Tag Archives: Navy

The Navy

Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, B.J. ’77, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command  –  Commencement Address  —  University of Texas at Austin 2014
Some times the Navy has something to say

ADMIRAL NIMITZ

The Author of Pacific Glory met with Fleet Admiral Nimitz years after the Admiral retired. One question he asked the Admiral was how were the Japanese battleships and cruisers allowed to penetrate into MacArthur’s Naval Force supporting the Philippine landings. Nimitz paused for a moment then said it was his fault. You must be familiar with the Japanese plan and our response, along with past Pacific Naval decisions to appreciate Admiral Nimitz’s statement. In this editor’s mind, in that response many years after the engagement, Admiral Nimitz stands with Bradly and Marshall as a truly great leader.

Tour boats ferry
people out to the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii every thirty minutes.
We just missed a ferry and had to wait thirty minutes.. I went into a
small gift shop to kill time. In the gift shop, I purchased a small book
entitled, “Reflections on Pearl Harbor ” by Admiral Chester Nimitz.

Sunday, December
7th, 1941–Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington
D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he
answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the
phone. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the
Commander of the Pacific Fleet.

Admiral Nimitz flew
to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet. He landed at Pearl
Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941. There was such a spirit of despair,
dejection and defeat– you would have thought the Japanese had already won the
war. On Christmas Day, 1941, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of
the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.. Big sunken
battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters everywhere you looked.

As the tour boat
returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, “Well Admiral, what do
you think after seeing all this destruction?” Admiral Nimitz’s reply shocked
everyone within the sound of his voice.

Admiral Nimitz said,
“The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever
make, or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?”

Shocked and
surprised, the young helmsman asked, “What do mean by saying the Japanese made
the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?” Nimitz explained:

Mistake number one :
the Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen
of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured
to sea and been sunk–we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.

Mistake number two :
when the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so
carried away sinking those battleships, they never once bombed our dry docks
opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have
had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired. As it is
now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull
them over to the dry docks, and we can have them repaired and at sea by the
time we could have towed them to America. And I already have crews
ashore anxious to man those ships.

Mistake number three
: every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in top of the
ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane
could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. That’s why
I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could
make or God was taking care of America.

I’ve never forgotten
what I read in that little book. It is still an inspiration as I reflect
upon it.
In jest, I might
suggest that because Admiral Nimitz was a Texan, born and raised in
Fredricksburg, Texas –he was a born optimist. But any way you look at
it–Admiral Nimitz was able to see a silver lining in a situation and
circumstance where everyone else saw only despair and defeatism.

President Roosevelt
had chosen the right man for the right job. We desperately needed a
leader that could see silver linings in the midst of the clouds of dejection,
despair and defeat .

 

Never Liked the Movie – this is a good story

THE BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI:

The Real Story by CAPT Paul N. Gray, USN, Ret,

USNA ’41, former CO of VF-54.

 

Recently, some friends saw the movie “The Bridges at Toko-ri” on late night TV. After seeing it, they said, “You planned and led the raid. Why don’t you tell us what really happened?” Here goes.

I hope Mr. Michener will forgive the actual version of the raid. His fictionalized account certainly makes more exciting reading.

On 12 December 1951 when the raid took place, Air Group 5 was attached to Essex, the flag ship for Task Force 77. We were flying daily strikes against the North Koreans and Chinese. God! It was cold. The main job was to interdict the flow of supplies coming south from Russia and China. The rules of engagement imposed by political forces in Washington would not allow us to bomb the bridges across the Yalu River where the supplies could easily have been stopped. We had to wait until they were dispersed and hidden in North Korea and then try to stop them.

The Air Group consisted of two jet fighter squadrons flying Banshees and Grumman Panthers plus two prop attack squadrons flying Corsairs and Skyraiders. To provide a base for the squadrons, Essex was stationed 100 miles off the East Coast of Korea during that bitter Winter of 1951 and 1952.

I was CO of VF-54, the Skyraider squadron. VF-54 started with 24 pilots. Seven were killed during the cruise. The reason 30 percent of our pilots were shot down and lost was due to our mission. The targets were usually heavily defended railroad bridges. In addition, we were frequently called in to make low-level runs with rockets and napalm to provide close support for the troops.

Due to the nature of the targets assigned, the attack squadrons seldom flew above 2000 or 3000 feet; and it was a rare flight when a plane did not come back without some damage from AA or ground fire.

