“Aye-Aye Skipper!” There Should Be More Stories Like This…

  • Share
  • Read Later
Navy photo by MC3 Shannon Burns

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, right, presents Cmdr. Robert B. Chadwick II with the Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale Leadership Award

Hoo Yah!!! (that’s Navy diver-speak for “this is good”). In the January 16th edition of Navy Times, there’s finally a good news story about “Amazing Skippers” …Commanding officers who are considered to be the best in the fleet, according to their peers. The award is given annually — one to each skipper on the east and west coasts below the rank of captain — for their inspirational leadership. They are captains of their ships, but are the rank of commander or below. Confusing, I know, for those of you who are not familiar with the Navy’s rank system and honorary ranks…but I digress.

Over the last two years, Navy Times has dutifully reported about “bad” skippers…those whose leadership was diabolical (i.e. Capt Holly Graf, USS Cowpens); abused power (i.e. CDR. Robert M. Brown, Beachmaster Unit 2); or the numerous men who couldn’t separate their professional responsibilities from their carnal desires, ranging from rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or just unprofessional conduct when it came to their subordinates, both male and female. Particularly egregious was CDR Jay Wylie, CO of the USS Momsen, convicted of seven criminal counts, including rape, aggravated sexual assault, and conduct unbecoming an officer. Navy Times, independent of the Navy (it’s published by Gannett, the same folks who own USA Today) had many lurid stories of the failings of 21 commanding officers who were fired in 2011, as well as the 17 fired in 2010.

The two outstanding skippers, CDR Robb Chadwick, the former commanding officer of the USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), and CDR Jerry Miranda, former CO of the submarine USS Asheville (SSN 758), received the award from Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert on January 5. (Greenert himself earned the award 20 years ago). The Navy established the award more than three decades ago, in part to recognize the distinguished career of Vice Admiral James Stockdale, a naval aviator and Vietnam prisoner of war who symbolizes the highest standards of excellence in both personal character and leadership. (While the Navy Times story isn’t yet online, here’s the Navy’s report on the ceremony.)

Navy photo by MC3 Shannon Burns

One of the most highly decorated officers of the Navy, VADM Stockdale was awarded 26 personal combat decorations, including the Medal of Honor and four Silver Stars. In his last tour of duty he served as President of the Naval War College. He was the highest-ranking naval officer held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, and he took his leadership responsibilities seriously. He would not allow himself to be used for propaganda purposes and disfigured himself so as not to be paraded in front of the media. He was locked in leg irons and routinely tortured and beaten. When it was discovered that he had information that could implicate his friends’ “black activities”, he slit his wrists so they could not torture him into confession. To be compared to this man is quite an honor!

In keeping with the humility of these officers, they both credit their crews for their success. Chadwick said, “I was inspired every day by the sailors of Roosevelt” and “Whenever you are in a leadership position, your mindset needs to be, I am here for them…I think where leaders can get in trouble is if they ever take the approach, ‘They are here for me’. If you take that service approach, ‘I can only be successful if they are successful’, then I think you can’t go wrong.”

Well said, Captain, and congratulations to you both!