Command at sea for a Coast Guard officer can come as early as lieutenant (junior grade). While it may be true that “you can’t understand command until you’ve had it,” as fictional Lieutenant Keefer so aptly expressed in The Caine Mutiny (Doubleday, 1951), that does not mean young officers cannot prepare for it. For those who strive to command, observing, studying, and practicing the characteristics that will prepare them for “the thrill of taking over their first ship” is essential.1
Former Secretary of Defense and retired Marine Corps General James Mattis frequently challenged leaders to “learn from others’ experience . . . especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.” I owe a debt of gratitude to the three commanding officers I have served under, as well as to other former commanding officers with whom I have served, for shaping and nurturing my career as a professional mariner and for showing me how good commanders look, sound, and act.
1. James Stavridis and Robert Girrier, Command at Sea (Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2010.)
2. Anonymous, “Inspections Communicate Priorities,” JO Rules, 29 July 2013.
3. Brian Smicklas, “Demise of the Cutterman,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 141, no. 8 (August 2015). Lieutenant David A. Adams, U.S. Coast Guard, “Coast Guard Is More Than Cutters, ” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 143, no. 8, (August 2016).