The single-engine plane we flew could carry the same bomb load that a B-17 carried in WWII; and after flying the 100 miles from the carrier, we could stay on station for 4 hours and strafe, drop napalm, fire rockets or drop bombs. The Skyraider was the right plane for this war.

On a gray December morning, I was called to the flag bridge. Admiral “Black Jack” Perry, the Carrier Division Commander, told me they had a classified request from UN headquarter to bomb some critical bridges in the central area of the North Korean peninsula. The bridges were a dispersion point for many of the supplies coming down from the North and were vital to the flow of most of the essential supplies. The Admiral asked me to take a look at the targets and see what we could do about taking them out. As I left, the staff intelligence officer handed me the pre-strike photos, the coordinates of the target and said to get on with it. He didn’t mention that the bridges were defended by 56 radar-controlled anti-aircraft guns.

That same evening, the Admiral invited the four squadron commanders to his cabin for dinner. James Michener was there. After dinner, the Admiral asked each squadron commander to describe his experiences in flying over North Korea. By this time, all of us were hardened veterans of the war and had some hairy stories to tell about life in the fast lane over North Korea.

When it came my time, I described how we bombed the railways and strafed anything else that moved. I described how we had planned for the next day’s strike against some vital railway bridges near a village named Toko-ri (The actual village was named Majonne). That the preparations had been done with extra care because the pre-strike pictures showed the bridges were surrounded by 56 anti-aircraft guns and we knew this strike was not going to be a walk in the park.

All of the pilots scheduled for the raid participated in the planning. A close study of the aerial photos confirmed the 56 guns. Eleven radar sites controlled the guns. They were mainly 37 MM with some five inch heavies. All were positioned to concentrate on the path we would have to fly to hit the bridges. This was a World War II air defense system but still very dangerous.

How were we going to silence those batteries long enough to destroy the bridges? The bridges supported railway tracks about three feet wide. To achieve the needed accuracy, we would have to use glide bombing runs. A glide bombing run is longer and slower than a dive bombing run, and we would be sitting ducks for the AA batteries. We had to get the guns before we bombed the bridges.

There were four strategies discussed to take out the radar sites. One was to fly in on the deck and strafe the guns and radars. This was discarded because the area was too mountainous. The second was to fly in on the deck and fire rockets into the gun sites. Discarded because the rockets didn’t have enough killing power. The third was to come in at a high altitude and drop conventional bombs on the targets. This is what we would normally do, but it was discarded in favor of an insidious modification. The one we thought would work the best was to come in high and drop bombs fused to explode over the gun and radar sites. To do this, we decided to take 12 planes; 8 Skyraiders and 4 Corsairs. Each plane would carry a 2000 pound bomb with a proximity fuse set to detonate about 50 to 100 feet in the air. We hoped the shrapnel from these huge, ugly bombs going off in mid air would be devastating to the exposed gunners and radar operators.

The flight plan was to fly in at 15,000 feet until over the target area and make a vertical dive bombing run dropping the proximity-fused bombs on the guns and radars. Each pilot had a specific complex to hit. As we approached the target we started to pick up some flak, but it was high and behind us. At the initial point, we separated and rolled into the dive. Now the flak really became heavy. I rolled in first; and after I released my bomb, I pulled out south of the target area and waited for the rest to join up. One of the Corsairs reported that he had been hit on the way down and had to pull out before dropping his bomb. Three other planes suffered minor flak damage but nothing serious.

After the join up, I detached from the group and flew over the area to see if there was anything still firing. Sure enough there was heavy 37 MM fire from one site, I got out of there in a hurry and called in the reserve Skyraider still circling at 15,000 to hit the remaining gun site. His 2000 pound bomb exploded right over the target and suddenly things became very quiet. The shrapnel from those 2000 lbs. bombs must have been deadly for the crews serving the guns and radars. We never saw another 37 MM burst from any of the 56 guns.

From that moment on, it was just another day at the office. Only sporadic machine gun and small arms fire was encountered. We made repeated glide bombing runs and completely destroyed all the bridges. We even brought gun camera pictures back to prove the bridges were destroyed.

After a final check of the target area, we joined up, inspected our wingmen for damage and headed home. Mr. Michener plus most of the ship’s crew watched from Vulture’s Row as Dog Fannin, the landing signal officer, brought us back aboard. With all the pilots returning to the ship safe and on time, the Admiral was seen to be dancing with joy on the flag Bridge.

