By lex, on January 5th, 2006
Ah, well. You asked for it. Pictures to follow. Maybe.
Depending on how I look.
Good morning Admiral, Chief of Staff – it’s a pleasure to see you two again, especially as you are so recently returned from arduous duty at sea. I wish I could tell you how much I would have liked to be there with you. I would like to do that, but it wouldn’t be entirely true, so I won’t. Sorry.
Good morning Petty Officer E, thanks so much for offering me this opportunity to speak at this very important landmark in your career, to celebrate with you your success and achievements. Welcome too to your lovely bride M., and your children C. and R.. It’s a very great pleasure to see you all here, and I hope you are as proud of OS1 E. as I am to have served with him. Good morning too to OS1′s parents, Mr. and Mrs. E. Mr. E. is a Navy veteran by the way, a former SK2. Sir, our personnelmen will be standing by in the lobby with the paperwork in case you change your mind and decide finally to re-enlist. Seriously though, thank you both so much for raising Petty Officer E. to be the man that he is. My hat’s off to both of you.
Good morning to the staff of the command formally known as CARGU ONE. It’s great to be back over here with you again, where many of us have shared hard work and some hardships over the course of the last few years, as well as many a happy and successful moment. It’s increasingly clear to me as I walk through life that the closer you are to the waterfront, the more likely it is that you are a part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. Having lately moved away from the waterfront training organization, you can trust me when I tell you that -It’s great to be back.
Good morning friends and invited guests, especially to another former Connie sailor, OSC Bill V. – welcome back, shipmate. Looks like we have a two-fer today: You’ll get a buck off of soon-to-be Ensign E., and he gets to re-enlist OS1 B. Will wonders never cease?
OS1 B. and I were also shipmates, and every once in a while I like to give him a hard time.
As I said, it’s great to be back, what a wonderful thing to celebrate, to be a part of – especially in that OS1 E.’s leadership had to practically electrocute him with a cattle prod last year to get him to put a commissioning package in – he didn’t think he was ready.
He was ready.
You know, one of the truly wonderful things about this Navy of ours is all the great people that you get to work with – being in their company motivates me, and it keeps me young. The older you get, the more important that last bit is, by the way. But I think that the it feeds on itself, excellence inspiring excellence, and all of it dedicated not merely to personal advancement or some corporate bottom line, but to the success of the team – you guys here at Strike Force Training Pacific are a huge part of that. I’m more and more convinced that at the end of the day, your life will not be measured by the quantity of those things you got, as by the quality of those things you did.
What each of you have here, and what I can tell you that I miss, coming as I do now from a large staff where you can’t swing a dead cat without knocking the covers off of a dozen captains, is an almost daily opportunity to do something good, to make a difference. Not everybody gets that chance, and frankly not everybody that does takes it. But each of you has the opportunity to be a positive influence, to be a part of the solution, to make a difference for operating forces that need someone to be on their side, and in a growingly uncertain world that desperately needs the services of well-trained and highly capable US naval power. If you’d just look around this room you’d see that in this small staff you have critically important expertise on how things are actually done in carrier and expeditionary strike groups, how disparate units and forces are joined into one coherent, synergistic whole. No one else does what you do in the Pacific Fleet, and you do it directly with hands-on assistance and over-the-shoulder mentoring, assessment and feedback. Other people in the Navy have the responsibility to provide more or less trained forces, and others have the task to provide essential equipment. But without training, all of those resources amount to not a great deal more than an entertainment budget for part-time hobbyists. You give those resources context; you provide the training that makes the investment worthwhile. You transform loose aggregations of individually qualified personnel into lethal teams of professional war fighters ready for any and all national tasking, whether it be in the Global War on Terror, in humanitarian operations or in some other, emergent conflict. You make a difference.
And of course the reason why we’re all here today is to honor one from among your ranks who perhaps more than anyone I’ve met recently in my naval career, provides that unique expertise, that hands-on training, who makes that difference.
In some ways, OS1 E. comes by that capability naturally. He is, after all, an Operations Specialist, he literally specializes in the war fighting operations of the fleet. And like most Operations Specialists, he’s done it from the fleet perspective – it’s a sea-going rate, with a five and two sea/shore rotation. Reading the list of his many accomplishments over the years, reviewing his career, is humbling and awe-inspiring – he’s gotten so much done, in such a short period of time that I think we could all take a lesson from OS1 E.’s professional notebook:
He started off on the USS Independence, that great rough beast, way back in ’91 before moving over to USS Bristol County, an LST. That tour was followed immediately by service aboard a Spruance-class destroyer, the USS Harry W. Hill and then another destroyer, a Burke-class DDG this time, the USS Fitzgerald. From there, having been on sea duty for his requisite five years, he went over to the staff of the Commander, THIRD FLEET, which was at that time also a sea-duty assignment. Along the way, he learned more than just about anyone else about one particular, critical war fighting system. And along the way, he became more than merely valuable – he became almost indispensable.
Finally in January 2000, a little more than nine years after he reported aboard the Indy, OS1 E. got his first real shore duty at Fleet Combat Training Center, Pacific. There he not only learned to give some of his hard-won experience back, he also added to his own stock value by earning qualification as a Master Training Specialist, while, oh-by-the-way, picking up a Bachelor’s Degree. From there he arrived here at the staff of the Commander, Strike Force Training Pacific in March of 2003. And in his quietly authoritative way, proceeded to set the world on fire.
