Posted by lex, on November 28, 2006
From Strategy Page (courtesy of occasional reader Kevin):
In the last few years, there has been a sharp increase in navy commanders being relieved. It’s been running at over ten a year, up from 6-8 in the late 1990s, and a bit less than that in the 1980s. Only a small percentage of reliefs have to do with professional failings (a collision or serious accident, failing a major inspection or just continued poor performance.) Most reliefs were, and still are, for adultery, drunkenness or theft. With more women aboard warships, there have been more reliefs for, as sailors like to put it, “zipper failure.” There may have been more than are indicated, as sexual misconduct is often difficult to prove, and a commander who is having zipper control problems often has other shortcomings as well. Senior commanders traditionally act prudently and relieve a commander who demonstrates a pattern of minor problems and who they now “lack confidence in.”
They missed their calling, these guys: They should’ve run for office.
Somehow this reminds me of a tale I heard told about the Command Leadership Course in Newport, RI several years ago. A distinguished flag officer came to the classroom to speak to the newly selected, but not yet in officio commanding officers.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “congratulations on achieving the pinnacle of command at sea, a major milestone in your naval careers. Very shortly now you will stand on a podium in front of an apparently adoring crowd speaking these words: ‘I relieve you sir.’ At that moment you will be responsible for the lives and welfare of America’s finest sons and daughters, and of them you will forge a critical link in the defense of the republic.
“Very shortly thereafter you will be gratified to learn that your professional opinions have become infallible, that your sense of humor is outrageously entertaining and that you yourself are quite suddenly irresistably attractive. Shortly after that you will feel unassailable, bulletproof.
“If you learn nothing else at all from your time at this school, the most important thing to take away is that none of these things are true. You are no smarter, no funnier and no better looking then you ever were. And you are most decidedly not bulletproof.
“Enjoy your time in command. Does anyone have any questions?”
The way the story was told to me, no one did.