity and sanitation for nearly ninety refugees we found at sea. Then she spent every hour off-watch supporting and comforting the passengers, using a foreign language she had learned during an exchange year abroad at a foreign service academy.

There are countless other stories like these. I have accumulated these in over 23 years in uniform on active duty in five warships, and continue to see more examples of excellence within the four destroyers in our squadron and on our squadron and task force staffs. With every summer graduation cycle, every ship I have served in over these years has received a batch of fresh and enthusiastic men and women ably trained to serve after four years studying in Annapolis. Each cruiser or destroyer-sized ship typically receives around four to seven new officers every year, distributed generally from the source ratio noted earlier, resulting in a couple of USNA graduates.

150522-N-SQ432-235Upon arrival onboard our ships, I have observed that Naval Academy graduates are consistently better-prepared in the fundamentals of our profession: All Annapolis graduates earn a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree, regardless of their major. Even the liberal arts majors (yes, Mr. Fleming, there are even a few poets, thank God) arrive with the foundation courses required to earn a BS degree. This mandatory USNA curriculum is designed to ensure that all graduates arrive in their ship, submarine, or flight school with a robust knowledge of the engineering, science, math, and physics fundamentals needed to understand our Navy’s ships, submarines, and military aircraft: some of the most complicated machines our country can build.

In the wardrooms of my own ships, the Naval Academy Ensigns were able to demonstrate a level of knowledge upon arrival in navigation, weather, ship handling, small arms, firefighting, and watch-standing that exceeded that of most of the NROTC and OCS graduates. The Annapolis graduates also arrived onboard with a seasoned comfort and familiarity with more than naval custom; they already knew how to “get along” and to work through challenges. The unique training environment of the USNA, starting with the arduous “plebe summer,” bonds these officers together with a common vision of service, tolerance, mutual support, self-reliance, team dynamics, and the ability to overcome adversity.

As Mr. Fleming’s bi-annual call to “get rid of Annapolis” and other Service Academies has hit the blogosphere, I caution taxpayers to rest assured. Navy leaders are not squandering your resources, and continue to select, train, educate, and promote the “best and brightest” to lead the Navy of the future. I am proud to have served alongside Naval Academy graduates everywhere I have been assigned. Thanks to the cooler heads who manage the future of the Navy in Annapolis, throughout the Fleet, in the Pentagon, and in Congress, I am confident that this institution will remain open, and will continue to develop the future of our Fleet long after I have “swallowed the anchor” and pursued a life ashore.

ANNAPOLIS, MD --6/30/11-Today is Induction Day at the United States Naval Academy for the Class of 2015. Plebes read the Reef Points booklet- things they need to learn this summer like ranks and the mission of the USNA- as they wait in line before going through the "courtesies and customs" training. That training includes standing at attention, saluting, and wearing the "dixie cup" head cover. {Photos by Sun Photographer, Algerina Perna} md-usna-induction-p1-perna

One of the United States Naval Academy’s primary objectives is to develop not just leaders, but leaders of character. The honor program seeks to inculcate ethical behavior by immersing Midshipmen in an environment where lying, cheating, and stealing are not tolerated, in hopes that this culture will follow graduates into the fleet.

But does the Naval Academy’s ethical development curriculum work? Right now, the Naval Academy has only one metric to help answer that question: honor offenses (lying, cheating, or stealing). If honor offenses go down, it is assumed that the current policies are working. And if honor offenses go up, a course correction is made. To honestly use honor offenses to make decisions, though, we must more deeply dissect the metric into all its parts and see what it is really telling us.

The total number of honor offenses is a product of three figures: 1) The number of honor offenses that are committed, 2) times the percentage of committed honor offenses that are witnessed, 3) times the percentage of witnessed honor offenses that are reported. Lowering any one of those three numbers will generate results that suggest mission accomplishment.

In recent history, there was a sharp decline in the number of honor offenses that coincided with a strengthening of the deterrent against committing an offense. While it was not official policy, nobody was being retained after their second offense. And many were been separated after their first.

Putting the observed decline aside for a moment, how would we expect harsher punishments to affect the three component numbers? I think it’s safe to assume that the number of honor offenses committed would decline. The harsh consequences would deter potential honor offenders who are on the fence between lying or not. But there is certainly a question as to whether the deterred Midshipmen would be ethical officers or whether they would just resort to their natural behavior once the Honor Concept is no longer binding for them.

