Lex has a post about going to captain’s mast from the higher-ranking side of the “green table”. His Haloscan comment thingy doesn’t take more than 1000 characters, so I’ll post a response here. Acronym alert, and you probably should read his post first.
Looks like I won’t have the privilege of dealing with convening masts, but I’ve seen my share of being at the side of the green table. Lex focuses in his post about those we can’t save and who go back to a harder life. I hold as a small comfort that there are those we can bring back from the brink in time.
In my previous sea tour, our ship was seen as less than the normal studly SSN. This was because we carried SEALs, not Tomahawks, and due to START II no longer carried nuclear Polaris missiles. (It was one of the few times we in the Navy could either ‘confirm or deny’ such things, since we had a nice public treaty on it. Anything else and I gave the standard “won’t confirm or deny”.) We got more than the normal share of malcontents and guys who were failing on the other ships. In my department, we had a division that didn’t have a rate attached to it, Dry Deck Shelter division–and we put the guys who were having trouble in one division for whatever reason in there, with a couple of thefts from other divisions to add flavor.
Let’s just say I had a share of leadership challenges. But my little team, because I had some great first class petty officers and an occasional outstanding chief, did the toughest kind of work possible on a submarine–close enough to the coast I could swim to it, in seaborne traffic so thick we could not ever stop turning to avoid colliding or grounding, far from home and with a high op tempo. Some of those folks would have failed in life or failed in their job if I hadn’t been lucky enough to have leaders who would be able to take the time.
The proudest moment in my career didn’t have a ceremony. It was when I found out that every one of my “PNA eight times” first classes made chief, and my department “terminal rank” chief made COB and Master Chief. A close second is seeing one of my guys, now a second class and in school, who was on the brink of failing those years ago, or seeing one of the divers I mentored in ROTC. Hell, the second class “PNA forever” guy I somehow bamboozled the captain into CAPping to first wound up running the division when it made a bad mistake (another story, one time)
But if the kid takes an E, or drives drunk, or doesn’t give a suicide signal I can catch, there’s nothing I can do. Our society works partly because we can exile those who can’t hack it, or are just plain unlucky, and exile we do.
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