by Andy Weddington
Friday, 24 October 2014
"If you want a quality, act as if you already had it." William James
A day short of three weeks ago the honor of administering the oath of office to a newly promoted rear admiral was mine.
For a month or so leading up to the ceremony I spent considerable time crafting brief remarks, of advice, as appropriate prelude to the oath.
And up until minutes before the oath I planned to deliver those remarks.
But a retired admiral, who spoke before the oath, had such kind and gracious comments about the soon-to-be new admiral he caused me to change course - to hold my remarks for another time. For far better the crowd remember what the admiral had to say.
But now, for sundry reasons, the time is right and not too late to duly advise the new admiral and so now those held remarks - as prepared (that were going to be delivered from memory as if impromptu)...
"It's not often a Marine officer has opportunity to throw 'F' words around in public but today is such an occasion.
And it's not often a Marine officer has opportunity to administer the oath of office to a new admiral but today is such an occasion, rare as it may be.
Twenty-five and a half years ago the privilege mine to administer the oath of office to this same officer - when commissioned an ensign. Then, as done many times prior and would many times after before reenlistments and promotions, a few words of perspective I offered. Though hardly remembering exactly what was said, the essence was of duty and responsibility and leadership.
Five years ago I again administered the oath of office to this officer upon promotion to Captain. And certain I was that would be the last time I had the privilege to do so ever - for anyone. So what a pleasant surprise - today. On that occasion, again, prefacing thoughts centered around duty and responsibility and leadership - along with laudatory words about perseverance, strength, and overcoming personal hardship. A small group of Sailors witnessed the occasion only blocks from today's ceremony.
For today it occurred to me that 'F' words are appropriate - as reminder, as charge, for the weighty duties that await. And these 'F' words are not just meant for this new admiral but for all flag and general officers. And for that matter all, officer and enlisted, who lead.
Those 'F' words...
Fortitude: Strength. Yes, I mean the physical courage and discipline to keep fit and lead Sailors from the front. Example is important. But more so finding the strength, the moral courage, to do what is right - especially in the face of pressure 'to go along to get along.' Wrong is wrong. And right is right. Always do what is right!
Fidelity: From the Latin Fidelis - faithful. And a link to the Marine Corps - which this new admiral surely has. The truth is for the past 28+ years Marines have had a significant hand in shaping this admiral as a person and Sailor. Be faithful to self and to all and in all things.
Fairness: Favorites there cannot be. Be fair to self and to all and in all things.
Front: The front - the place for officers, for leaders. There are times when an officer leads from behind - at the end of the chow line comes to mind. And there are other times, too. The needs of those led always come first. So know where the "front" is, admiral, and Sailors will follow.
Forward: It is the direction of progress, of attack - with the leader out front - keeping in mind that when the leader is out front the direction of movement is always forward.
And these five 'F' words - Fortitude; Fidelity; Fairness; Front; Forward - are enveloped by a couple of bigger 'F' words - Family and Freedom. Family - immediate; extended; friends; Navy/Marine Corps fleet; and all who serve - these are who you serve in the name of freedom.
Stay humble, admiral. For there are many as capable, if not more so, who could wear that star and excel but will never get the opportunity.
Remember, every one is expendable. But prove, admiral, you are indispensable.
So believes a retired Marine."
After the oath I donned a Marine Corps ball cap and offered the customary first salute.
First Salute - 04 October 2014
As good fortune would have it the admiral's first salute came from me. But almost not. Two weeks prior, after leaving a shoot for official photographs with new rank on uniform, I was carrying the uniform in a clear plastic garment bag with the admiral a few paces in trace. Out-of-doors and en route to our car, a young petty officer approaching from the opposite direction saw me and the garment bag, he logically concluded I was the admiral, saluted and said, "Good morning, Sir." His greeting returned as we passed. And the look "But I'm the admiral" on the admiral's face was priceless. Thus the admiral had to wait a couple more weeks for that first salute - from the lowly duty driver and bag man. Fate.
The admiral, for the past 28 1/2 years, is my wife.
With the admiral post-ceremony