The sea is unforgiving. Much like the sea, leadership in the Sea Services as junior officers can be unforgiving. The stakes and expectations are high. A lapse in judgment, even for a few seconds, can spell disaster. It is a lesson that junior officers often learn the hard way.
In my case, there was no denying it. I had screwed up. I was standing in the captain’s cabin, with my boss and my boss’s boss, and I was on the receiving end of an uncomfortable lecture. The captain was rightfully irate. The ship was deep in the Pacific Ocean as part of an expeditionary strike group. A major storm had been forecasted, and I was ordered to make sure all my division’s equipment was secure for sea.
I dutifully walked around the ship, blindly “inspecting” things, and then went on to the next task on my to-do list. There are always things for an ensign to do! It turned out everything was not secure, and a key piece of equipment was broken in the ensuing heavy seas.
1. Colin Powell with Tony Koltz, It Worked for Me—In Life and Leadership (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), 76.
2. C. S. Forester, The Man in the Yellow Raft (Boston: Little Brown, 1969).
3. See ADM James Stavridis, USN (Ret.), and R. Manning Ancell, The Leader’s Bookshelf (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2017).
4. Kenneth Dodson, Away All Boats (Boston: Little Brown & Company, 1954).