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Growing up, we hear a lot of talk about heroes. We are encouraged to find personal heroes and then to emulate them in order to develop honorable qualities that will serve us well later in life. But often there is no mention of what these qualities are, or what makes heroes so “special.” There is one element, though, that all heroes possess. It makes no difference if they are athletes, comic book characters, or your parents; all of these people are driven by a sense of commitment. It is this sense of commitment that separates our heroes from everyone else, and it is this same quality that should set the truly good naval officer apart from his or her peers. A focused sense of commitment strengthens an officer’s ability to lead, and distinguishes a true leader.
In today’s society, a different sort of commitment has become valued; a commitment that stresses the furthering of the self. The needs of the individual have taken the place of the needs of the group, and we have begun to revere those people who seem to have risen to the top of their field by outsmarting their opponents. What is being lost is the sense of commitment toward a higher good. Midshipmen and all officer candidates alike must realize this and develop their commitments to both the United States and the Navy.
Unfortunately, this is not something that is immediately or fully understood when someone accepts the responsibility of becoming a naval officer. From personal experience, I know that when 1 signed my commitment papers, I was unsure of what I was committing myself to after I graduated from college and what the Navy or even my country meant to me. At the time, the Navy was a source of funds to pay my tuition; in exchange, I would wear a Navy uniform once a week and take some naval science classes. I had no idea what it really meant to be a naval officer. People asked me, “Would you be willing to risk your life if the United States ever went to war?” And my reply was usually, “Well, I don’t think that situation will ever arise.” But this was just a response, and not an answer. The truth was that—like many of my peers at that time—I did not know what kind of commitment I had made.
By definition, commitment is “the act of pledging or entrusting, or setting something apart or putting it to purpose.”1 At the date of my signing, I had yet to do any of these things as far as the Navy was concerned. It has taken me four years to begin to develop a sense of commitment to the Navy and to understand my responsibilities as an officer. I have learned that naval officers must demonstrate commitment, for if they do not, they cannot expect their people to also be dedicated to common goals and to appreciate that the Navy is not a nine-to- five job or a mere contractual obligation:
“. . . Our military career is not just another job. It calls for self-sacrifice, not self-interest. It calls for self-discipline, not indulgence. . . . National defense calls for a special kind of dedication and a motivation to serve and excel.”2
In other words, when we sign our names, the Navy does not merely want us to serve, it expects us to serve our country because we made a commitment to do so, and it expects us to serve to the best of our abilities. As officers, we are expected to set the example for others to follow; we are expected to be leaders.
The qualities of commitment to the Navy and, therefore, of leadership, are abstract but nonetheless direct. Colonel M. M. Wakin summed up the qualities of the officer well by noting five military virtues: “Subordination of the good of the self to the good of the nation and military unit, courage, obedience, loyalty, integrity.”3 As naval officers, we must faithfully carry out directives, make decisions as quickly as possible, with what is best for the United States and the Navy at the forefront of our minds, and be willing to accept the blame if things go wrong, with the obligation to rectify the situation as best we can. Commitment requires us to go beyond the call of duty, to put in extra effort when needed.
In our everyday duties, our commitment, or lack of it, shows. It shows clearly in our actions and in what we say and how we say it. No one sees this better than the people we are leading, as it is
evident in the way we carry out an c .. directives. Furthermore, commit'11 . evident to others in your people s ac . this is leadership by example. The i is a team—ideally a team of c0,TI men and women working toward ling the needs and goals of the States and the Navy. Every team, ■■ - m ing the Navy, has its leaders, w^° hlan1^4 first to make decisions, accept the spread the praise, and address eaC$
task and directive with vigor
the individuals whom others will because these are the ones who ac plish their tasks. t[i(
Leadership, then, follows ft0111 j
................................................... esent u
commitment that should be pn
naval officer, and is probably . g. fined by General S. L. A. Marsh3
- Quiet resolution
- The hardihood to take risks for
- The will to take full responsibi'1.
- The readiness to share its rewards
subordinates . ^
- An equal readiness to take the when things go adversely
- The nerve to survive storm and -||i
pointment and to face each new day ^ the scoresheet wiped clean, .pi- dwelling on one’s successes nor^^ ing discouragement from one’s t® ^ General Marshall said, “In these lie a great part of the essence ol e ^ ship, for they are the constituents 0 ^ kind of moral courage that has eJJ ji one man to draw many others to
If during our officer training
learned nothing except this, then not just signed up for a four-year 0 pr tion, we will have begun to nurture mitment. We will not have simP^ ^,j(
sponses; we will have answers. y’T|| K not only be naval officers; we v/l leaders.
‘Robert L. Taylor and William E. tors, Military Leadership: In Pursuit of (Boulder: Wcstvicw Press, 1984), p. 34 2Ibid.
1lbid., p. 56 4lbid., p. 44 5lbid.