Friday, September 23, 2005

Back to Brown Water IV: Peacetime leadership in wartime

Tilting against my windmill again. For review of my thoughts on Riverine Warfare, check things out here, here, and here.

Throughout my standard issue career, I have read and heard constantly about this great reserve of leaders we have that will claw their way over the weak-sister leaders we often have in peacetime and will bring glory to their service and death to the enemy.

Sometimes all I hear is this. We have seen Army and Marine – did I mention the Marines – wartime leaders come forward and do great things. The Navy I love though seems to want to focus on this more than engaging the enemy.

Another example. I have some Sailors that email me now and then, officer and enlisted alike. They are frustrated. Your Fleet Lieutenant of front-running First Class Petty Officer know what needs to be done; but their leadership is failing them. From telling Sailors who want to go to sea or volunteer for a 179-day IA in Iraq, “That might interfere with your career path. It might not look good on your board to go that length of time at this critical juncture without a competitive FITREP …. I need you here in Admin …. we don’t want our personnel volunteering for long term IA outside our community …. “ bla, bla, bla.

What is worse than all that crap I have heard come out of leaders in the last few years, is a situation when a Naval Special Warfare Group (NSWG) Commodore tells a bunch of gung-ho riverine guys that he decided to say "no" to the request from USMC to cover down on the rivers in Iraq. His explanation was that,
"...we don't do riverine warfare, we do special operations in a riverine environment."
Awwwww, come on Commodore. No one in your audience is buying what you are selling.

That is classic peacetime rice bowl, bureaucratic, mission myopia thinking that has no place in a wartime environment. When the Marines ask for something, you give it to them until you are ordered not to. That could be the problem here – a Flag says no and the Commodore does his dirty work. That is even worse if true - but we have all done things like it. If so, sorry Commodore, I owe you a beer.

People wonder what can cause
attitude and cynicism in their junior officers and sharp enlisted personnel; this is one reason. You just can't spin your story around these people. They know more, and understand more than you give them credit.

If the P-3 guys can do overhead ISR in Afghanistan and Iraq because the Marines asked, the NSW folks can afford to help the Marines out. If you need more personnel to do your work, then ask for it. We have National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers going on their third tour, yet we have qualified, ready to go USN Riverine forces ready to contribute to the fight (and still be around for their primary mission if needed) – not being activated and/or deployed - and their leaders are doing about the same thing as telling P-3 guys that they should instead spend their time planning to track an Echo II through the Mediterranean.

Make yourself unnecessary, and don’t be shocked when that Fleet keeps getting smaller and smaller as other fleets grow larger and larger.

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