The second number would also probably decline. Those Midshipmen who do decide to lie or cheat will go to extra lengths to conceal their actions, knowing that they will be separated if they are caught. This is certainly not a desired outcome of the harsher policy, since it is plausible that their successful skirting of authorities will reinforce dishonorable character traits.

And the third number would decline as well, since it would be harder for close friends to turn each other in to the honor system when separation is so certain. They would likely choose to just remediate each other in person, at the lowest level possible. And fewer honor offenders would get the senior officer remediation that they need.

So, with harsher punishments we’d expect all three numbers to decrease and the overall metric to indicate success. But movement in the latter two component numbers is undesirable and the movement in the first is of questionable significance.

We can’t assume that a downward trend in honor offenses is a good thing, then. It could really be indicating a lot of unhealthy developments. There’s no way to know.

The Naval Academy needs a different way to measure success. Creating a Brigade of Midshipmen that doesn’t cheat on tests, or doesn’t get reported for cheating on tests, isn’t the big picture goal. Graduating a body of officers who won’t lie in the fleet is. An ideal metric would be able to track the long term impact of the Academy’s program.

Since the Naval Academy knows where its graduates are going to be for their first five years after graduation, it has the ability to gather data from its alumni for at least that long. The Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership (the research arm of the Naval Academy’s Honor Program) could annually distribute anonymous questionnaires to all Midshipmen and initial commitment graduates to gather information about the state of honor development at Annapolis.

Questions could ask about beliefs held before coming to the Academy, behaviors and beliefs held while at Annapolis, and behaviors exhibited in the fleet. Stockdale Center personnel could analyze the data to identify whether the Academy is changing attitudes and habits, or if it is just wasting its time. And anonymous reports from Midshipmen would give a more accurate count of committed honor offenses than does the current system.

Not too long ago, I took the first steps toward creating such a questionnaire and found out quite a few interesting things. With the help of Shipmate Magazine (a Naval Academy oriented periodical), I got around 700 alumni to answer questions about their attitudes before they came to the academy, what kinds of behaviors and attitudes they exhibited at the academy, and what kinds of behaviors they demonstrated in the fleet.

The results were insightful, but limited by the one-time nature of the study. The data showed that it doesn’t matter what kind of foundation in ethics you have coming in, the Academy can give it to you. In fact, those who have no ethical foundation, but fully buy into the system, show the lowest rates of lying in the fleet.

I found that cheating and lying were correlated to being 2 and 3 times more likely to lie in the fleet, respectively. The large difference in these two offenses is surprising and needs further study to be sure that they are enduring. With the knowledge of which offenses are worse than others, we can tailor punishments and remediation programs more precisely.

The most interesting result, in my opinion, is that of the relationship between habits, beliefs, and future behavior. A lot of the Naval Academy’s honor philosophy seems to be based on the idea that if for four years Midshipmen are forced to be honorable, that habit will continue into the fleet. That might be somewhat true, but the study showed that getting a change in beliefs along with habits was twice as effective as just habits.

Optimizing our honor program should be less about the beliefs of whoever is currently in charge and more about empirically backed approaches. There is no other institution in the world that is as well placed to develop these approaches as the United States Naval Academy. By building the tools to collect data about our student body’s interaction with the honor program, we can enable current and future generations to build techniques and strategies that can be applied not only at our institution, but around the world.

One of the many great joys of a billet at USNA is the ability to reconnect with former professors and professional mentors. As someone who graduated 5 years ago, I am fortunate enough to see many of them still on the Yard.

I want to share with you a conversation I had with someone whom I really didn’t know during my time here. If you attended USNA anytime from 1991 onwards you may have seen him around. He’s likely barked “Strike!” at you during Plebe Summer’s introduction to martial arts or has evaluated your ability to perform a wrist lock during a PE course. He may have even coached some of you in gymnastics.

If you didn’t go to USNA, you’ll still find his story fascinating and revealing about two nations’ abilities to heal following history’s most destructive, fearsome war.

