After long study of human behavior, Freud concluded that it was important that the two major decisions of life, those concerning mate and career, be made by instinct. The conscious reasons for the choice of the military vocation are as individualistic as the persons who make them.
There are some qualities of the naval profession that give it a very special uniqueness. Today, however, some of the distinguishing marks of a professional naval officer are being eroded by an effort to consolidate and streamline the nation's defense effort. It is important in making such changes that sufficient weight be given to their effect on the service as a vocation. If the naval service ever loses its uniqueness and its definition as a vocation, it will lose a large number of high quality officers. Their replacements in peacetime will not be of the same mold.
This is an unusual period of history for the U. S. military. The professional soldier operates in many instances on a wartime footing, but he is a hero only during a conflict which involves the whole nation. Not only does he risk his life in remote areas of the world, he also finds himself away from his family for months at a time-flying training missions from a carrier, cruising on a Polaris patrol, tramping through the fields of Okinawa. He is often confronted with the voiced opinions, "Why would anyone stay in?" or "You're too good to be in the military."
No one who has been exposed to alumni surveys or has followed the course of his contemporaries who have left the Service can doubt that a good naval officer can find a far better career, financially, on the outside. Viewed in these terms, why do good men choose to remain in the service?
One of the unfortunate aspects of the development of the United States has been the tendency to equate individual worth in terms of a dollar standard. Supply and demand is not a realistic gauge of the value of a person or profession. Many of the best naval officers, however, care little about salary as long as they are paid enough to take care of their basic needs. They have chosen the Navy as a career because it is a unique vocation. Their attitude is one of the important reasons why military pay bills are passed only when there is a tremendous need because of rising costs.
What, then, makes service in the naval profession unique? First and foremost it is service. When one looks for careers in which service to others is the main objective, the field is small. A military man has the opportunity to serve and to give. He wants to preserve something far bigger, far more important than himself. By definition, salary and leisure are not his uppermost objectives. The general public often equates the words service and servants. The Bible places great value on service, but this is not the Bible's world.
The career naval officer, then, cannot be moved by the fickle evaluation of the general public. He must have a healthy respect for himself; his reward is comparable to the satisfaction one gets from giving to someone in need.
Integrity is an ingredient which is disappearing from many professions. By usage, we have accepted a code of ethics that is full of loopholes. Our society permits double standards, ambulance-chasing lawyers, and doctors who will not stop at the scene of an accident for fear of a malpractice suit. We rationalize that a man is a political animal, and we look on men who stand steadfastly on principle as though they were relics of the 1800s. The Navy is one of the last Societies which operates on the tenet that a man's word is his bond. An officer must be completely honest, and his decisions must be made with the country and the Navy in mind rather than himself.
It is a rare privilege to belong to a group that shares such values. What a shock it is to be exposed to many individuals outside this protective core. A career officer must be uncompromising. The fact that most admirals hold integrity above their personal ambitions has caused a number of skillful flag officers to lose their jobs, but it has also inspired many young officers to emulate their example.
Change and challenge are essential elements of any profession. As we move forward in this dynamic 20th century, some of the thrill of battling nature and going to sea in ships is disappearing. The Navy is still a courageous man's profession, and going to sea is a very special experience. It is refreshing to escape from the frantic pace of the land to the quiet rolling of the sea. Those who have witnessed a tropic moon or an arctic sunrise in the quiet vastness of the ocean have been close to nature. There are still many adventures on, under, and over the briny deep, but warfare and the battles with nature are becoming more impersonal. The challenge is taking a different form.
There can be no doubt that a challenge has been issued. Although Kremlin moods oscillate, the Soviet armed forces work devotedly and steadfastly towards building a military machine comparable to ours. Our aim must be to keep them looking at the wake of naval achievements and accomplishments. To do this takes a large core of talented and dedicated men.
Because the military deals in life and death terms, it must be dynamic and flexible, and it must be in the vanguard. It must spur the development of technology. Tremendous foresight is required if one is to make the right decisions about the military weapons of the future. It takes a pioneering attitude and a broad objective viewpoint to get the most out of new developments. Revolutions are occurring in the full spectrum of naval endeavor from management to missiles. All of us can share in this exciting period of change, the amount of participation depending largely on our own initiative.
