by Andy Weddington
Friday, 25 September 2015
"It seems to be a law of nature, inflexible and inexorable, that those who will not risk cannot win." John Paul Jones
For calm and contemplation, a trout stream - with fly rod or paint brush in hand - ideal.
Saturday afternoon past a few hours enjoyed on a trout stream. No rod but with brush painting small watercolor snapshots of the Paulinskill - a picturesque stream (river, actually) that meanders through the quaint borough of Lafayette, NJ.
The solitude afforded time to mull over the previous few days. I spoke only to a young teen boy and moments later his mother. I asked where they were from. The mother replied, "Russia." Before mom arrived the boy was inquisitive and talkative. His English (American style) superb and without accent, unlike his mother. When I asked where he learned it he and mom hushed and hustled off. Strange.
8 x 5.5 in. watercolor on paper
Wednesday a week ago I listened to a Navy admiral mention, among other things, retention policies - targeted at keeping women. What? Different policies for men and women? In these nutty times of "equality," why bother asking for explanation as to fairness.
That topic reminded of something akin I asked of another admiral - the 25% female target for the force set by the Secretary of the Navy and what requirement that number was based upon? Oh, no hard requirement was the answer. The admiral remembered something about it being derived from a study that concluded once an organization reaches 25% female there's tendency for sexual assaults to decline. More junk social science. And a helluva way to build a fighting Navy. Imagine had Genghis Khan built his Mongol armies on that premise - today's world map would look a lot different.
The (first) admiral also commented that unlike in his early days young Sailors today challenge (rather than blindly obey) their seniors. With that, no issue though I wonder as to the foundation (e.g., lack of; competence, confidence and trust, ethics, etc.) for the questioning.
And the same admiral remarked, too, we need to ask the question, "What kind of Navy do we want?" Words that caused me to hastily scribble down that thought followed by the word "WRONG!"
Forces are built and maintained to defeat threats. To win! Threats, once identified (and forecasted), drive mission statement(s) which drive identification of requirements - people and things; which require (taxpayer) funding. There is, believe it or not, rhyme and reason behind fielding a military. At least there's supposed to be. Taxpayers want defense not social feel good clubs for their dollars.
So, rather, the proper question is, "What kind of Navy do we need?"
Again, I didn't bother asking the admiral to explain himself.
The takeaway - our United States Navy (as are the other branches) is being shaped (if not there already) into the best politically correct, ineffective force it can possibly be. Warfighting readiness be damned. Comforted? Feeling safe?
Later that morning and into the afternoon, with the admiral's comments gurgling, I toured (parts of) the United States Naval Academy - more the highlights but it was interesting. The crypt of John Paul Jones impressive - spurning more thought - and is now seared into memory.
Thursday evening I dined, not on the Academy grounds, along with several dozen admirals and some two dozen spouses thereof. The back cover of the program caught my attention - The Oath of Office and a comment.
I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
(Note: There's not phrase requiring allegiance, obedience, nor loyalty to the president. Germane commentary:
Just under the oath...
Presidents come and go, as do commanders and officers. The mission, style, and location of war changes as does the enemy. But for every member of the Armed Forces, whether wearing a uniform of blue or green, one thing remains constant: They raise their right hands and pledge to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. BLOG POST FROM NAVALHISTORY.ORG SEPTEMBER 17, 2014
That blog post comment implies (to me) moral courage - something that's been on my mind for some time now and something that's more than just seemingly missing from senior leadership.
A day later, Friday afternoon, I sat as endcap on a row of one and two star admirals witnessing a change of their boss, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO).
Mr. Ash Carter, Secretary of Defense, spoke. So did Mr. Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy. Admiral Jonathan Greenert (outgoing CNO) and Admiral John Richardson (incoming CNO) likewise spoke. (Note: Admiral Greenert was best - sincere from the heart, humorous, brief, and seated; ala Theodore Roosevelt.)
Between the four men plenty of laudatory and congratulatory words. Rightfully so - a remarkable 40 year career, not including four years as a midshipman at the Naval Academy, was ending for one and a new top Sailor appointed.
But to each I listened closely to their words.
Initiative and trust were mentioned more than once.
I recall integrity mentioned only once.
I did not hear Navy Core Values - Honor. Courage. Commitment. Nor did they make print in the program. Odd? Seems so.
And two words, conspicuously, not mentioned nor even talked around: moral courage. Those were the words I was listening for.
Their absence, mulled over in respect to The Oath of Office and blog post comment, preoccupied me while painting. And still.
How, considering the senior level at hand, could moral courage not be a main plank in comments?
Courage - physical and moral - is at the heart of military leadership. Arguably, moral courage is the most important of all leadership traits. For why would anyone follow (with possibility of having to in turn act courageously) if not for unwavering belief the followed will always do what's right (and support same); regardless of consequences? Courage and leadership from the front and from the top are synonymous.
How strange there was not mention of moral courage by two top Defense Department civilians and two top admirals before such an important and impressionable crowd; with many young Sailors in attendance. How strange!
Moral (physical, too) courage requires risk. Does that mean without moral courage one cannot win? Indeed.
Where are those Sailors? Soldiers? Airmen? And, Marines? That is, those who wear stars - those who should be exemplary - where are they?
The whereabouts of one known.
Our Marine Corps commandant (until yesterday), General Joe Dunford, USMC submitted (his) recommendation(s), as to excluding women from some ground combat arms specialties, to the Secretary of the Navy. Specifics yet to be made public but finally some leadership - moral courage - by a general/flag officer.
Will our new commandant, General Bob Neller, stand fast? We'll see.
The other service chiefs?
Navy rolled in "heavy seas."
Air Force and Army - the other blue/green team? Apparently, no stomach for the fight.
As usual, Marines - first in, last out - fighting for what's right, though surrounded and outnumbered (odds that bring out the best in Marines).
In closing, two questions...
For how long America without (military) moral courage inextricably woven into national security - that is, oath compliance to support and defend our Constitution?
Any doubt what John Paul Jones, Father of the United States Navy, would think?
A savvy seasoned admiral who knows a thing or two about a thing or two set me straight - we have neither the Navy we need nor want but the Navy of congressmen (elections and re-elections). It's about building things - ships and planes and whatnot, and jobs. The salty truth. It's enough to make one seasick.