From that moment on, the Admiral had a soft spot in his heart for the attack pilots. I think his fatherly regard for us had a bearing on what happened in port after the raid on Toko-ri. The raid on Toko-ri was exciting; but in our minds, it was dwarfed by the incident that occurred at the end of this tour on the line. The operation was officially named OPERATION PINWHEEL. The pilots called it OPERATION PINHEAD.

The third tour had been particularly savage for VF-54. Five of our pilots had been shot down. Three not recovered. I had been shot down for the third time. The mechanics and ordnancemen had worked back-breaking hours under medieval conditions to keep the planes flying, and finally we were headed for Yokosuka for ten days of desperately needed R and R.

As we steamed up the coast of Japan, the Air Group Commander, CDR Marsh Beebe, called CDR Trum, the CO of the Corsair squadron, and me to his office. He told us that the prop squadrons would participate in an exercise dreamed up by the commanding officer of the ship. It had been named OPERATION PINWHEEL.

The Corsairs and Skyraiders were to be tied down on the port side of the flight deck; and upon signal from the bridge, all engines were to be turned up to full power to assist the tugs in pulling the ship along side the dock.

CDR Trum and I both said to Beebe, “You realize that those engines are vital to the survival of all the attack pilots. We fly those single engine planes 300 to 400 miles from the ship over freezing water and over very hostile land. Overstressing these engines is not going to make any of us very happy.” Marsh knew the danger; but he said, “The captain of the ship, CAPT. Wheelock, wants this done, so do it!”

As soon as the news of this brilliant scheme hit the ready rooms, the operation was quickly named OPERATION PIN HEAD; and CAPT. Wheelock became known as CAPT. Wheelchock.

On the evening before arriving in port, I talked with CDR Trum and told him, “I don’t know what you are going to do, but I am telling my pilots that our lives depend on those engines and do not give them more than half power; and if that engine temperature even begins to rise, cut back to idle.” That is what they did.

About an hour after the ship had been secured to the dock, the Air Group Commander screamed over the ships intercom for Gray and Trum to report to his office. When we walked in and saw the pale look on Beebe’s face, it was apparent that CAPT. Wheelock, in conjunction with the ship’s proctologist, had cut a new aperture in poor old Marsh. The ship’s CO had gone ballistic when he didn’t get the full power from the lashed down Corsairs and Skyraiders, and he informed CDR Beebe that his fitness report would reflect this miserable performance of duty.

The Air Group Commander had flown his share of strikes, and it was a shame that he became the focus of the wrath of CAPT. Wheelock for something he had not done. However, tensions were high; and in the heat of the moment, he informed CDR Trum and me that he was placing both of us and all our pilots in hack until further notice. A very severe sentence after 30 days on the line.

The Carrier Division Commander, Rear Admiral “Black Jack” Perry a personally soft and considerate man, but his official character would strike terror into the heart of the most hardened criminal. He loved to talk to the pilots; and in deference to his drinking days, Admiral Perry would reserve a table in the bar of the Fujia Hotel and would sit there drinking Coca cola while buying drinks for any pilot enjoying R & R in the hotel.

Even though we were not comfortable with this gruff older man, he was a good listener and everyone enjoyed telling the Admiral about his latest escape from death. I realize now he was keeping his finger on the morale of the pilots and how they were standing up to the terror of daily flights over a very hostile land.

The Admiral had been in the hotel about three days; and one night, he said to some of the fighter pilots sitting at his table, “Where are the attack pilots? I have not seen any of them since we arrived.” One of them said, “Admiral, I thought you knew. They were all put in hack by the Air Group Commander and restricted to the ship.” In a voice that could be heard all over the hotel, the Admiral bellowed to his aide, “Get that idiot Beebe on the phone in 5 minutes; and I don’t care if you have to use the Shore Patrol, the Army Military Police or the Japanese Police to find him. I want him on the telephone NOW!”

The next morning, after three days in hack, the attack pilots had just finished marching lockstep into the wardroom for breakfast, singing the prisoners song when the word came over the loud speaker for Gray and Trum to report to the Air Group Commander’s stateroom immediately, When we walked in, there sat Marsh looking like he had had a near death experience. He was obviously in far worse condition than when the ships CO got through with him. It was apparent that he had been worked over by a real pro.

