Monday, November 24, 2008

Navy's Ethos - the final word

You have already read my monkey-like chattering on the Navy's "Ethos" FOD bucket. A buddy to this blog put it much better in NavyTimes. I don't think he will mind - I'll post in full.
Actions speak louder: Long-winded ethos statement can’t capture Navy’s legacy

Earlier this month, the chief of naval op­erations released the “new” Navy ethos, and like so many things put out by com­mittee, it falls short of the goal, except, of course, by word count. Some 140 words were evidently deemed necessary to re­state what, in earlier ages, was sufficient with far fewer:
“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm’s way.” — John Paul Jones
Elegant, sufficient and to the point — any­thing not meeting that mission state­ment deserves to be pitched overboard. Some will argue that today’s genera­tion is different than all those before and, as a result, we need to restate what should be obvious. I have little patience for this kind of generational exceptionalism be­cause it lacks historical grounding. Through the ages, the constant in the naval services fighting under the Stars and Stripes is one of — dare I say it — honor, courage and commit­ment.

Ethos is acquired from living in an atmos­phere that is permeated with a certain way of doing things — a culture, if you will. It is em­bedded in every little thing we do, from the quarterdeck ceremonies to daily preventive maintenance. It is handed from one genera­tion to the next in our chief petty officer initia­tions and change of command ceremonies, in division offices and on flight decks, from the auxiliary conn to the cockpit. It is what we are and what we were and should form what we will be. It is tradi­tion passed in custom, word and deed. It is our history:

■ You can see it in the posthumous Medal of Honor citation for Cmdr. Ernest Evans: “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the USS Johnston in action against major units of the enemy Japanese fleet during the Bat­tle off Samar on 25 October 1944. The first to lay a smokescreen and to open fire as an enemy task force, vastly superior in number, firepower and armor, rapidly approached.

Commander Evans gallantly diverted the powerful blasts of hostile guns from the lightly armed and armored carriers under his protection, launching the first torpedo at­tack when the Johnston came under strad­dling Japanese shellfire, ... outshooting and outmaneuvering the enemy as he consistent­ly interposed his vessel between the hostile fleet units and our carriers despite the crip­pling loss of engine power and communica­tions with steering aft, shifted command to the fantail, shouted steering orders through an open hatch to men turning the rudder by hand and battled furiously until the John­ston, burning and shuddering from a mortal blow, lay dead in the water after three hours of fierce combat.”

■ It is in Lt. j.g. Thomas Hudner ’s MoH cita­tion from the Korean War: “Quickly maneu­vering to circle the downed pilot and protect him from enemy troops infesting the area, Lt.
j.g. Hudner risked his life to save the injured flier who was trapped alive in the burning wreckage. Fully aware of the extreme danger in landing on the rough mountainous terrain, and the scant hope of escape or survival in subzero temperature, he put his plane down skillfully in a deliberate wheels-up landing in the presence of enemy troops. With his bare hands, he packed the fuselage with snow to keep the flames away from the pilot and strug­gled to pull him free. Unsuccessful in this, he returned to his crashed aircraft and radioed other airborne planes, requesting that a heli­copter be dispatched with an ax and fire extin­guisher. He then remained on the spot despite the continuing danger from enemy action and, with the assistance of the rescue pilot, re­newed a desperate but unavailing battle against time, cold, and flames.”
■ More recently, it is found in the exceptional fighting spirit of the crew members of the frigate Samuel B. Roberts in saving their ship after a mine blast or the sacrifice exemplified by Master-at-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael Monsoor, who smothered a grenade to save two shipmates in Ramadi, Iraq.
No buzzwords or hollow platitudes, nothing developed by focus groups — this is the “ethos” I always considered myself part of. I don’t think there was much in the way of dithering, taking cultural temperatures or tossing political straws in the wind before these sailors took the actions they did — it came naturally, because they lived it.

So maybe it’s time we put the mice and PowerPoint slides away, chiseled ourselves from the pier and headed back to sea to work on that ethos. More than 200 years seems to me a damn fine pedigree for an ethos for today and tomorrow.

Ethos is acquired from living in an atmosphere that is permeated with a certain way of doing things — a culture, if you will.
'Nuff said.

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