Shipmates, if you’re waiting on inspirational leaders to reach out and take you under their wing, you’re likely to be disappointed.
If you’re relying on Navy bureaucracy to take care of you and make it all better when things go south, you’re in for an even bigger disappointment.
Ours and future generations now own a Navy that grew accustomed to uncontested command of the seas while missing investment opportunities and maintaining a stagnant personnel management system.
We’ve become fixated on assigning blame, from top to bottom, but who will drive the ship if we’re all pointing fingers?
If you think anyone else is going to turn the ship around, I’ve only got one thing to say to you: You can go lead yourself.
We spend too much time talking about “ship, shipmate, self.”
We have to stop putting ourselves last and hoping our shipmates will hold out a lifeline at the last minute.
Yes, that’s the ideal but it needs to be the last resort. You are your own first line of defense. Go lead yourself.
You want that C-School opportunity? Find and meet the qualifications, fill out the paperwork, then go have a conversation with your supervisor.
You have problems at home? Be up front with your boss and tell him or her you need some time to sort things out, and seek out the resources on the ship and on base to help you through hard times. They’re waiting for you!
You’re not getting support from your chain of command? Try to figure out why and adapt your approach, and then reach out to someone else if you need to do that!
Officers, you’re not off the hook either.
How are you going to maintain credibility with your sailors if you can’t take care of your personal responsibilities?
Can’t make liberty expiration on time or pass the PFA? Go lead yourself.
Stressed? We all feel stress, and it’s no excuse. Get the help you need so you can lead your sailors.
At the same time, look out for your shipmates, but don’t be that officer that gives everything for their shipmates at the expense of their own well-being.
And don’t be afraid of things like failure, risk, and accountability.
Our Navy leaders are putting the ball in our court by saying things like the base housing crisis is a result of deckplate leadership failures.
I’ve got a few things to say about that, but it’s not a battle worth fighting here. Answer the call by rooting out problems, and voicing the ones you can’t solve with the resources you have.
You might get ignored or told to pack sand, but your problems definitely won’t get any better by pretending they don’t exist.
Look at what happened to the guided-missile destroyers John S. McCain and Fitzgerald. A few people did voice their concerns in the years before the collisions, but obviously not loudly or often enough.
If you can’t get your ship underway safely, or you can’t operate your equipment proficiently within specifications, you need to speak up. Don’t live in fear of a “fail to sail” or a CASREP. Fix her up, get the training, move on.
When the Fleet Forces Commander tells us he’ll find ships to get underway if we can’t do it, he’s doing his job. Our job is to get our ships underway safely to go fight and win our nation’s wars at sea, not to just get our ships underway.
Do your job and trust your shipmates will do theirs.
If you think “Big Navy” is going to improve on its own, you are sadly mistaken.
If you even believe in the idea of “Big Navy,” you are fooling yourself. The Navy is just you and your shipmates working hard to accomplish the mission.
The Navy does have great leaders, and they can make teams out of individual sailors, but not if everyone is waiting for someone to solve their problems for them.
We all need to be leaders, and it starts when we look in the mirror every morning. Your top responsibility is staring right back at you. Go lead yourself.
Lt. Cmdr. Jimmy “The Salty Millennial” Drennan is a Surface Warfare Officer assigned to U.S. Central Command. He is the president of the Center for International Maritime Security and has received multiple leadership and operational excellence awards. He believes in the people of the U.S. Navy. His views are not necessarily shared by the Department of Defense, the Navy, Navy Times or its staffers.