Monday, July 7, 2014

Your sea stories

Recently I stayed behind a bit after watch to help an Ensign work on her Intel PQS quals.  There is a section talking about cryptologic manning that I (having done that extensively in my last job) was probably the best person to talk to about.  So we spent almost an hour going through what was in her PQS as well as some extra in case her board dug a bit deeper.

As with many checkouts, lots of sea stories come up.  I talked about the challenges I had with various commands getting the right training, Sailors, money, etc. to the right spot for the Navy.  About 20 minutes into it I sort of realized that I had talked about all my wins, but neglected to talk about any failures I had.

So I changed it up a bit and talked about where I brought a Sailor home early by mistake and had to turn him around at the airport to go back out for another month.  My mistake cost the government about 3 grand and I did get a bit of a chewing from my XO and DH.  The ensign was a bit surprised and actually asked a lot more questions than during any other sea story.

We need to be careful about our memories.  We tend to push aside all the bad parts and remember our wins while minimizing or even forgetting our losses.  I used George Washington crossing the Delaware as an example.  The only reason he made such a daring move was that he had been handily beaten multiple times in the previous months.  He managed to lose New York City, Rhode Island, and New Jersey, and his army dwindled down to around 1000 troops.  Had the British pressed harder, he might have had to quit

We need to discuss our failures.  Although history may focus on the daring and heroic images of Washington, if you read his writings you get a very different view.  Washington was generally worried he might lose, and had close calls plenty of times.  For us now, discussing failure helps our new ensigns understand that not everything is perfect.  Many ensigns view LTs and LCDRs as demi-gods that never made mistakes, something that our perfect sea stories reinforce.  By talking about failure and that it doesn't end careers in most cases, we help drive home the point that failing is part of life and part of growing up.  Besides, even the CNO ran a ships into buoys.

Tell your sea stories, but make sure to include the ones that taught you some hard lessons.  Your proteges will thank you for it.