LIGHT Leadership Institute

Welcome to the Wardroom- CGN 37

The speech I read to every new officer as they checked aboard.  They each got a copy to begin their own "Best CO" File.
It kept me honest and showed them what I expected of them as well as myself.

Since I've had some time in command and during my career to collect my "thoughts" here are a few - "37" or so- ideas that I will plant, nurture and harvest over the next few years with you: 

Standards, Safety, Security, Sense, Stewardship 

Each of us has "STANDARDS" about everything we do or see.  We know we are to have "high standards" or "excellence" or "........."  - What do we need to do to recognize these "high" standards??-- How about a series of questions which run along the line of:"How much rust is acceptable running down the sides of the ship??""How much 'informal' communications will you say are 'acceptable' ?""How many 'drunken sailor' incidents will we 'accept' ?""How many dust balls in a second deck passageway will we accept on any given day?" We will work together to set and achieve "High" standards... Be prepared to demonstrate yours at any time!!  Remember, the only standards you can expect are the ones you set, and the ones you follow. 

SAFETY is paramount and an ALL HANDS responsibility.   Does that mean we will never take risks or do "dangerous" tasks?  We are sailors and warriors and going to sea is a dangerous business.    Our goal is to ensure that we do these "dangerous" things in as safe a manner as possible.  Being SAFE means staying aware and being prepared for responding to rising dangers.   Let's not lose any of us, even for a few minutes, for an UNSAFE practice or condition.  We will work to keep the ship and our crew  "SAFE"...recalling "ETERNAL VIGILANCE" is the price of safety,  we will have confidence that when the time comes to go in harm's way, our ship and our crew will keep us SAFE! 

SECURITY- a watchword again for all of us.  We have various programs to keep the ship safe and secure.  Physically, informationally, operationally, and personally...we must maintain our secure environment around the clock.  YOU must do everything you can to keep our ship and our shipmates "SECURE". 

SENSE - as Will Rogers punned several years ago "Common sense is not that common anymore."  But I'd add "or any less".... Each of us have some innate sense of the right and wrong things to do or say....We just have to get our "sense" of priorities in order....I want the things we do or say to be sensible- that means that whenever any event or procedure is happening-  we are all aware of what's going on around us and watching over what could be going wrong....Use your senses to find and correct the danger.  If we are engaged in a course of action that doesn't make sense...tell us--immediately-- Our ship will be safer and more secure when your SENSES are working clearly.  Ensure you remain considerate and sensitive to the needs of others as you work to excel.  Let's be reasonable about the things we do and say, so we "MAKE" sense. 

STEWARDSHIP- a special status we have been given by our country to serve on this ship.  The ship's not ours to keep- but to care for, improve, prepare and, if necessary, fight!  Through our STEWARDSHIP, we'll have it ready for those who follow us.


In my mind, OPERATIONS encompasses all we do as "stewards" of this mighty warship.  In all we do, I expect a "professional" manner in operating and maintaining the ship.  Formality is a buzzword of NUKEDOM- but also a "STANDARD" which acts as the hub of many spokes in our operational wheel.  We use written procedures and standard practices and communications for evolutions- before the event, so we are prepared; during the execution, so we stay "SAFE"; and after we complete the event, so we set the ship up to be ready for the next time.   Our 3M program sets up PMS as the minimum maintenance to ensure the gear is operating properly and will be resistant to later operational failures or casualties.  I'd like to have us achieve a 100% RAR in PMS and have great confidence that the maintenance is completed correctly as well.  Our TAGOUT program must be perfectly understood and administered flawlessly.  The TAGOUT program is our means to guarantee safe maintenance operations. 

Understanding, Unselfishness

The key to success in any endeavor is "UNDERSTANDING" what is happening.  For formal procedures, that understanding entails knowing what will happen when you turn that switch or open that valve.  And you should know "why"-There may be times and events which take us to unknown areas or unplanned requirements;  if we understand where we are, and how we got there, we'll be better able to return to a "safe" condition.  Work hard on the "understanding" of every facet of our ship, the crew and their jobs- our true success depends on achieving the confidence we gain from completely understanding what we are doing and why. 

