Nobody Asked Me, But . . .Get Rid of the Surface Ensign Stigma

By Lieutenant (junior grade) Joshua Asaro, U.S. Navy

Every brief I have received about the SWO community since joining has reported that this is a community “on the rise.” Apparently, there no longer are issues with people staying in, and the programs we have in place are going to usher in a bright new future. I’m sure there is data to support such statements, but I can tell you that on the deck plates, while the numbers might be there, the quality of leadership in the Surface Navy is wanting. The best officers with whom I have served were counting down the days until they could submit their resignations. Many of them were honor graduates from the Naval Academy and civilian universities. Many of these superstars simply fulfilled their minimum service, not because of the limited opportunities available as lieutenants, but because of how they were treated as ensigns. In a community where we are told early and often to “embrace the suck,” we haven’t learned to embrace our young leaders. How effective, then, can we consider our training? How can we tell ourselves that we’re leading our young officers and guiding them toward eventual command in the fleet?

If you consider yourself an adequate leader, ask yourself:

• Do those officers under your direction come to you the way you want their sailors to go to them?

• Does your command have a climate where even the newest officers feel valued?

If the answers are not in the affirmative, all the programs the Naval Personnel Command keeps headlining are meaningless.

“Retaining our best” never has been about how good life can be as lieutenants on shore duty. It’s about being a community that accepts those who enter it for what they truly are: its future.

Lieutenant Asaro is a qualified surface warfare officer, unlimited tonnage U.S. Coast Guard third mate, and a 2015 graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. He currently serves as the acting training officer on board the USS Monterey (CG-61), where he proudly serves in the name of his sailors and the Junior Officer Protection Association. A navigation and surface tactics enthusiast, he aspires to command at sea and upgrading his Coast Guard license to master mariner.




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