Sho Fukushima was born in Hiroshima, Japan in September 10, 1946, a little over a year after the bomb was dropped on the city. His family ended up in Hiroshima after the war during which his father was an officer in the Imperial Japanese Army in Pusan, Korea. With the war’s end, the Japanese were expelled from Korea, and his parents hopped on a freighter bound for Japan. Sho’s parents had heard “a new type of bomb had wiped out everything” in Hiroshima and it was rumored that nothing could grow there for the next 70 years.

“I asked them why did they really come back to Hiroshima, where there was nothing. It was because our relatives were there.”

He, his four siblings, mother and father lived in a “wooden structure, with a metal roof.” There were no real buildings yet.

His kindergarten teacher passed away from a bomb-related illness. His 1st grade teacher, who had facial scars from glass shards from the blast, died from leukemia. He lost an aunt, uncle and 5-6 cousins to the bomb. On that day his grandmother was 20-30 miles outside the city and saw a “bright, white flash” followed by the mushroom cloud. A search of the city the next day by the surviving family members revealed those in downtown had simply “evaporated.”

Hunger was a central feature of childhood. “We just didn’t have enough food to eat,” Sho explained, “so all four kids had to learn to share.” The staple dish was rice mixed with wheat or sweet potatoes, and was considered an adulteration–“not white rice.”

Growing up in Hiroshima, he remembers playing with one of his “best friends,” the “shadow man” of the city’s bank. “Mom had a couple of bottles,” artifacts crystallized by the blast. “She told me if I could break that thing she would give me a 100 yen. Even with hammers and throwing it against the rocks, I couldn’t break that thing. It became a family joke.”

During our talk I tried to imagine growing up with such stark, ever-present reminders of war and death. I asked Sho if all of this seemed normal. “It was totally normal. I didn’t know any other life,” he responded. There were parts of Sho’s childhood that seemed normal. “The ocean was my playground. I had a little fishing pole and starting fishing. I loved to fish. Besides that, I remember playing with my brothers and sisters. My older sister was an avid reader so at least once a month we would get a new book.” Yet, Sho was quick to point out that fishing also served to supplement their food.

Meanwhile, his father, despaired with losing the war and escaping death. A graduate of a professional military academy, all of his classmates had died in the South Pacific while he served in the national guard in Korea. “How would you feel about cheating death?” Sho asked me. “He was the strongest military guy before the war, but after he lost the war and he lost his classmates…he lost a kind of spirit,” as he struggled with the thought of suicide.

Sho’s gymnastics talents led the University of Washington to recruit him. Hearing about the promises of America from his grandfather, who had lived in Seattle and San Francisco, Sho jumped at the opportunity.

The son of a IJA officer, Sho found himself staying in the home of a Pearl Harbor survivor, Jack, who offered to sponsor him. “My father asked him to take care of me, and my American father promised he would. He did everything like a father was supposed to. The families stayed in touch, hosting one another in Japan and the US.

I was most struck by Sho telling his father of his job offer at the Naval Academy. Sho had maintained a green card, but with the job offer his father suggested something more. “Such an honor,” his father told him, “that you can get a job like this at the Academy. You have to show them your commitment.” His father meant applying for American citizenship. “That’s him–Japanese military guy,” Sho explained.

In October, Sho will retire after nearly 25 years at the Academy. As a child, his mom would take him once a year to see US Army doctors, who would give him a cookie and check him for radiation related illnesses. He plans to search for his medical records at the University of Maryland, which archived many records of Japanese patients affected by the bombs.

“I always dreamed of being a bridge between the US and Japan,” Sho mused towards the end of our talk. I think he has done just that.

Sho Fukushima

Sho Fukushima

We conclude our discussion, for now, of the history of the Naval Academy by discussing one of the Academy’s most iconic symbols: the class ring. A beautiful display of rings, passed on to the museum by family members of deceased graduates, adorns the wall near the entrance to the museum. The class of 2013 became the most recent class to permanently wear their ring as graduates, and this episode looks at some of the graduation statistics of the Academy over the past 150 years. It concludes with a look at the history of the class rings and, in honor of fallen alumni, a performance of the Navy Hymn by the Naval Academy Men’s Glee Club.

