Ringing on board and ashore of naval officers in command of its ships, squadrons, and other units is a curious U.S. Navy tradition. I still can recall my first time hearing it 23 years ago. I was a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman on a summer cruise on board the USS Tarawa (LHA-1) in San Diego. Two times each day a bell would chime over the ship’s announcing system: “Ding-ding, ding-ding, Tarawa arriving; ding-ding, ding-ding, Tarawa departing.” I also remember thinking at the time, and every time I have heard this practice since, just how emblematic this is of the Navy’s dominant paradigm of leadership—a paradigm designed to empower the institution of command at sea above all else, maybe even above the leadership it seeks for the innovation it needs.
Curiosity became clarity later in my education at the academy as I began to weigh whether to pursue my commission as a Marine or a Navy officer. I recall asking a Marine gunny for advice, to which he replied, “It’s easy son—if you want to lead leaders, go Corps; if you want to feel like a god at sea, go Navy.”