One of the most appealing aspects of the naval profession is the variety of challenge. The effective officer is a very versatile person with a knowledge of many subjects, the ability to lead people, and the skill to gain maximum advantage from technological improvements. His profession requires the skills of many others. In this age of specialization, the jack-of-all-trades is disappearing, but the line officer still needs a full bag of tools. For example, to command a Polaris submarine, the commanding officer must have extensive schooling in missiles, inertial navigation, and nuclear propulsion, in addition to all the old skills required of a submarine skipper.
Many Navy men are gypsies at heart. The fact that assignments vary every few years is conducive to growth and revitalization. The fact that many officers retire after 20 or 30 years means that they usually have two careers; this is a very appealing aspect of service life. Most officers thrive on change.
Although patriotism will some day be an antiquated term in the idealistic age of world government, it is a particularly important part of life in the service. There are few officers who do not respond to the lines that start, "Breathes there a man with soul so dead/ who never to himself has said/ this is my own, my native land," or who do not pull their shoulders back and quicken their pace on hearing a band begin to play. But flag waving is only a sporadic motivator, the quiet determined effort to preserve the ideals of this country comes from a constant and inspired devotion. John Paul Jones expressed it years ago, "I have sacrificed the pleasures of private life, the profits of private employment, and will sacrifice even my life to see that the ideals upon which our nation was founded are kept alive."
Officers are citizens first and military men second. This fact more than any other is what distinguishes our military from that of most other countries, and it is the reason our democratic society has not been plagued by military takeovers.
As long as there is cold competition between today's dominant societies, the importance of civilian endeavors to the survival of Western ideals will continue to increase. But a military officer serves directly and constantly. He believes in what his country stands for and is willing to sacrifice to preserve it. He knows that his personal happiness does not come first and that some sacrifice of personal liberties is required. Our military organization is only as strong as the men who run it. A number of these men must continue to be the best that the country can produce.
One of the most rewarding aspects of naval service is the group pride and common bond to be found between officers and between their families. In many civilian occupations there is a cutthroat competition for jobs and an insincere, apple-polishing atmosphere. Consequently, there is often a lack of genuineness and camaraderie among employees.
In the naval fraternity there is a very keen competition among officers, but there is also room for many good officers. The promotion system with all its disadvantages helps preserve a friendly atmosphere. Admiral James L. Holloway, U.S. Navy, when addressing a U. S. Naval Academy class, emphasized that part of achieving officer stature was always to help contemporaries and never to profit from their misfortunes. It was meaningful advice for a class of midshipmen.
Because of the common hardships, and devotion to service, there are strong bonds between Navy people. Much of the fun of going to sea is being part of a close and colorful wardroom. Camaraderie and authentic communication in the wardroom produce a team effort that makes a significant difference in the performance of the ship and the morale of the crew. On the home front, friends are always there in time of need, and the relationships are in depth. There is no question but that Navy life is the test of a wife. She must often be both father and mother to her children, and cope with many problems with no possibility of communicating with her husband. The common problems shared by the wives give them a close relationship and cause maturing and development.
These elements: service, integrity, challenge, patriotism, and group bond would not appeal to every man. They are peculiar to the military vocation and make it special. What are the threats to these unique qualities?
The fact that military men gladly sacrifice for others is sometimes misused. A good example was the attempt to reduce the gold drain by not sending dependents overseas. The military must always be a profession of service, but we can never afford to treat the men who want to serve as second-rate citizens. Fortunately, there were men who were not afraid to speak their opposition to this issue, and the policy was changed.
The single service concept has been discussed pro and con ever since the Department of Defense was organized. Today we are feeling the effects of a creeping centralization. There is no doubt that some consolidation is important, but before we go beyond wearing the same shirt and flying the same aircraft, let us remember that in studies of consolidation and innovation no monetary value can be placed on the pride of being a Navy, Marine Corps, Army, or Air Force officer or the pride of being in submarines, flying for SAC, or being a paratrooper. The Navy has a long and glorious tradition, and seafaring men consider themselves to be a group apart.