UNSELFISHNESS comes in as an important quality because I want us to be free to give our undivided attention to the things that matter the most.  Be prepared to give your best effort always and your time, energy and power to make the ship, the crew, and our Navy better.  Let the credit and glory go the largest group we can give it to.  Do not worry that you're not getting enough notice.  Just talk to the people you work with, and let them see you in action, not "in worry".  Serve gladly, courageously, and UNSELFISHLY.   We do this because we are in the Naval Service.  "NON SIBI PATRIAE" as the saying goes again. 

Training, Technical, Tactical, Teamwork, Trust 

TRAINING is the major effect you have on your people to shape and improve their performance.  Our UNDERSTANDING can be enhanced by good training.  Explore different ways to teach your people what is really expected from them - THE STANDARD and WHY... do not be afraid to challenge them, that’s what excellence entails- Remember that "Telling isn't teaching."   Formal, documented training and records of qualifications are required by our commanders....but let's use these records as ways to validate our training achievements and improve our training sessions and their effectiveness.  Training just doesn't have to be classroom lectures and quizzes.   Explore, Experiment, and Enjoy!!  

Today’s Navy is very TECHNICALLY oriented.  Each of us must advance our own technical competence throughout our careers.   OLD DOGS must learn new tricks!!!  We must be technically correct and as precise as possible when deciding among various courses of actions.  I expect each officer to gain a complete understanding of the technical problems his crew face on a daily it the Joint Travel Regs in Disbursing, to the types of paint thinners in the Paint Locker, to the SM2 missile fuel safety requirements, or the main scram breaker replacement wiring diagram in the plant.  Then find ways to solve these technical problems and a means to ensure the crew understands the problem, the means to the solution, and the solution itself.  Learn how much they must know and how you can better lead them towards improving their technical capacity.  Ensure following any equipment (or administrative) failure, you get "dirty" and "uncomfortable" to explore what happened, find out what the "book" says, explain how and why it happened, and design practices to prevent recurrences.  E.g. Following the failure of a crew's berthing vent fan motor bearing, ask the following: "Do we need to look at the way any other vent fan motor sounds???".....   Learn to have a "healthy sense of insecurity".... that has you asking how things are going and reviewing every small failure for patterns that could lead to larger problems.  

At the same time the TECHNOCRATS are lashing at you to be more technically competent, you must also become TACTICALLY proficient as well.  Where does this pressure to be TACTICAL come from??  As Naval Officers, our country expects us to be prepared to fight this ship at any time, any where in the world, with little or no warning.   For our ship's best employment as a weapons system we must know how to maximize our sensors, minimize the lost power from antennae, keep the shafts turning, and properly shoot the correct ammo at the perfectly ID'd threat.    At your Condition III/ GQ station, you must be ready to employ your systems to give us maximum capability to place "ordnance on target".   Know the threats and how we can deal with each one in a variety of ways.....Never allow us to take the first blow without something going back toward the enemy!! When we combine both Technical competence with Tactical proficiency, we'll build an undefeatable ship. 

I expect us to function as a TEAM in all our events from bringing on stores to getting underway to shooting down incoming terrorist airplanes.  How can what you need to do, be accomplished in a way that maximizes the ship's efficiency?  The XO, CMC, and Department Heads must all work as a team and as team leaders to keep our focus on mission readiness and mission accomplishment.  There are no departmental inspections or "trials",  just opportunities for SOUTH CAROLINA to excel! 

TRUST is a unique concept involving knowledge, confidence and expectations.  We TRUST to the extent we know, or confidently accept that which we do not or cannot know, and expect the best...but do not be surprised that we "get what we've always gotten" before.   Be careful never to use trust as a replacement for asking those key questions during operations and maintenance.  We will learn to trust each other fully within our God-given ability to understand that TRUST. 