For the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Naval Academy, the Naval Institute’s Proceedings compiled memories of midshipmen who went on to prominence later in their lives. The following is from Captain Edward L. “Ned” Beach Jr., who recalled Orson Welles’ 1938 (75 years ago today) radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds.” Though he remembers it to have happened on “Halloween night,” it actually took place the night before. The Naval Institute’s headquarters in Annapolis, Beach Hall, is named after Ned and his father, Captain Edward L. Beach Sr. Murray Frazee, the midshipman who tipped Ned off about the “invasion,” went on to become the Executive Officer of the USS Tang in World War II under Richard H. O’Kane.
—Fred Schultz, Managing Editor, Proceedings
Hat tip Claude Berube

Beach Cartoon

The U.S. Service Academies are national treasures because they exist exclusively to prepare young men and women to lead our country’s heroes. The Naval Academy holds a distinct place in our national character because America is a maritime nation with a sea-going identity that relies on a strong navy to defend her shores, explore the unknown, protect commerce, facilitate diplomacy, and wage war.

U.S. naval officers are genuinely aware of the connection between their place in this tradition and the significance of sea power – past, present and future. The U.S. Naval Academy, then, has a distinct responsibility to champion, promote and celebrate its position as a national fountainhead of U.S. naval history and an obligation to aggressively convey the bearing our naval history has on our nation’s future to tomorrow’s leaders.

From everything I’ve seen and heard, USNA’s new Superintendant, Vice Admiral Michael Miller, supports this point of view. He is a tested combat-leader, a visionary, a thinker, and a true officer and gentlemen. He is also an Annapolis alum who has spoken of his deep interest in history and naval history in particular – which is a bitter irony considering we are about to witness its death.

From their very first day on the Severn, midshipmen have a shared end-state: to receive a commission and lead Sailors and Marines. In this way, they immediately distinguish themselves from their civilian counterparts at universities and colleges across the country. Midshipmen maintain an incredible bond with each other based on an individual commitment to a collective excellence predicated on unselfishness: the understanding that service before self is life’s most honorable calling. That and the reality that you can’t survive a military academy alone.

What follows over the next four years is a moral, mental and physical evolution that is meant to test individual midshipmen’s devotion to service, steer them towards an occupational specialty that complements their personality and talents and best prepares their hearts for what will be the most challenging and rewarding life’s work imaginable … leadership in combat and at sea.

So perhaps it’s best said that the most critical function of our service academies is to imbue in the cadet or midshipman the ultimate humility: that none of their undergraduate experience is about them.

It’s up to the individual midshipman to embrace this – that they aren’t working so hard at the Naval Academy for themselves but rather for the opportunity to one day work so much harder for someone else – and it’s up to the administration to give the mids tools along the way to make their hard work pay-off.

Leadership training is one such tool. Moral and physical development are others. A rigorous curriculum of math, science and engineering are others still. But the tools learned in the study of history, and HH104 in particular – USNA’s required course in American Naval History – are some of the most important of them all.

As a matter of desired devices, history is entirely commensurate with the challenges of leading men and women in combat or at sea. A sound understanding of history provides the officer a lens to more clearly understand the mistakes and successes of the past, a framework to process the problems at hand, and a workable socio-calculus that helps approach an understanding of what tomorrow may hold.

Moreover, the study of history conveys an understanding of the human design, an appreciation for irony, a keen sense of collective memory, and a moral context to explain the reason they are all fighting in the first place. These are among the most valuable tools a decision maker, mentor, and leader can possess because these are the tools our Sailors and Marines need most from their officers.

All of this is invaluable intellectual training and plebes at USNA are immediately exposed to it in HH104. Just as significant is the specific history that HH104 relates: the complex and storied past of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. In imparting this history, HH104 becomes an essential vehicle of acculturation. It imbues these novice midshipmen with a deeper and clearer comprehension of the experiences and sacrifices of those who have preceded them in America’s Naval Service. The course serves as an essential repository of collective memory and thus an integral means to integrate plebes into the culture of the Academy and the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. In other words, the course – like other key components of plebe year – helps transform a jumble of motivated yet unformed individuals into an amalgam of inspired and unified officers-to-be.

Which is why it was so troubling to hear that HH104, American Naval History, is being moved from the 4th Class, plebe curriculum to the 1st Class (i.e., senior year) curriculum at USNA.