There is a movement to do away with fringe benefits such as dependents' medical facilities, overseas transportation for dependents, commissaries, large quarters, and special privileges that go with rank. The compensations that can be given within the military framework are already restricted enough. Efforts should be made instead in the direction of: "What more might we do for our career men?"
The traditions of the service are important. They, like the nautical vocabulary, are only understood by members of the "club." Technology revolutionizes warfare every decade or so. The successful military organization is one which looks ahead and is flexible. Tradition does not mean conservatism or plodding. Tradition means the cultural niceties and customs, the lore of the sea. The sacrifices of those in the past and their brave upholding of principle have contributed greatly to the U.S. Navy being the finest Navy in the world. That is the traditional spirit in which we work, it does not need modernization.
The meanings of integrity, loyalty, and expediency have become confused. Unless there is a solid core of integrity from the bottom up, there may as well not be any at all. When we are dealing with nations that believe that ends justify means and who use deception as an acceptable tactic, we sometimes let down our guard. Some advertising agencies and salesmen do their best to sell inferior products without much reservation. It is important that in competing for a share of the budget or in any other competitions we act honestly and frankly. It is unfortunate that we sometimes succumb to the desire to hear only the good side of things and are willing to penalize those with the courage to speak their convictions. How to be politically adept and still retain one's basic integrity is a problem for all of us to ponder. Third party examiners are becoming necessary, with a resultant loss of control and prestige for military leaders.
Some seniors frankly tell their people not to bring up sensitive subjects. In order properly to present a compromised viewpoint it may be necessary to leave the service. Most officers feel their responsibilities for the service and the country sufficiently to make such a choice in extreme situations. It takes a fine sense of judgment to decide where censorship of individual views should begin and end in the Service. Essentially, freedom must be preserved except when the interests of the country are critically involved. The military has its own responsibility in trying to prevent issues from becoming political fodder. The armed forces of this country must never become the tool of a particular political party.
Wives have a large role to play, beyond the "social," in the Navy. It is hard to imagine a husband being driven from the profession he loves by a mature wife who truly loves him. But Navy wives are called upon to make many sacrifices, and unless they identify with their husband's high sense of purpose, many a fine young officer will inevitably decide to leave the service. Unnecessary absences must be eliminated. Activities which give the wives a sense of belonging, such as "petticoat cruises," should be encouraged. PIOs should back up the husband's efforts to let the wife know her importance in the big picture. In many cases, a simple letter from the commanding officer can be extremely effective. Fortunately, too, this continues to be a man's Navy and the fitness report for wives died a quick death.
Each year, more than a thousand young men enter the U.S. Naval Academy. Studies have proven that the academic potential of the applicants is equivalent to that of the best Ivy League universities. In addition, the typical entrant is well rounded and has usually demonstrated leadership ability. We must ask whether this same group measures up at graduation time. We are filling our company with topnotch young men. It is quite a luxury.
The real justification for a naval academy is that it can produce a large number of dedicated career officers. If it cannot do better than OCS or NROTC sources it should not exist. At the Academy the groundwork is laid for that spirit of dedication, integrity, and discipline that is essential to the officer corps. There is much that can be done to create a lasting appreciation of the uniqueness of naval service. The changes in the curriculum are forward looking. Are we making the same progress in producing career officers? One need at the Academy is to give midshipmen more responsibility earlier. Responsibility stimulates dedication. A pride must be developed in school and profession which goes far beyond fall Saturday afternoons.
This is not to say that dedication is something that should be expressible at graduation. Young officers approach their careers with open eyes-anxious to prove themselves, but also in a sense testing the Navy. To quote one ship's commanding officer, "Dedication is something that comes about the time you've been a lieutenant for a couple of years." An admiral remarked that dedication is a World War II expression. There wasn't any question about it in prewar days. In those days, ships swung at anchor for weeks at a time, and most operations were pleasant. The naval organization was small and elite.