Helpful, Honesty  

To be a great TEAM and have good teammates, we need to be

HELPFUL!  That is in every which way you can.  Here are four ways I've thought about (thanks to Mom's 4H club book):HEALTH- Keep yourself in shape and ensure your crews are doing so as well.  Take the time to eat, sleep, and exercise regularly.HEAD- The above also goes for your "head" work... Study, reach out and up (and down when necessary).  Talk to your people.  Learn all you can about our ship, the Navy, your people and the world. HAND- Encourage your people to excel.  Give them a "hand" to recognize their good performances...Don't be afraid about reaching out to keep them from missing the boat...catch them before they fall... but   <Be tough on them when they "Choose to lose": NO DRUGS, ALCOHOL ABUSE or SELF DESTRUCTIVE behavior need be tolerated.>    In all other cases, be ready to give a hand to get them "Back on track."HEART- Know your people and what's going on with them.  Find out their concerns and aspirations.   If someone's missing, find that sailor ASAP.  Be ready to build in a path to recovery for those who may have fallen behind...but don't neglect the ones in the trenches.  They're the ones we count on when the going gets tough!

HONESTY is the best policy.  If you or someone you care for makes a mistake, get it cleared up and go not let it fester or "hope" that no one will notice or that it will go away.  Take the consequences, do not let them cascade....Do not lie about your job or accomplishments.  Tell the whole truth, no matter that it may be ugly!!!  Do YOUR best at all times and give yourself credit for how good it really is.... 


Cleanliness, Consistency, Courage, Credibility, Communications, Confidence, Chain of Command 

CLEANLINESS is described as next to Godliness...but in the Navy it's nearly equal.....Make your spaces' cleanliness and appearance top priority.  Our equipment will work better, our people will live better, and we will work better on a clean ship. CONSISTENCY is good, but don't be surprised if I'm not very predictable.   I like doing new things, but at the same time I want our standards and performance levels to remain high.  We will have certain routines that we will follow for standard events, but I also will build in some "tests" to see how well we do under "tougher" conditions.  I want us to excel...and you to excel;... so when you’re "short"...figure out how to get "longer"....I don't like consistency in making excuses or mistakes...let's work out of our bad habits.

COURAGE is a quality we want to develop professionally and build in our personal lives.  We must have the courage to face dangers, take risks in war, and accept our shortcomings....Be courageous in your personal dealings with your people...Be able to look them in the eye when they have fallen below your expectations and goals....Have the courage to speak up when things are not right...or have the courage to be able to just "Press on" when there seems no way out... Should you get to a point where you're so damn tired and you just want to give up...DON'T! -- TALK TO US!!   As Will S. said many years ago: "HAVE COURAGE MAN!!" CREDIBILITY is the quality that makes us believe in each other and the events we are in.  Work to keep your words and deeds credible so we are not "puffed" up by being so perfect that we can't accept small setbacks, but also don't let the "Chicken Little" syndrome (The Sky is Falling!) take over when we do face really tough times.  Keep a credible perspective on how we're doing.

COMMUNICATIONS as A.T. Mahan observed "dominate war"...and he was talking professionally: Logistics...but in our lives here in SOUTH CAROLINA, COMMUNICATIONS are the keys to our success.   Work to keep informed personally and ensure your people understand what's going on.  Priorities will change and our many comm paths need to be well connected to get the word out....Ensure you keep your CPO gang completely cut-in on everything we do... They are the keys to good ship internal comms.   For any correspondence (faxes, letters, messages, etc) off the ship, please ensure we never talk "down" or in any kind of complaining or argumentative fashion.  Stick to the facts and stay on the high ground.  If we do feel we've been wronged or someone deserves a blast from me, I want to deliver it personally.   Most of the Navy's internal problems come from people who can't walk away from meaningless arguments or fights.   We'll be knowledgeable about how to do better, but let's ensure we are not seen as "complainers, cry-babies"” or even "tattlers"...  Some of the best "gotcha" messages are the ones we'll never send....Ensure you help me on this one!!I want us to work hard keeping our external family informed about our happenings.  Our Ombudsmen and the Spouse support groups need to hear clearly from us how we are doing.  Get basic facts about kids' schedules and holidays before we plan ship functions that would take us away from them.   I expect we will be active in community affairs and in the NORFOLK NAVBASE paper as often as we can make it happen.  Let's show the Fleet what we're doing.