In a trembling voice, his only words were, “The hack is lifted. All of you are free to go ashore. There will not be any note of this in your fitness reports. Now get out of here and leave me alone.”

Posters saying, “Thank you Black Jack” went up in the ready rooms. The long delayed liberty was at hand.

When writing about this cruise, I must pay homage to the talent we had in the squadrons. LTJG Tom Hayward was a fighter pilot who went on to become the CNO. LTJG Neil Armstrong another fighter pilot became the astronaut who took the first step on the moon. My wingman, Ken Shugart, was an all-American basketball player and later an admiral. Al Masson, another wingman, became the owner of one of New Orleans’ most famous French restaurants. All of the squadrons were manned with the best and brightest young men the U.S. could produce. The mechanics and ordnance crews who kept the planes armed and flying deserve as much praise as the pilots for without the effort they expended, working day and night under cold and brutal conditions, no flight would have been flown.

It was a dangerous cruise. I will always consider it an honor to have associated with those young men who served with such bravery and dignity. The officers and men of this air group once again demonstrated what makes America the most outstanding country in the world today. To those whose spirits were taken from them during those grim days and didn’t come back, I will always remember you.”

Courtesy of LCDR George Everding, USN(Ret)

(Former AFCM and Current Member of the

National Chief Petty Officer’s Association)

——————————

Submitted by,
YNCS Don Harribine, USN(Ret)

 

I WAS A SAILOR ONCE

Reflections of a Blackshoe

By

Vice Admiral Harold Koenig, USN (Ret), M.D.

 

Continue reading

I WAS A SAILOR ONCE

The Big E CV-6 USS ENTERPRISE Most Honored Ship in US Navy.  Was in nearly every major engagement of the War, from the start to the finish, with the Japanese reporting her sunk 3 times.  Scrapped 1 July 1958.

Admiral Henry Kent Hewitt United States Navy – Patton thought this Naval Officer was outstanding.

