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By giving his life for Stephen Decatur, Reuben Janies proved that “in the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.” Traditional military leadership will keep the Reuben James spirit alive in the U. S. Navy.
In his foreword to the 1984-85 Jane’s Fighting Ships, Retired Royal Navy Captain John Moore states that there is “good news” for the U. S. Navy:
“Pride is the stepping stone to high morale and the best way of ensuring the deterioration of both in a ship’s company is to suggest that the people are being managed rather than led- The USN has made great strides in eradicating this approach; away from the cost-effective management analysis of the McNamara era.”1
The Pentagon, the editor contends, has made real progress in recognizing that people are people and not “manpower resources.” He contends that this distinction is essential when dealing with a highly trained, technically oriented volunteer force, contrasting U. S. Navy per" sonnel with “such groupings as the Iranian army of fanatical, semi-armed youths,” a group to whom the “odious term” of “manpower resources” may apply.2
Yet, the U. S. Navy’s own Leadership and Management Education Training (LMET) program, a training requirement for the junior officer entering the fleet, contradicts the “great strides” Captain Moore cites. LMET teaches leadership through the application of managerial techniques. The course is built around a group of “competency clusters,” the mastery of which is the key to successful management, and, therefore, the inference is effective leadership.3 The program promotes the development of such skills as “maximizing resources” and “defining realistic yet attainable goals with the buzz words “time management and “delegation.” Leadership styles are defined as ranging from “the coercer’ to “the affiliator.” But these are management styles, not attributes of leadership- In fact, an effective leader could conceivably be categorized in either of these management styles. The skills taught m LMET, although effective and useful, are the tools nevertheless of a peacetime Navy, borrowed from industry, and applicable to only one facet of the varied challenge of the 1980s facing leaders in the fleet.
The Navy’s mission is to defend vital national interests in any part of the globe at any time. “Power projection” and “sea control” are the means to this end. In the 1980s, however, the concepts of “limited war” and “presence” often dictate actions by naval commanders contrary to traditional notions of power projection and sea control. Yet the terms “limited war” and “presence” are used more frequently to describe U. S. military operations and commitments. Into this environment the junior officer is not only thrust but expected to lead. And the tools handed to him to perform this task are “time management,” “delegation,” and a cluster of other “competencies.”
In the last two years, U. S. Navy operations off the west coast of Nicaragua and El Salvador in late summer of 1983, in the invasion of Grenada, and in support of the Multinational Force in Beirut, Lebanon, have been nontraditional. The realities of global, superpower politics saddled the local commanders in each of these areas with restraints far outweighing traditional methods of achieving mission success. More so than the others, the invasion of Grenada presented an actual military objective, readily recognizable by troops at all levels. But the quick withdrawal of most American forces after achieving those objectives serves as a reminder that the easily identifiable military objective is the exception in the 1980s and not the rule.
The leadership challenge, then, in this nontraditional environment becomes compounded. The determining factor here is the human variable, the people to whom Captain Moore refers. And the molding of this variable is the junior officer’s clearest opportunity for making a significant contribution to nontraditional operations. Strong leadership each day is the cornerstone of the division officer’s job, from quarters through the working day and during those late-night watches which seem ever more frequent during long underway periods at Condition III. Leadership is a desired prerequisite to all the routine jobs with which the division officer is tasked. Clearly, “defining realistic goals” and “maximizing resources” will help the division officer who recognizes what has been known in the Navy for years: hard work keeps sailors busy, reducing the problems often associated with long underway periods and uncertain operating schedules.