Here’s what happened…

At some point during last academic year (2009-2010) the Department of the Navy tasked the previous Superintendant, Vice Admiral Fowler, to add a cyber warfare class to the core curriculum. No public announcement was made. Apparently, last spring a small working group, operating in the shadows, was established to come up with a plan to create introductory and upper-level cyber warfare courses. The USNA community knew nothing about the working group’s tasking and work and learned of this development only last fall. The dilemma was how to add these courses without overloading an already full plate.

Surprisingly, the working group recommended moving American Naval History to 1st Class year. Apparently, they didn’t care that this decision will leave new midshipmen adrift and ignorant of the history of their profession, and their nation, for three years. Again, no official announcement was made.

The fact that HH104 was dead only came to light by happenstance. In October, the History Department underwent a routine, external review. The review report was distributed to the Department faculty in late October and HH104’s removal from 4th Class year, buried in the report, was presented as a certainty.

As word trickled out, upset ensued. First, the military and civilian faculty who teach HH104 expressed their unanimous opposition to moving HH104. Then, a number of History faculty who do not teach HH104 registered their dismay that such a major curriculum change would occur without any serious consideration and vote by the Faculty. The general reaction of midshipmen who have heard of the HH104 shift is consternation. Most recently, the shift of HH104 has prompted vigorous and agitated discussion within the Faculty Senate.

What upsets everyone as much as moving HH104 is the way in which it was done. The military and civilian faculty members who teach American Naval History were never consulted as to the effect this shift would have on the professional and academic education of midshipmen, nor was the larger History faculty consulted as a group. This change occurred in the shadows, violated the established policies regarding curricular review, and appeared as a fait accompli.

More troubling than the manner in which the decision to erase HH104 from the plebe curriculum was reached are the future, harmful effects this will have on the Naval Academy and on the Naval Service:

1.) Academic harm. Moving HH104 denies midshipmen an early exposure to the analytical tools History provides which would help them through the rest of their time at the Naval Academy. In HH104 midshipmen not only learn names and dates (which is important), they learn how to conduct research, write a research paper, think analytically, learn historical causation and the ultimate and proximate reasons why things happened the way they did, construct and carry an argument, and approach complex problems with the necessary perspective. And, perhaps most significantly, they learn about the relationship between the birth and evolution of the navy they have just joined and the nation they have just promised to support and defend.

2.) Educational harm. History is the foundation for an understanding of every social science. Teaching the required class in American Government (FP130), currently a plebe-year course, before teaching the context in which America became a government is, at best, sloppy and at worst negligent. Mids take Calc-I, Calc-II, Calc-III and differential equations before they go on to use those methods in tackling a complex electrical engineering problem. How can they possibly be asked to write about Federalism in FP130 without understanding the historical context in which Federalism occurred? From an educational angle, the course that should be taught later in the USNA curriculum is FP130.

3.) Professional harm. Who will give them – early – the basis of historical and cultural thinking called for by the CNO and Commandant of the Marine Corps in A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Sea Power? This is where West Point gets it right. The U.S Military Academy places an institutional importance on the study of history and its relevance to a successful, professional military officer and the success of its future operations in defense of this Nation.

4.) Moral harm. The aggregate effect of the shift of HH104 affects the Sailors and Marines the midshipmen will one day lead. The Fleet is weaker with a junior officer (of any major) who hasn’t been applying the analytical tools learned in HH104 over the course of four years of study. Our Sailors and Marines will have less effective leaders.

This all concerns me deeply.

Cyber warfare is important and in addressing it in its curriculum, the Naval Academy is being flexible and realistic in preparing midshipmen for the multi-faceted nature of 21st-century conflict. But of the two plebe-year courses that could move, why wasn’t FP130 chosen? It makes good pedagogical sense to have midshipmen learn about American government after taking their three core history courses which give them a sense of American and world history and the historical context in which the U.S. Constitution was framed.

One of the institutional strengths of the U.S. Naval Academy is its ability to adapt and prepare officers of the Naval Service for the next fight. But steeped in this tradition has always been a reliance on history. HH104, as the introductory course in historical thinking and the most effective vehicle to convey the collective memory of the U.S. Naval Service, is the bedrock of professional development at the Naval Academy.