Sometimes you have to give the Navy Credit

A Sailor’s Perspective on the United States Army
Admiral William H. McRaven, Address to Class of 2015, 500th Night
18 January 2014
Good evening. General and Mrs. Caslen, General and Mrs. Clarke, General Trainor, Col Brazil, Command Sergeants Major Duane and Byers, distinguished guests and most importantly Class of 2015.
I am truly honored to be here tonight to address the future leaders of the United States Army. But, as a graduate of a state school in Texas, who majored in journalism because I couldn’t do math, or science, or engineering or accounting, I am somewhat intimidated by the thought of giving any advice, to any cadet, on anything.
Nevertheless, after almost 37 years in the service, much of that time with the Army, there may be something I can offer. So tonight, as you begin the final 500 days of your time at the United States Military Academy, I would like to give you a Sailor’s Perspective on the Army; not the Army of the Hudson, not the Army of the history books, not the Army portrayed in the countless murals across campus, but the Army you will enter in 500 days—the Army upon which the future of the Nation rests; the Army that you will shape and the Army that you will lead.
So, if you will humor this old sailor, I will tell you what I’ve learned in my time serving with the Army.
In the past twelve years I have worked for the great Generals of this generation; Dempsey, Petraeus, Odierno, McChrystal, Austin, Rodriguez and Dailey. All graduates of the Military Academy, each man, different in his own way.
Dempsey, a man of great humor and compassion, whose quick wit, and keen tactical sense allowed him to secure Baghdad as a Division Commander, lead the Central Command as a three star, and today, as the Chairman, he presides over the greatest change in our military since WWII and he does so with tremendous reason, intelligence and with a song in his heart.
Petraeus, whose understanding of the strategic nature of war was unparalleled. Who saw opportunity in every challenge and who dared greatly in hopes of great victories. His daily command decisions in Iraq and Afghanistan unquestionably saved the lives of thousands of young soldiers.
Odierno, a soldier’s soldier, who as a Division and Corps commander in Iraq, fought with a fierceness one would expect of a great warrior and then as the Commander of all forces in Iraq combined that fierceness with the diplomat’s subtle hand to lead and shape the future of a sovereign Iraq. And today, he leads the greatest Army the world has ever known.
Austin, the quiet bear of a man, whose deep intellect and incomparable combat experience allowed him to think through every complex problem and to succeed where others might have failed.
McChrystal, whose creative mind and intense drive for perfection, changed forever how special operations would fight on the battlefield and changed how SOF would forever be perceived by the Nation—and in doing so, likely changed the course of the Armed Forces as well.
Rodriguez, the everyman’s general who proved time and again, that character matters–that hard work, perseverance, persistence, and toughness on the battlefield are always traits of success.
And Del Dailey, whose boldness and innovation, coupled with a Night Stalkers sense of teamwork and aggressiveness, began the revolution in special operations.
What did I learn about the Army in watching these men and other great leaders like Keith Alexander, Chuck Jacoby, Mike Scaparrotti, John Campbell, Bob Caslen and Rich Clarke?
Well, I learned first and foremost that your allegiance as an officer is always, always to the Nation and to those civilian leaders who were elected by the people, who represent the people.
The oath you took is clear; to support and defend the constitution, not the institution– not the army, not the corps, not the division, not the brigade, not the battalion, not the company, not the platoon, and not the squad—but the Nation.
I learned that leadership is hard. Karl von Clausewitz once said that “everything in war is easy, but the easy things are difficult.” Leadership sounds easy in the books, but it is quite difficult in real life. I learned that leadership is difficult because it is a human interaction and nothing, nothing is more daunting, more frustrating more complex than trying to lead men and women in tough times. Those officers that do it well earn your respect, because doing it poorly is common place. You will be challenged to do it well.
I learned that taking care of soldiers is not about coddling them. It is about challenging them. Establishing a standard of excellence and holding them accountable for reaching it.
I learned that good officers lead from the front. I can’t count the times that I saw Petraeus, without body armor, walking the streets of Mosul, Baghdad or Ramadi, to share the dangers with his men and to show the enemy he wasn’t afraid. Or McChrystal, jocking-up to go on a long patrol with his Rangers or SEALs in Afghanistan; Dempsey on a spur ride in Iraq; Austin at the head of his Division during the invasion of Iraq; Odierno, cigar in mouth, rumbling through the streets of Basrah; Rodriguez and Dailey always center stage during the tough fights in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I learned that if you are in combat, move to where the action is the hottest. Spend time with the soldiers being miserable, exhausted and scared. If you’re a Blackhawk pilot or and Tank Commander, spend some time on the flight line or in the motor pool with the maintainers and the wrench turners. Whatever position or branch you are in, find the toughest, most dangerous, shittiest job in your unit and go do it.
I learned that you won’t get a lot of thanks in return. I learned that you shouldn’t expect it. Your soldiers are doing the tough job every day, but I guarantee you, you will learn a lot about your troops and they will learn a lot about you.
I learned that the great leaders know how to fail. In the course of your Army career you will likely fail and fail often. Nothing so steels you for battle like failure. No officer I watched got it right, every time. But the great ones know that when they fail, they must pick themselves up, learn from their mistakes and move on.
Rudyard Kipling, the great British storyteller, poet and soldier once wrote, in part,
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowances for their doubting too.
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.
Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it and which is more–you’ll be a man my son.”
If you can’t stomach failure, then you will never be a great leader.
I learned that great Army officers are risk takers, but the greatest risk is not on the battlefield, but in standing up for what’s right.
I have seen a young lieutenant stand up to a colonel when that officer’s behavior was out of line. I have seen a captain challenge a general about a flawed battle plan. I have seen many a general privately confront their civilian leadership and question the merits of the national decisions.