But just as clear is the necessity for a new “competency cluster.” Leadership techniques—military leadership techniques—and not management styles borrowed from industry are the building blocks of this new “competency cluster,” a cluster familiar in appearance and tailored to the contingency ops of the 1980s:
- Develop pride
- Encourage toughness
- Use the basic beliefs on which America is built
- Develop teamwork
- Use the support of the folks back home
- Use the experience of those who came before us
- Demand courage
Captain John Paul Jones said in his “Code of a Naval Officer,” “It is, by no means, enough that an officer of the Navy should be a capable mariner. He must be that, of course, but also a great deal more.”4 Implicit in that “great deal more” are the qualities a naval leader must instill in the men who serve with him. It is to this challenge that this competency cluster is addressed. The guidelines listed have a familiar ring, because in various forms, they constitute the high-minded ideals which are handed to the young midshipman as the legacy of the U. S. Navy. The halls of our academies, Reserve Officer Training Corps units, and officer candidate schools, the very places where the future officer is developed and nurtured, are dotted with the quotations and pictures of naval leaders of each generation, all of which elaborate on the simple building blocks of leadership, the same building blocks the Navy has traded for management techniques in its own “leadership school.”
Just as the “rules” that govern military operations in the past 20 years seem to have changed, so too have the perceptions of what constitutes a leader and the makeup of the men to be led. The overriding movement during this period has been, ironically, back to the more traditional leadership styles. Each of these building blocks, although traditional in appearance, can be the basis for daily actions by the division officer in the environment of nontraditional operations. Use of these blocks will provide for the men on board ship a framework for the high morale and tough spirit required for the “uncertainty ops of the 1980s.”
Develop pride. A nonspecific term like pride should be reduced to its component parts—pride in oneself, pride in the division, pride in the ship, and pride in the Navy. Personal pride is the easiest to address. A division officer can have a major impact on the personal pride of his troops through the simple implementation of a military tradition. Inspect regularly and often. And inspect not just personnel, but also spaces. The troops may not realize it, but few things destroy morale more quickly than dirty heads or messy berthing compartments. The division officer can ensure that neither case will ever exist. In the past, prolonged underway periods have been treated as an opportunity to relax Navy grooming standards, but just the opposite should be done. Under way, there is no peer pressure from civilian friends, pressure that often manifests itself in poor grooming. And' the pride generated from a smart military appearance every morning at quarters can infect a whole division.
This personal pride leads to pride in the division. Here is an opportunity to emphasize vehicles for pride that diverge from the mission of the division. Many ships offer activities to take the mind off of the job at hand (such as boxing smokers or acey-deucy tournaments); when entering the second or third consecutive month “on station,” participation in these activities should be ordered by the division officer. He must be prepared to make statements such as, “Yes, Chief, I know we don’t have any tiddledywinks players, but if this ship is having a tournament, then by golly this division’s going to have a team.” A sometimes grudging acceptance will eventually be followed with the high spirits fostered by team competition. The opportunity also exists to take an activity which is usually work, like lowering the boats, and turn it into play, like a motor whaleboat regatta. The recreation opportunities for the sailor at sea in an operational environment are so meager that no opportunity can be allowed to pass, and participation will naturally engender pride.
On the other hand, pride in one’s ship can be entirely mission-oriented. Here the line officer should remember that strategic and tactical considerations which to him seem commonplace, that he reads about every day in the message traffic and discusses over meals in the wardroom, are oftentimes unknown to the seaman—and more likely are heard about only as the subjects of rumors. The division officer can assume the role of teacher here, using this as a powerful leadership position to build on the pride each individual should feel knowing his role in the accomplishment of the ship’s mission.
Pride in the Navy as a whole is the easiest element of this building block for the division officer to develop. It has been on the rise in the past four years. Recent directives from the Chief of Naval Operations prescribing that traditional nautical terms, like galley and mess decks, be used and the standard maritime terminology, so much a part of seagoing life, are examples of the leadership Navy-wide that the division officer can tap. The slo-
. . people are people and not ‘manpower and resources.’ . . . And the molding of this variable is the junior officer’s clearest opportunity for making a significant contribution to nontraditional operations.”
gan “Not in my Navy,” originally used by the Chief of Naval Operations in reference to drug abuse, has become a defiant and commonly used expression embodying the ways the Navy community perceives itself as different from and better than the population at large. The success of this leadership approach is now proven. Morale has risen. And combat readiness has, not coincidentally, steadily improved. The effective division officer can provide the same leadership in his own small sphere. President Ronald Reagan makes a great leader because people naturally warm to a man who verbalizes and embodies the beliefs and aspirations of those people. He is able to do just that. The same possibility exists for the division officer.