Consider this sobering image: the Brigade of Midshipmen in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in which about 3,000 of the 4,000 midshipmen have no knowledge of, or appreciation for, the names of battles enshrined on the walls there, nor any sense of the sacrifice those letters represent. Because 3,000 of these midshipmen never had HH104 as plebes, they will be tragically unaware of the significance of places such as Tarawa, Okinawa, Khe Sanh, and even Midway. We will now have a 75 per cent “ignorant” Brigade at every football game.

HH104 must continue to be offered to 4th Class midshipmen for one reason alone: none of this is about them. It is about preparing them to be the best officers for their Sailors and Marines – officers who are analytical, creative, and flexible and also soundly grounded in the heritage and history of the Naval Service.


Checking the fathometer

November 2009


For those who are not fully updated or familiar with the latest case of racial discrimination at the USNA, this time involving the Color Guard, please click here to get up to speed, and then come back.

As former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum stated this morning in the Philidelpha Inquirer,

‘It’s not a critical national-security matter when a few white male midshipmen almost get bounced from a color guard. After the Fort Hood killings, however, we should look at the military’s blind commitment to “diversity” and see if it’s blinding us to the obvious – and the dangerous.’

I encourage everyone to read the full article – but the danger he refers to is not the direct danger of an officer with a gun killing his fellow servicemembers wholesale – but is the broader danger an aggressive, exclusionary, close-minded, and corrosive philosophy can have on an institution’s culture – a culture that requires a meritocracy infused with candor to excel in peace and war.

First of all – at the core – what core competency of the Navy is a diverse Navy supposed to represent? One would hope that an organization that serves a nation would reflect its peoples diverse background as a natural by-product of the removal of all barriers to entry based on race, creed, color, or national origin.

The problem is – life is not that simple, clean, or easy. A percentage-to-percentage reflection of a nation’s diversity rarely occurs naturally, even if it is free of institutional discrimination. For reasons that fill up entire library shelves; socio-economic, cultural, family habits and traditions towards education, careers goals, and family structures vary wildly in such a diverse nation as ours.

Especially in high skilled areas of our economy that require a meritocracy due to the financial, life-and-death, or innate performance requirements of the profession; pure balanced diversity is the exception – not the norm. A simple walk through the Doctor’s lounge at your local hospital, a Silicon Valley research facility, a bio-medical lab in the Research Triangle Park, a Los Alamos laboratory, a nuclear power plant, a NFL locker room, or a hedge fund golf outing will show you that even in an open and fair society – perfect diversity is the exception not the rule – and perfect diversity does not equate with mission success.

Where we run into problems is when we refuse to accept reality – when we game the system – when we sell little bits of our soul in order to buy something that cannot be honestly purchased or to curry favor with important people. In a zero-sum game based on objective criteria used to achieve the best possible outcome, when an external factor – in this case race, creed, color, or national origin – is brought in that has nothing to do with the objective criteria, and is used to select a set-group of personnel defined by the external factors, what must be sacrificed to achieve that external factor’s percentage goals are those objective criteria. You intentionally sub-optimize your organization by dilution – replacing high objective criteria scores with low objective criteria scores.

In the case of Midshipmen – when you take out any pure athletic criteria used to bring in some MIDN – the objective criteria can very broadly be broken down to two areas; academic potential and leadership potential. To expand the number of the external factor driven aspects, you have to decrease the acceptance threshold of your objective criteria for those specific external factor sub-groups. As shown by the USNA’s own data – those tradeoffs have been made and continue to be made – specifically to increase self-identified minority MIDN numbers (in addition to the number of those minority candidates who made it using the objective criteria alone). To meet that external factor requirement – a #1 priority as we have been told – lower academic and leadership potential is accepted on the front end (and can be advertised high and low, far and wide) with the hope that enough of the sub-optimal group can maintain minimum standards and make it out the back end.

Of course, that means that some applicants that met the objective criteria of academic and leadership potential will not be accepted – but we have made the decision that higher percentages of minority MIDN are more important than academic and leadership potential. In the zero-sum game that is admissions – that is the first decision we made to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, or national origin.

As our MIDN have learned in their first few years exposed to the Navy – that is not the only time racial discrimination takes place.

