As Captain Honors finds himself looking at the Executive TAP schedule for FY11, there is something that keeps coming to mind. It was there in the beginning, expanded a bit more the next day - and set yesterday with the help of Senator Webb.
Following the path from almost half a decade ago to him being relieved of Command there are some simple truths out there that are much more important than Captain Honors.
1. There are no other positions of more importance to our Republic's Navy at the rank of Captain than that of Commanding Officer of an aircraft carrier and a ballistic missile submarine. These people are the select of the select. They are exceptionally well known in their communities.
2. Few positions outside Command are more visible to your community than that of the "Big XO" of a carrier. You are an XO of a ship full of other Commanding Officers, former Commanding Officers, and Commanding Officer-Selects. You and everything you do is well known and discussed.
3. As we have been reminded repeatedly through the rash of firings of Commanding Officers (CO) this year - a Commanding Officer is responsible for everything that goes on within the lifelines of his ship. Everything.
4. There is a very real thing called a Senior Officer Present Afloat (SOPA). Like that of a CO, if you are SOPA - it is your ball of goo; especially if you have knowledge of it.
5. We have a tradition in the Navy that when you do something out of line, discipline is at the discretion of the CO. As long as everything is legal and above board - you take your punishment and go forward. We do not practice double jeopardy.
6. We also have a tradition, perhaps an ethos - at least I thought - of standing up for your crew and defending your decisions - or at a minimum accepting responsibility for them.
With 1-6 above, this is what continues to bother me. Since last Friday, we have seen none of CAPT Honors former Commanding Officers - the ones who "owned paper" on him, the ones who signed his FITREPS and recommended him - speak up. Where are they?
We have only heard from Admiral Harvey - the poor guy who as CFFC was left to pick the best option from a slew of sub-optimal options. He did what he had to do given where the larger situation was by the time it got to his desk. He made the call he felt he had to.
I'm not worried or concerned about CFFC. Where are Rear Admirals Spicer and Rice? Where is VADM Holloway? This is/was their ball of goo. Those are the men who knew Honors when he was Big XO - who saw those videos - those who did or did not give him a nod, wink, thumbs up, thumbs down, or shrug.
As we demonstrate by our actions what we do to the select of the select - the message that is screaming out to our young leaders is this;
You are on your own. When the going gets tough, don't expect us to do anything for you - especially if we might get some of the blame our selves. Forget what we told you. Forget what we promised you. The truth will change as I need it to change in order to fit my needs.Really?
The Blue Falcon may be from the USAF - but we like her too. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important than political self-preservation. Ignore what you were taught, ignore what you read, ignore all the examples we like to tell you of combat leadership. They are all fairy tails.
I may help carry you out of a burning space or put my life on the line to defend you from an enemy in combat - but when the shooting stops I am no better than the junior partner at a large law firm. I will step on and over you to protect my own professional viability - even if I were the one who knocked you down.
Watch your back - I don't have it. I don't want it. You are dead to me - I have me to think about.
I guess we really didn't learn anything from Tailhook. I guess all those things we told each other in the bars in Souda Bay, Rota, Caan, Norfolk, San Diego, and that part of Thailand we dare not speak; over dinner at each others houses - I guess all that "We would never do that to each other .... " was just a bunch of talk.
OK, bad on me. Bad on me for having hope.
My advice to the young naval officer; love your Nation, love your Navy, love your Sailors, but under no circumstances trust your leadership until they prove worthy of your trust - even then, really don't. Follow orders, but watch your back. You don't have friends, you have co-workers. Minimize social contact that may lead you to believe that you have any type of bond with them. You don't. You are expendable if needed. You only matter to most if you help their careers. Do not expect help from anyone but yourself.
What a pathetic bit of advice for leaders - but if memory serves me right - that is what my generation learned from Tailhook - and tried to forget.
Don't like it? - well ask those senior officers who went to sea with Honors over four years ago why it should be any different. Their limp, flaccid silence screams.
As another put it:
When the still sea conspires an armorWhen needed, you're next.
And her sullen and aborted
Currents breed tiny monsters
True sailing is dead
And the first animal is jettisoned
Legs furiously pumping
Their stiff green gallop
And heads bob up
In mute nostril agony
And sealed over