We will gain CONFIDENCE in each other and our abilities the more challenges we face.  I want you to 'exude' confidence whenever you get the "CONN" on an important assignment.   Every one of you needs to be the "Little Engine that COULD"...Think you can do whatever the assignment is...Use the power of positive thinking to set your mind to the task and "Let her rip!!" Talk positively about the future and the Navy no matter what bleak or dreary things may be tossed our way.....Yes,  we may be on the next list to be decommissioned shortly, but we'll be the best damned CGN in the Navy over the last few months.  Let's fully support any SOUTH CAROLINA competitive team be it in softball, basketball, running Signal drills or CMQT qualification... We will go in to every challenge knowing we have the confidence to excel!! 

CHAIN OF COMMAND- We all hear talk about the CHAIN of are part of it...and it works when we work it....Ensure you always answer your peoples' concerns with "Have you asked the Chief?"   Two sailors onboard one of the ships I commanded were shocked by 450V when performing maintenance supported by the Division Officer that the Division Chief had secured and rescheduled.  The Division Officer thought he knew better.  He was extremely lucky.  The Chief would have ensured the maintenance was not conducted at that time due to conflicting plant conditions had he known.  I want you to enforce the Chain by ensuring that the Chiefs and petty officers are involved in decisions and work planning.  Have them set standards and see if they match yours (and mine).  There are some interesting things about the Chain of Command that I want to say: ....ANYONE can stop an unsafe act...Any SOUTH CAROLINA crewmember can properly go to another who is acting inappropriately (remember the "appearance") and remind that person of their personal responsibility....  Do what you need to do to bring that person back into line.  Then ensure you tell his chain of command what you've done!  Work to solve problems at the appropriate level of the CHAIN of COMMAND.I am in the COMMAND position on the ship...but occasionally I will need some lessons in COMMAND and both the XO and CMC are here to give me those lessons...but when they're not reachable and I need some direct counseling...get my attention and give it to me!!  That's how the CHAIN's the backbone of this ship and it's only as strong as its weakest link and you are part of that chain!!One thing which strengthens this CHAIN OF COMMAND is personal involvement.  I will be involved and engaged in important parts of the ship.   PMS is the key program that will keep our equipment and people fit to fight.  Expect me to be directly involved in knowing how we're doing PMS- wise.....I desire to see any WCS who has a "NON-ACCOMPLISHED" scheduled check on the PMS weekly report.   I will tour the ship daily and can be "rundown" during the tour or the WCS can come see me in my cabin.  You may discover other items which I want to keep tabs on personally.  Help me stay up with them. 

Admin, Attitude, Attention to Detail, Appearance

I am not an ADMIN freak, but I like ADMIN to be neat, by procedures and on time. Whenever we have an "outside" agency come to "help" (inspect) us or our programs, make their job easy. Get all your records required for review in the order listed on their inspection form and have knowledgeable people standing by to answer any questions the inspectors may have. Ensure the CHAIN OF COMMAND knows up front which records may not be acceptable and you have a plan to improve their quality to acceptable standards. Ensure the personal records we maintain on our people remain secure and up-to-date. Let's not miss any chance to advance or pay or reward any of our people. Your records must obey what I've come to call the "DEAD MAN" rule (not that if you don't follow this rule you're a Dead man) but on your logs....Be factual, concise, complete and on time. If you are maintaining the log and all of a sudden a fatal accident occurs, the last entry in your logs should be "AAAUGH!!!!!!!!!!"