Encourage toughness. Former President Richard Nixon wrote in The Real War, “We must face the stark reality, World War III has begun, and we are losing it.”5 He also stated that we are in danger of losing it without firing a shot, attributing this to the West’s lack of will. This frightening assessment comes from none other than the architect of detente and, yet, if these words sound harsh in the context of peacetime, they are nevertheless appropriate when confronted with the challenge of motivating the sailors sent to fight against the enemies of freedom. The junior officer must be unafraid to say we are at war. For the Marines and sailors who were on station in Beirut or involved in the invasion of Grenada, the reality of bullets being fired in earnest and friends and cohorts dying far outweighed the importance of the stringent requirements of the language of diplomacy. For men seeing front-line action, their job is made easier and becomes less of a burden when a leader tells it like it is. So this leader can say, “This is war,” instilling a toughness in his troops and in their perception of their leader that pays dividends.
Use the basic beliefs on which America is built. Americans wear their constitutional amendments on their sleeves: even a criminal is likely to “know his rights.” And for all Americans, these “rights” form a unifying force not unlike that provided in Great Britain by the royal family. They are there to be proud of, to be guarded, and to be fought for if necessary. But to the young sailor who has not had the benefit of a college education, as his division officer has, a few reminders on the meaning of these rights can go a long way in justifying the sacrifices that he is asked to make.
The raw material for transmitting these reminders to the troops is already in place, the many “special occasion” messages from the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Navy, the fleet commanders, the type commanders, and those commemorating holidays like the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Christmas. These messages regularly thank the troops for their loyal service and unflagging sacrifice and usually make reference to the basic beliefs on which America is built—our legacy of freedom, free enterprise, equality, and the inherent worth of the individual. Our troops are on station in these trouble spots as free men being led by free men, and this should be reinforced with the troops
at every opportunity.
All junior officers should read these messages verbatim at quarters. By doing so, the desires of the top leadership who draft these messages will be fulfilled. The opportunity exists, however, for the creative division officer to do much more than this. The Declaration of Indepe'' dence and The Gettysburg Address, two of our most cherished documents and works hailed as classics of English prose, are seldom read by adult Americans, inspiring as these pieces may be. A quote pulled from one of these documents and delivered at quarters in the context of the ship’s operations can motivate a sailor who is lacking inspiration. Our heritage is replete with many sources.
Develop teamwork. Inherent in the modern concept of a naval presence is the Navy’s ability and willingness to conduct prolonged operations in remote locations like, for example, our commitment to an ongoing presence in the Indian Ocean-
Under way for long periods on that remote station, living and working in close, even cramped, quarters with shipmates in a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week environment, is a reality that just will not go away for the man at sea. Tensions grow- >ng out of this situation can be destructive, if the division officer does not combat them. The junior officer should remind the members of his division that together they are a “team,” and as “shipmates” they live together and they may even die together. This can be particularly effective when used immediately after an altercation or departure from the norm, like two boatswain’s mates fighting over a game of acey- deucy. (Yes, Virginia, sailors at sea for the 100th consecutive day do occasionally lose their tempers, although rare is the division officer who will willingly admit this.) One way of handling this situation is to remind the group who the enemy is, both the specific human enemy threatening our national interests and the nonspecific enemy of the sea and the dangers it presents to the mariner. These reminders, brought into focus by a departure from acceptable behavior, will limit the frequency of their recurrence and restore the proper perspective.
Use the support of the folks back home. This involves taking on one of the greatest enemies of high morale, the long separation from family and friends, and dampening its effects. It involves admitting, “Yes, we are out here 7,000 miles from home, and we don’t want to be here.” But it also involves balancing this statement with, “But our families know we are here to do a job and are proud of us for doing it.” The junior officer trying to do a soft-shoe around the hardships of separation will accomplish nothing to help the sailor trying to grapple with the problems associated with long separations. By putting the support of the folks back home into the proper context, the junior officer can make the experience more of a shared one, and the feelings of isolation many sailors experience can be diminished.