There are organizations at Annapolis that are voluntary and represent USNA and the Navy. They get their picture taken; this has become a problem.

For instance, the “face of the Navy” that the USNA Gospel Choir and the USNA Crew team show are very different. Is that a problem? No, not really. It is only a problem if, at your core, you see race and racial politics in everything you do – regardless of the reality you live in. The MIDN and their generation don’t care – but they soon learn that those above them do. They care a lot.

This is where we reach another decision point; and we decide to discriminate – selectively. Where Gospel and Crew get a pass – lower profile perhaps – others do not.

You have in the USNA Color Guard a high profile voluntary organization that individual MIDN have spent years building seniority and experience to provide the most professional military bearing to represent the Navy to the nation. Groups such as the Color Guard pride themselves in being a meritocracy of shared discipline, shared values, and shared rewards. They are good because they are fair. They excel because they function on objective criteria – sustained superior performance. At least – that is what they thought.

In late OCT, we had the uniformed leadership at USNA decide that in order to artificially create something they desired to be true, that they would actively intervene and discriminate against two Midshipmen based on their race and gender.

This is fact. This cannot be defended. USNA has tried to spin it. Sandbag it. Confuse the issue with the now infamous “8v6” saga. What it has not tried to do is explain its actions in any logical and consistent way.

I think it says a lot about the Navy’s Diversity initiatives when we have to hide them, spin them, sandbag them – and when we get caught out in the open – we do something quite Soviet; we issue a gag-order to those discriminated against and their peers after the story breaks. That should cause a moment of self-reflection.

For three weeks on, this story continues to boil. The fact that the USNA discriminated on the basis of race has not been disproved, and the official denials are self-conflicting and debunked. The MIDN involved are not permitted to speak. The relationship between the Commandant of Midshipmen and his Midshipmen has been drastically changed from one of mutual admiration to mutual distrust.

In a larger sense, why has such a small example of what we have seen so often had so much traction? Well, primarily it is because we can identify a name and a face to the innocent party. As opposed to “X number in the reject pile,” we have two MIDN who are soon to be commissioned and in our Fleet. Two MIDN who know personally that they can be discriminated against on the basis of their race and wonder, “When will I be discriminated against again?” Argue that point if you wish, but put yourselves in their shoes; it happened to them once, why won’t it happen again?

Is this really where we want to be as an institution? Does this bring great credit upon the Naval Service? Is there another way?

What is the solution? As with most hard and complicated problems, the answer is simple. Live up to our standards. Demonstrate the innate integrity and fairness of our Navy. Implement a policy that is simple for the PAO, Commandant, and the Midshipmen to understand – and then carry it on to the Fleet. Have a policy that is easy to defend. One you are proud to defend and don’t have to hide from. One you can defend directly with simple, basic words.

Have a policy that we do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, or national origin. We do not make selections, limit, expand, or track the professional progress of our Sailors based on their race or ethnicity. Simple. Done. Move forward. Prove it by removing all reference to a Sailor’s racial or ethnic background. Remove all pictures from the all boards. Remove all doubt. They are of limited utility anyway, as we know – names, pictures, and faces are a poor way to understand self-identified race and ethnicity anyway.

Excise and redistribute the BA/NMP for almost all of our branch of the divisive Diversity Industry to other UICs related to supporting Sailors at sea and Marines ashore. The UCMJ has all we need to deal with bigots.

Will there be pressure from the larger Diversity Industry and their backers in Congress? Absolutely – they have jobs to keep and grievances to feed. Will there be a change in the ethnic makeup of those selected for officer programs? Probably. Some racial and ethnic groups will go up – some will go down – some may stay the same. If you have objective criteria – then you shouldn’t care. The Sailors don’t care. They just want someone to treat them fairly, do their job, execute the mission, be a leader, and bring them home from combat intact.

In any event, with more and more mixed-race citizens and minority percentages as a result of immigration patterns in the last 50 years – it will mean less and less with each passing year. That is a good thing. Like we did in the Truman Administration – why don’t we get ahead of the curve on this issue. This is not a time to be stuck in 1971 – we need to get ready for the second decade of the 21st Century.

