Now is the time for the Navy to focus on details

There was a time … when smart ships or boats weren’t known as such because of computers doing all major functions. A smart ship used to be known as such for the first impression made when someone first walked up her brow and noticed how sharp and squared away the watchstanders were who greeted them, the attention to detail in displays of fancy and brass work, and how smartly every maneuver was carried out in at-sea formations.

There was a time … when an observer could notice these signs from afar that made those ships and boats stand out amongst others, details that higher leadership expected of them and held their commanding officers and crews under them accountable to a standard of excellence. A ship’s reputation was known across the waterfront amongst the crews, as well. Anyone around long enough has heard a ship’s name called out in conversation, always used in either a derogatory or complimentary way the moment her name is mentioned, and no doubt you had already formed your own opinion of her if you’d ever seen her in action before comment was made. It is the way.

There was a time … when one of the first indicators of smartness was how colors, honors and ceremony were carried out. Unit pride started at the yardarms, unit against unit vying to be the sharpest and most precise in carrying out colors, the making and breaking of unit award pennants following the SOPA (senior officer present afloat). This happened in near perfect harmony, matching flag for flag and signal upon signal, to be faster than the other units by observing every SOPA movement through the bigeyes.

There was a time … that every officer and sailor knew the Flag Code and Chapter 12 of the Navy regs, how to treat our national flag and ensigns, and knew the difference between the two.

There was a time … that ensigns wouldn’t fly all day and night aboard small craft sitting pierside for weeks and months on end without anyone honoring tradition or reflecting that we in the military stood for something as proud servants of our great country for civilians to emulate from example. That these ensigns should proudly fly from their flagstaff only while underway instead of being neglected and ignored as worthless ornaments throughout the darkest of nights whether anyone is aboard or not.

There was a time … that you couldn’t drive down any given road and see tattered flags flying over or in front of buildings and parking lots, the likes of which Mr. Key would likely cringe to think there were flags worse off than the one in the somewhat famous poem he wrote.

If there was a time … it is now, that the Navy needs to once again set a proud example of those little details that are the cornerstone of smartness and honor, in turn affecting attention to detail in all other important daily evolutions and maintenance. Our national flags and ensigns are a great place to start.

An Old Squid

Gary Gunlock is program manager for strategic sealift training for the Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific in Coronado, California.

Editor’s note: This is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Military Times managing editor Howard Altman,

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