Recent history provides several examples of the groundswell of support that the American people pour forth for their “troops on the front line,” and the division officer should make certain that his troops are made aware of this support. For the youngest sailors, sometimes it is not separations from their families that weigh most heavily upon them, but just the general separation from home. Knowing that people back home, even strangers, care and support them can make a significant difference.
Use the experience of those who came before us. Members of each generation seem to forget what others before them have gone through. This is particularly true among young people and can sometimes be exaggerated on board ship. The hardships of a long deployment or an unscheduled operation with no announced end-date can make the young sailor feel he has been out at sea forever. Again the division officer can assume the role of teacher and place things into a more palatable perspective.
The division officer should remind his troops that they are not the first to experience this kind of situation, that in World War II ships measured time deployed in years, not months, and that then the primary question was not when they would return, but whether or not they would return. To many 18-year-olds, this is ancient history, but the good leader can instill in his troops a feeling of kinship with those who came before him, and this can be an added reserve of strength to face the challenges of today’s types of operation.
The Navy honors its past and its traditions daily. Using the experiences of sailors from that past and comparing them with the experiences of today’s sailors is a valuable leadership tool; it makes the sailors feel that they are part of the Navy’s highest traditions. Aghin the raw materials for action are available and numerous. One can explain the origin and significance of naval traditions and customs. Then participation in the ceremonies surrounding these traditions becomes more meaningful.
Another source for this type of information is the proud naval ship name. For example, on 8 February 1985. the USS Reuben James (FFG-57) was launched at Todd Pacific Shipyard in San Pedro, California. She is named after a boatswain’s mate who on 3 August 1804 saved the life of his commander, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, in hand-to-hand combat in Tripoli harbor. Reuben James sacrificed his life by taking a blow from a scimitar that was intended for his commander. One- hundred-and-eighty years later, a warship is named after this boatswain’s mate, the third in our Navy’s history. This story will prove to be inspiring to the young seaman reporting on board this ship in five years. But who will tell him this story? It should be his division officer taking the role of the leader reiterating the experiences of those who came before him.
Demand courage. Courage may be the most elusive attribute of this competency cluster for the division officer to acquire. However, in most situations, courage is something a division officer can only talk about. The opportunities to demonstrate true courage are infrequent but should not sway a leader from discussing them openly. Often a person acting courageously is merely reacting instinctively to a rapidly developing situation, since there is no time to contemplate the consequences of actions. For this reason, the junior officer on station in a trouble spot should tell his troops that they are there to be courageous and to act courageously. They arc the free men. They represent the free men of the world. And if they are called upon, they will stand up to those enemies of freedom as free men always have. This may seem simplistic, but it works. And it is a good way to help prepare the troops for the unexpected.
Napoleon Bonaparte said, “There are only two powers in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.”6 This competency cluster is designed to bolster the spirit of the men called upon to wield the sword in today’s complex world. The building blocks of this competency cluster are basic; pride, courage, toughness, teamwork, and an open recognition of our heritage. But it is precisely because of their basic nature that they are often ignored as valuable leadership tools. In today’s world, with the threat of global war and international terrorism hanging over the heads of both our national leaders and others in a leadership position, including the junior officer on board ship, many of the old assumptions about what is right seem to have lost their validity. In part, this can be attributed to the movement toward the cost-effective management styles of the 1960s. But beyond this, it can also be attributed to a failure of leadership in its most basic form. Today, in a world where the clear and traditional military objective may not be readily recognizable, it is imperative to the men being led that their officers demonstrate clear, recognizable, and even obvious leadership. That is why this competency cluster is so simple and traditional. Because many times the answers to the most complex challenges lie in the basic beliefs of men. This has proven true for more than two centuries when the challenges were directed at free men. *     
‘John E. Moore, Jane's Fighting Ships 1984-85 (London: Jane’s Publishing Company, Ltd., 1984), p. 123.
Leadership and Management Education and Training: A Student’s Journal for the SWOS Division Officers (Navedtra 38036), p. xi.
John Paul Jones, “The Code of a Naval Officer.”
Richard M. Nixon, The Real War (New York: Warner Books, 1980), p. 368.
Nixon, p. 334.