For those who will object to the change, again – look for the reasons brought up at the beginning of the post; socio-economic, cultural, and family habits and traditions towards education, careers, and family structures. None of these are within the control of the US Navy – nor should they. What can we do? We can ensure that we reach out to all communities in the US – something the Recruiting Districts should already be good at. We could expand JNROTC, as is being done – to help local educators build the academic and leadership potential that is in every community.

Most of all – we should have faith in our people and our institution. Create a fair, just, and admirable institution – and the best will come to you. What would their ethnicity and race be? Who cares – they’re the best. The best attract the best of all colors.

If you value performance, potential, and excellence – that is what you will put your efforts towards – and is what you will get.

If you value race and ethnicity and make your decisions based on that – then you will get what all cultures that emphasize race and ethnicity get; strife, conflict, division, and unending episodes of racial and ethnic discrimination.

As a last note, we all know that these little – and large – “Diversity decision” issues are nothing new in the Navy. We have all, myself included, been party to them. With a wink, a nod, and perhaps a taunt-jawed acceptance – we have all gone along with it. With time and progress however, don’t all archaic theories and methods reach the point that they are no longer valid and usefull?

As with segregation in the past, don’t we have to eventually reach a point were we stop and conduct a little self-reflection? When do we reach the point where we say, “No. This must stop. This has gone on long enough. We are a good, honest, fair, and open institution. Discrimination in any form is beneath the honor and dignity of our Service. This will go on no longer.”

Good people with the best intentions made some hard decisions trying to fix a problem they were sold as a requirement. So hard, it seems, that decisions were made to “bend the curve” and take short cuts using methods that, in the end, they cannot defend and cannot survive the light of day.

As we look towards the second decade of the 21st Century, where next year’s class of Midshipmen were born as Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush challenged each other in the 1992 election – can we say, “Enough,” or will we have to wait for the next episode where we hide, mumble, spin, and blanch at what we have become?

As part of summer training, midshipmen spend time out in the Fleet, my past two summers were spent in Pearl Harbor on a submarine and a destroyer; however, this summer I was assigned to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina attached to the II Marine Expeditionary Force Public Communication Team (II MEF PCT).

Marine Corps Public Affairs, the community’s guiding publication, opens with the following quotation from Major General Lejeune, 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps:
“The future success of the Marine Corps depends on two factors: first, an efficient performance of all duties to which its officers and men may be assigned; second, promptly bringing the efficiency to the attention of the proper officials of the Government, and the American people.”

On our first day with the team, MAJ Gilmore, the team’s director, gave us more than an hour and a half of his time to talk about Marine Corps public communication, emphasizing the importance of training Marines to think of communication as a two-way process of information sharing. As no public affairs team can (or wants to) completely control who says what to whom, proper training allows Marines to express themselves more effectively to friends, families, or anyone with whom they communicate.

While public affairs offices are generally perceived as providing information and assistance to the media, the II MEF PCT prefers a different approach. Understanding that the media is another party in the public domain, the II MEF PCT focuses its attention on getting its message to its “key publics,” members of the community who share an interest in II MEF-related issues. For the II MEF PCT, this means Marines, their families, and the surrounding community. Thus, the main focus of the team is not trying to target or “handle” the media, but establishing dialogue with the key publics.

This dialogue with key publics is central to II MEF PCT. For instance, the PCT responds the same way to questions from MEF family members and friends as it does with civilian media representatives. Furthermore, by calling and informing the interested parties of the press releases, the team builds connections with the community.

Blogging is a trend with some units, such as the 10th Mountain Division. Due to limitations of current policy as well the time and manpower requirements, the II MEF PCT does not operate one. However, the team does engage readers in the discussion section of blogs belonging to other groups including civilian media organizations.

The Marine Corps public affairs community only includes around 150 officers. Capt. Patrick, the team’s deputy director, served as an enlisted infantryman before accepting a commission. Coming out of The Basic School with any MOS open to him, he chose public affairs much to his peers’ surprise. “I had been reading and studying about fourth-generation warfare,” he explained, “and it was apparent that communicating information was incredibly important…Besides just basic leading Marines, I’ve never had such a broad impact.”

The Internet and “new media,” such as blogs, enable readers to draw information from sources outside the traditional media filter. How can the military and public affairs teams better adapt to these developments?

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