Friday, May 23, 2014

A CO that doesn't think?

So I saw this gem from CAPT Lambert's blog (

Some Command Master Chiefs (Senior Chiefs, too) are fairly wise men and women.  I was talking to a retired CMC the other day and he was talking about the TRIAD and their roles in the command.  I asked him to describe their respective roles. He said, "My job is to make sure the CO and XO get to do their jobs.  The Commanding Officer's job is to give speeches and make Sailors feel good.  The XO's role is to think.  My job is to make sure the CO doesn't think and the XO doesn't give any speeches or make the Sailors feel good." 

I'm going to assume that likely the person making the quote was joking.

However, they aren't far off the mark.  From day one in my career, I was told the Chief would run my division and my job was to get qualified.  As a new Ensign, you tend to go with whatever you're told (you don't know any better), so that's what I did.

It was a total disaster.  My chief was an 8 year, 1 sea tour chief, and he managed to nearly kill a few Sailors before I finally got my head out of my butt and started paying more scrutiny to what he was doing.

Flash forward a few years, and I'm out forward on an aircraft asking the chief of my crew what he did for mission preparation.  After being told "I got it sir, it's good." about ten times, I finally told him to answer my question (I MAY have inserted a four lettered word...maybe).  Come to find out, we weren't prepping for mission the correct way.  We fixed it, but in the end that and a lot of other problems with this particular chief led me to downgrade his award at the end of his tour.

If I had to pick the "point" of the Command Triad, it is to lead the Command's Sailors to mission accomplishment.  Everything else is secondary.  The CO doesn't exist for speeches.  First, the purpose of speeches is to convey ideas and get people excited and working in the right direction.  The CO can do that, but so can the XO, and their department heads, division officers and even chiefs.  Why not?  As a department head I spoke to my department every week, and I talked about the happenings at the command, why we were doing what we were doing, how much I appreciated everyone's help, and then I normally tagged a good sea story or historical story at the end.  The CO should be setting direction, setting policy, and getting around to ensure that his direction is getting into the command.

Any good XO will tell you they don't come up with the good ideas.  If you remember in the movie Ender's Game, when Ender briefs his Dragon Team for the first time, he specifically says that he wants to hear ideas that are better than his, since "...he can't be expected to come up with all the good ideas."  It's a powerful quote that is too often missed.

The CO, XO and CMC are directing tactical actions in their command.  We too often focus on the personnel problem issue, but in reality we should be judging our Triad on the effect they have in executing the mission.  A CMC that is bogged down in personnel issues misses the point.  Same thing for a CO or XO that are bogged down in uniform policy or what color the font is on a powerpoint. 

At least for me, I joined the Navy to lead Sailors and accomplish the Navy's mission.  I enjoy taking care of Sailors, but ultimately the mission is first, and if needed I, like many that have gone before me, will sacrifice myself and my Sailors if it is required for mission accomplishment.  That's a harsh thing to say, and many people will likely disagree, but the reality is that is what we are called to ultimately do if needed.

To best make that level of choice, we need a CO, XO and CMC that can think, give speeches, and take care of Sailors, but ultimately we need a Triad that can accomplish the Navy's mission.