You see, I think that OS1 E. learned early on that while everyone is important to the team, certain folks become critical, and everyone – everyone knows who they are. Not because they’re any smarter, or connected or any better looking – but because they decide to be. They just — do it. Some folks will curse the darkness, and others will light a candle. Petty Officer E. lights candles.
One source of his unique technical expertise of course, is in the Global Command and Control System – Maritime: GCCS-M. It’s a complex system, by which I mean that old guys like myself desperately need young folks like OS1 E. who actually understand it. It’s also time consuming and challenging to maintain, which means that using the system effectively requires forceful, effective, hands-on leadership. If you’re running the system, or leading and training the Sailors running the system, you’ve got to be there – you can’t phone it in.
And this system is critical to our combat capability, it is our very eyes on the battle space – and as any warrior could tell you, you can’t fight what you can’t see. Here at Strike Force Training Pacific, OS1 E. has helped by my count at least nine strike groups and ten combat crews to see what it is that the country would have them fight. Listen as I tell you their names: Constellation, Carl Vinson, Pelilieu, Bonhomme Richard, Tarawa, John C. Stennis, Nimitz, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, not to mention the cruisers and destroyers he’s embarked upon. Talk about a who’s who of combat power.
That’s making a difference.
And let me tell you another thing: I cannot think of any first class petty officer anywhere on the west coast whose name is as well known to the waterfront training establishment and deploying commanding officers, staffs and flag officer commanders as is that of OS1 Petty Officer E. When the Bonhomme Richard and Tarawa strike groups got underway for their first at-sea periods last year, I got a by-name request from their commanders to embark OS1 to help them fix their program.
That’s making a difference.
He received letters of commendation and appreciation from the Commander of Cruiser-Destroyer Group FIVE for his assistance preparing them for CENTCOM’s Exercise INTERNAL LOOK, from the Naval Coastal Warfare Group and from the wonderfully named MAJGEN William Wallace of the US Joint Forces Command all in calendar year 2000, for his assistance enabling them to maintain their operational picture.
That’s making a difference.
But here’s a little secret: He could have been the technical expert that everyone acknowledges him to be, known by name to captains and flag officers throughout the fleet and the Navy would have been content to leave him right where he is as first class petty officer. Because they Navy recognizes and rewards performance but it promotes potential – in other words, the Navy is not rewarding OS1 E. for his performance of assigned duties, nor recognizing him for his acknowledged expertise. Instead, the Navy is promoting him to a position of greater responsibility and influence because senior Navy leadership believes that he can make an even greater difference as an officer. And because OS1 E. has proven that he’s ready for it.
His Sailors were always ready for sea, well trained, eager and ready to contribute to the team. They are all dual EAWS/ESWS qualified warriors. And they in turn are ready to step up and fill the place he leaves when he pins on those butter bars. And they will continue in the critical work of training strike groups for the full spectrum of maritime dominance missions, eventually taking those skills back to sea with them again. That’s because of his leadership.
And that, my friends, is making a difference.
And that’s why we’re here today to celebrate his commissioning, and wish him well as he moves into ever more important positions of leadership. For a while OS1, you may find that perhaps that the skills which got you here will carry you forward, but you will need to keep an open mind and continue to learn new things. I’m not talking about moving out of the mess decks and into the wardroom, not the knife and fork school stuff, but training, managing and most especially leading the greatest enlisted force the Navy has ever known, the next generation of heroes in the service of their country, men and women whose skill sets are increasingly well-rounded and which will sometimes be very different from your own. You will discover that as your breadth of responsibility grows wider, so must your depth of control grow shallower – there is only so much of you to go around, you cannot do everything, and eventually even former operations specialists must learn to sleep. You will learn the need to delegate; which means you will need to aggressively follow up, for as you know, authority can be delegated, but responsibility cannot. You will need to learn who can be counted upon to be a part of the solution, and who a part of the problem. And because we work with the tools that we have been given, you will need to lead them both. And finally, somewhere out there is your replacement: You must find him, and inspire him and train him, like someone else did you, and if it comes to it, you must stick him with the cattle prod, and get him to turn his package in. Petty Officer E., it is an enormous honor you are receiving today, the President’s commission to serve as an officer in the greatest Navy the world has every known. It is an honor that you richly deserve. But with it comes commensurate responsibility.
Don’t worry – you’re ready.
In just a few moments now you will leave the enlisted ranks and join the wardroom mess. Once there will walk in the path of Porter and Farragut, Halsey and Nimitz, each of whom, once, was an ensign. Chief V. over there will salute you, and he may even call you “sir” as he does so. If you work as hard as an officer as you did as a petty officer, very soon he will actually mean it – far faster than for those of us who merely graduated college, not having had the benefit of your 14 years on the line.
M., thanks so much for sharing your husband with a grateful nation, we all know that he could not be standing here today unless he had your love and support. I know he’s been gone more often than you would like, and there are many things that he has missed along the way. He will continue to need your love and support as he moves into his next series of challenges, his next opportunities to excel. C. and R., I hope you realize how blessed you are to have such a great dad – there are many who aspire to what he has accomplished, but so very few are chosen. Mr. and Mrs. E., thanks again for raising such a fine young man.
Well, I think I’ve gone on long enough, so let me close at last: Let me jump the gun a bit and be the first to congratulate you, Ensign E., for all the work that has gone before. My very best wishes for you as you tackle the challenges ahead. Remember that you cannot go very far wrong by doing what you have done before just that little bit better each time: Execute the mission, support the boss, and take care of your people, the sons and daughters of America.