Volumes have been written on command at sea. Textbooks, magazine articles, novels, and movies have covered the travails of life in command in great detail, offering a body of theory and an almost infinite number of examples, role models, heroes, and antiheroes to ponder. But to become a commanding officer, one must first master—or at least survive—a tour as second in command; and in stark contrast to the amount written about command, precious little has been written on success as an executive officer.
After receiving orders to serve as the executive officer of the USS Boston (SSN-703), I asked everyone I met who had been an XO for some keys to success, and it was clear to me that none of these people had seriously reflected on their varied experiences. So I, like those before me, began my tour as second-in-command with a passion for excellence and a determination to make my ship the best it could be, but with little knowledge of exactly how I might contribute to achieving that success.