By lex, on October 3rd, 2010
In naval aviation squadrons, it has long been traditional for the squadron’s number two position (executive officer) to “fleet up” to the commanding officer billet after a prescribed interval. The intent was always to ensure continuity and minimize the sometimes jarring transition from one command style to the next. In the surface and submarine forces an alternate model has generally been employed: The executive officer’s position was administrative in nature, and intended to lighten the commanding officer’s burden of day-to-day trivia and allow him focus on warfighting, seamanship, engineering and navigation.
In recent years, the surface forces have attempted to adopt naval aviation’s fleet up process:
Vice Adm. Terry Etnyre, commander, Naval Surface Forces, said, “’XO/CO Fleet Up’ is about command. It provides focused command leadership stability throughout a ship’s life. A commanding officer will reap the benefits of the actions and policies he or she institutes as executive officer. He or she will know the crew upon assumption of command and will be intimately familiar with the material condition and the combat readiness of the ship. This improves readiness and will provide an unprecedented level of command leadership stability in our Surface Force.”
Well, not always:
The executive officer of a Norfolk-based destroyer was relieved late Friday afternoon for striking a subordinate officer while the ship was underway, Surface Force Atlantic said.
The officer… was due to take command of the Mahan following his tour as executive officer, according to (the) Surface Force Atlantic spokesman.
(The officer) was relieved by the commander of Destroyer Squadron 22… during a captain’s mast administrative hearing in Norfolk on charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman, and assault. (The officer) was also awarded a punitive letter of reprimand, a certain career-ender.
According to (a spokesman), the incident took place while Mahan was underway off the mid-Atlantic coast during a Composite Training Unit Exercise on July 9… (the executive officer) struck the other officer, a male, in the ship’s combat direction center.
The responsibility of a commanding officer is absolute. His authority is commensurate with his responsibility. On the positive side, although this evidently mercurial gentleman was weeded out of the command pipeline rather late in the game, at least Mahan was preserved from having to deal with him in a position of absolute authority. Not to mention the often emotionally wrenching experience of having him relieved from command without the benefit of a band.
So although the fleet up process may not be working precisely as VADM Etnyre intended, it certainly does appear to be working.
“Don’t ride the working stock,” one of my heroes told officers under his command, meaning to keep professional relationships between mixed gender servicemen strictly professional. He probably never thought he had to also add, “Don’t beat them, either.”