When a man today confronts the enemy it is often in a purely defensive way. Our mission is to be so proficient that we will never be called upon to use the ships for the purpose for which they have been designed and built. We are susceptible to the danger of combining wartime hardship and boredom with peace- time paperwork and impracticality.
When challenges are not on a personal life-and-death basis, we must be imaginative and open more avenues for fruitful contribution. The Navy needs a variety of talents; assignments should not follow a pattern in every case. At times the service tends to treat its men as pawns. The needs of the service sometimes are only the needs of a specialized group, and just because a man can fill a billet, it does not mean that it is the best place for him from either his personal point of view or the Navy's.
As we adapt to an age of specialization, assignments in particular areas must be for longer periods of time. Therefore, we must make a real effort to ensure that the desires of qualified individuals are met and their best talents utilized in assignment to specialty areas. A man should be given a second choice specialty only when the needs of the service cannot be met in any other way.
As an example, a surprisingly large number of officers in the nuclear program would like to undertake postgraduate study in the social sciences. Engineering is not necessarily their forte, but they can do the job. If they are stagnated in a field of great need they become stifled; we need to rejuvenate people periodically. This is one of the pitfalls of specialization. It is a crime not to use the tremendous and varied talents of the officer corps. Some of these gifts and natural flairs eventually disappear from lack of use.
We should look hard at jobs to see if they really require an officer to perform them. How _ does each officer under our command spend his working hours? Are we properly using the talents of our senior and master chiefs? There is so much that needs to be done; there is much that does not need to be done. Busy work, such as the "regurgitation" of administrative instructions, is not a solution; it is part of the problem. Men must continue to grow and think. There should be time in wardrooms for stimulating conversations about leadership, world affairs and naval problems.
Much of the challenge of naval service is the trust placed in the individual officer. As operations become more complex, a great deal of supervision and checking is required. At the same time, a large part of the sense of accomplishment in the Navy comes from doing a job well and an atmosphere of "special trust and confidence." Checking of officers can be carried to detrimental extremes; the right amount of supervision is, of course, essential to a smooth team effort.
There is nothing more satisfying than being given a position of responsibility. Early responsibility is one of the rewards of service life. A great deal of what is made of any job depends on how a man approaches it, but an effort should be made to make assignments challenging. Few experiences in life are comparable to command of a ship. One vice admiral, for example, had three destroyer commands by the time he had had eight years of service. If such career opportunities existed today, talk about resignations would be strictly academic. Our problem is that we are traditionally cautious and conservative in peacetime. In one sense it is because we can afford to be. But we cannot afford to lose officers simply because we cannot challenge them-any more than we can afford to lose ships because of personnel inexperience. A very hard look should be taken at the peacetime criteria for experience and rank needed for each billet.
We tend to blame the loss of officers on our seniors. Let each of us remind ourselves that the responsibility for what the Service is and what it becomes belongs with its lieutenants and commanders as well as its admirals. It may be a lack of appreciation of their potential contribution which inhibits lieutenants from exhibiting the kind of motivation that will be a decisive influence on a lieutenant junior grade.
In weighing possible alternatives, it is important that we consider the effect of our actions on the identification of the Navy as a vocation. All of us must stop to consider what we can do to promote and protect qualities of service life that are unique and satisfying.
Officers spend a great deal of time plotting their future course. The main goal of thousands of naval officers is to be the Chief of Naval Operations. This is a healthy ambition. But many a person has forgotten to realize that life is equally enjoyable as a lieutenant or a commander. We sometimes are looking over the horizon instead of appreciating the task at hand. Like every other rank, that of admiral has its satisfactions and its frustrations. One does not have to be an admiral before changes can be made. We all, on our individual levels, are contributors to the over-all effort. If the atmosphere on a ship is bad, do we vow to change it when we are in charge, or do we try to do something at the time? Hopefully, we stop to live life now- as it is.
At some point, officers stop worrying about whether they get that graduate school assignment or desirable sea duty billet and how their flag rank potential has been affected, and dedicate themselves to a higher purpose. This is the beginning of service.