I have found that the main quality we have the most control over by ourselves is ATTITUDE. We set the rules for how we react to bad news or good news or no news. Let's work to maintain our readiness with a good-positive attitude. We may not like the assignment or the senior's evaluation, but let's get on with it and set the attitude from within. You are the role model for your people. The attitude you set is the attitude you will get. We will remain positive and committed and ready for the next challenge!

As you are reading and probably analyzing the hell out of this, you may wonder what this ATTENTION-TO-DETAIL is all about. I can tell you it's a developed habit, and one that can stay with you no matter where your next assignment may be. You need not be meticulous or even really neat and to a "T", but when you get this ATTENTION TO DETAIL you can see the small intricacies of order, discipline, and mission accomplishment. When you give a rudder order, do you go to the side you're turning to? Do you factor in the stern swing if you're in tight quarters? Do you watch the rudder indicator go to the exact degree ordered? Did the helmsmen answer you correctly? Did the QM log the order at the correct time? EACH of these is a "detail" to pay attention to. You will find more about these details the longer you're in a job that demands you to do what we do....Stick with it and you will become more attentive to details than you ever thought possible. I'll be holding small seminars to help you refine your sense of "details".

One of the interesting things about this journey through thoughts is how they seem to flow because from "ATTENTION TO DETAIL" comes APPEARANCE. Whether we like it or not, the world outside the ship has a very defined yardstick that it uses to measure our performance, attitude and professionalism. And that's our APPEARANCE!! We will spend a lot of our time working out the details which make us look good. Let's be well preserved topside and ready to do small chip and paint jobs rather than put off some minor work until we have more time. Let's get standard work practices that alternate the side of the ship pierside after every underway and also expect that the day we get underway includes cleaning, preserving and caring for the areas we couldn't get to in port. Expect to work the Quarterdeck area hard the day before we arrive. Ensure we hold sweepers and "clampdown" when scheduled. Our Appearance includes not only our hull and topside preservation and stowage, but also our formal procedures on the quarterdeck as well as the way we are organized standing in or departing port. Are we in well organized ranks and alert to the CPO's orders...or do we have people lounging on lifelines, etc? Whenever we come into/ go out of port or go alongside (breakaway from) another ship, I want us to be squared away.. All hands topside should get into ranks and be standing the same way...we'll hold that position until we need to get to work....Topside observers should be in ranks until the workers break for their posts.....Observers and on-lookers are always welcome topside...but they have the same rules....Do not be too relaxed while being an on-looker...Shore services personnel should be well-dressed for their jobs and either, in ranks or below decks until "Moored". Ensure anyone we send to do a Squadron/Group/Fleet job will represent us well. Ensure your folks have presentable appearances and haircuts...even coming back from leave and liberty.

Readiness, Risk, Recognition, Results

Our major objective is MISSION READINESS. That must be your objective until we are called to perform...then it shifts to MISSION ACCOMPLISHMENT> and that MISSION is prompt sustained combat operations at sea< every other thing we do is subservient to those. In being READY, there are many details to cover, but our basic programs: Safety, 3-M, Damage Control, PQS, serve to get us prepared and maintain our high standard of READINESS.

RISK is a tough word to use anymore. We are not to take "unnecessary risks"... but what risks are "necessary" in Peacetime?...I think we will in fact take some risks...that are necessary in training and preparing us for successful mission accomplishment in wartime. We will go alongside often for training and stores onloads. We will run drills with other important evolutions ongoing, we will be aggressive in placing the ship in good combat positions, and when it looks promising, we'll go for it!! Our new term is "Operational Risk Management". Learn what it means. We will work hard to provide adequate RECOGNITION to our people. WE want all our successes publicly acknowledged and have folks given time to be "in the spotlight". Whenever your people excel, tell them and let the Chain of Command know...I do not want to miss a chance to congratulate people on their performances, achievements, accomplishments, or major personal or family occurrences. Use the POD and Family gram and even notes on Bulletin Boards when someone's got a "happening"- got married, new baby, made the grade for "C" school, "aced" an inspection or performed well on a drill...etc. I want us to notice every good and positive act we accomplish on the ship!

Whether we like it our not, we are driven by RESULTS- not good intentions or what we tried to do- the RESULTS- what really happened!! We will work to achieve desired results and continue to strive for "better" results...but these RESULTS will be what we live with....If we just TRY to win the next war...I don't want to be around...I want to WIN> Our goal must be winning and achieving the desired RESULTS< we must be prepared to look the results of our actions "in the eye" and then work hard to change them on the next go-around if we don't happen to like the current situation...but always the cycle is going to look at the "RESULTS" of our process.


I do not get nervous about too many things but I hate being LATE.  Be on-time for every thing we do... Schedule the work appropriately and start events ON TIME.  Get your reports, EVALS, and messages submitted ON TIME.  One former mentor once said, "It takes the same amount of time to do it now or get it in DO IT NOW!" 


We hear a lot about the LOYALTY term LOYAL to your country, the Navy, our Ship, the Crew, your Department, or your Division, most especially to YOURSELF.  What I think being LOYAL is that it includes being dedicated to doing your best on a daily basis, not letting your boss "screw" up, and ensuring that the people closest to the problem have had a real chance to "fix it" before you go outside the local area experts for opinions or advice.   I would at least demand that if you have a problem on this ship that you take it up the chain of command,  and we work together to solve it or work it out.   You will have to TRUST me to keep the problem within the lifelines, and that is where my LOYALTY to you stands.  I am unhesitatingly committed to our ship's mission and your long term success.  I will support any reasonable request you need to be successful either inside the Navy or as you transition to another line of work. 

Integrity, Informed, Involved 

INTEGRITY is another personal quality demanded from Officers in the United States Navy.  We must be "un-impeachable" and very straightforward in all our dealings.  YOUR service reputation will be founded on your mastering the various competing priorities and doing your job, but you must be watchful that any appearance of a lack of INTEGRITY will terminate your career in the Navy and could hurt your future out of the Navy.  Stay true to yourself.  INTEGRITY once lost cannot be regained. 

To be the kinds of leaders we need to be, we must stay INFORMED.  Know what's going on, what's  being planned, and how you and the lives of your people will be affected.  READ--almost CONSUME-- every bit of information you can to stay and be INFORMED.   And don't keep it a secret.   Pass it on and ensure you keep the Chain of Command INFORMED.  Ask questions of others.  Make sure you are keeping yourself informed of the information others know.  Please do not ever offer Monday morning advice that starts with "I could have told you...."   If you're able, please do it NOW! 

We also must stay INVOLVED in the life of the ship.  Your major contributions to our success will be how much personal involvement you are able to muster.  It must be "enough".  I have been working on a Command quality I try to define as "Detached Involvement"- that is a Balanced sense of being close enough to the action to know what's going on so I can mentor you and lead you to success, but not so close that I smother your initiative and developing ability.  A more direct involvement would be a lot more REACTIVE - if I even THINK you're going to screw up- I'd be immediately jumping in as soon as the first little area starts to go awry. ...If I can stay "detached"” and let you work the problem with just a little help, you will build more confidence in your own ability and I'll have gained more, too.... You will test me on this one... and I will test you...but we will both stay completely INVOLVED in the life of our ship.


OK, so I was getting tired and started running out of good mnemonics.  I not only want you to be better than "scouts", but I also demand that you continue to treat each other with a "nice" sense of respect for the feelings, worth and self-image of the other person.  We are not in Congress and do not have to resort to scurrilous attacks on each others' intentions or facts when we are working to maintain our readiness.  Treat your crew with respect and "Be nice" when talking about the ship and the Navy.


When do I want us to be working to attain these 37 bits of wisdom: ALWAYS!

You make the ship- work to implement these "SOUTH CAROLINA" thoughts in your daily routine.

Remember- Command is personal and all about YOU for those you serve! Up, out, and down!

LIGHT Leadership Institute
Leader's Integrated Guide to Higher Thinking

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