All Army officers are expected to take risks in battle. The truly great officers know that real victory is achieved when men and women of character take professional risks and challenge the weak-kneed, the faint of heart, the indecisive or the bullies.
And finally, in watching Army officers, young and old, I learned that the great officers are equally good at following as they are at leading. Following is one of the most underrated aspects of leadership and each of you will be asked to follow someone else. The strength of a good unit rests more on how well the officers follow the commander, than how well they lead their own soldiers.
I have seen many a good Battalion and Company underachieve because someone in the officer ranks thought the Commander was incompetent and quietly worked to undermine his authority. I guarantee you, that in the course of your career you will work for leaders whom you don’t like and don’t respect. It will be easy to make fun of their idiosyncrasies, their receding hair line, their soft chin or their spouse. Be very careful about getting too smug, too opinionated and too righteous. As long as the actions of your commander are moral, legal and ethical, then do everything you can to support the chain of command and avoid the rolling eyes, the whisper campaigns and junior officer dissension.
I learned that the great Army officers know how to follow.
And what about the soldiers that you will lead? In my career I have been fortunate to have served beside soldiers from the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Division, the paratroopers of the All American Division, the 1st Armored Division, the 1st Cavalry Division, the10th Mountain Division, the 1st, 3rd and 4th Infantry Division, all Groups of the Special Forces Regiment and my beloved Army Rangers.
I learned that the greatest privilege the Army can bestow upon you is to give you the opportunity to lead such magnificent men and women.
These soldiers are not without their challenges. Your soldiers will, at times, question your authority. They will undermine your actions. They will mislead you, frustrate you, disappoint you, and occasionally fail you.
But, when the chips are down, I mean really down, your soldiers will be there and they will inspire you with their courage, their sense of duty, their leadership, their love and their respect. In difficult times, your soldiers will be everything you dreamed they would be—and more.
All one has to do is look at the citations that accompany the actions of Sergeants Sal Qunita, Leroy Petry, Robbie Miller, Ty Carter, Jarad Monti, Ross McGinnis, Paul Smith, and Clinton Romesha. Men whose unparalleled heroism, above and beyond the call of duty, was only apparent moments before their brothers were threatened.
I learned that your soldiers are at their best when their brothers and sisters in arms are threatened. They are at their best when life deals them the hardest of blows and their indomitable spirit shines through.
In 2007, I visited the intensive care unit in Landstuhl, Germany, where the Army was sending all of its most critically injured soldiers from Iraq. As I walked into the sterile room, clad from head to toe in clean white garb, a man lay naked on the bed in front of me. Missing one leg above the knee and part of the foot on the other leg, he was swollen beyond recognition from the blast of an IED.
The doctor in attendance didn’t know the man’s unit or service. I asked the man in the bed if he was a Marine or a Soldier. Unable to talk, he pointed to his thigh. There on what was left of his thigh, was a tattoo; the 1st Infantry Division. “You’re a soldier,” I remarked. He nodded. “An infantryman.” I said. He smiled through what was left of his face and then he picked up a clipboard upon which he had been writing notes. He looked me in the eye and wrote on the paper. “I –will—be—infantry—again!” Exclamation point. And somehow I knew that he would.
Just like the young Ranger in the combat hospital at Bagram who had both his legs amputated and was also unable to speak. The nurse at his bedside said that he knew sign language. His mother was deaf and the soldier had learned to sign at a young age. He was so very young and a part of me must have shown a small sign of pity for this Ranger whose life had just been devastated.
With a picture of hand gestures in front of me, the Ranger, barely able to move and in excruciating pain, signed, “I will be okay.”
And a year later I saw him at the Ranger Regimental Change of Command. He was wearing his prosthetic shorties, smiling from ear to ear and challenging the Rangers around him to a pull up contest. He was okay.
Just like the young female sergeant who I just visited at Walter Reed this week. She was seriously injured in a parachute accident. With her father by her side, she laughed off the injury like it was a scratch. She’s been in the hospital for two months and has years of rehabilitation ahead of her. She has no self- pity, no remorse, no regrets, just determination to get back to her unit.
These soldiers and tens of thousands like them will be the warriors you lead in 500 days. You had better be up to the task, because I have learned that they expect you to be good.
And, most importantly, I also learned that your soldiers expect you to hold them to high standards. These soldiers joined the service to be part of something special and if they are not held to a high standard, if their individual efforts are no more important, no more appreciated than the efforts of a slacker then it will directly affect the morale of the unit. And I learned that nothing is more important than the morale of a unit.
MacArthur once said of morale, “…that it cannot be produced by pampering or coddling an Army, and it is not necessarily destroyed by hardship, danger, or even calamity…It will wither quickly, however, if soldiers come to believe themselves the victims of indifference or injustice on the part…of their leaders.”
The great leaders in the Army never accept indifference or injustice and they only judge their soldiers based on the merit of their work. Nothing else is important. Not the soldier’s size, not their color, not their gender, not their orientation, not their religion, not their ethnicity—nothing is important, but how well your soldiers do their job.
I am confident that history will reflect that the young American’s who enlisted in the Army after September 11th, were equal in greatness to their grandfathers and their great grandfathers who fought in the World Wars—and in 500 days you will inherit these incredible soldiers. Be ready.
Finally, in watching the Army for most of my career, I learned that no institution in the world has the history, the legacy, the traditions, or the pride that comes from being a soldier. I am envious beyond words.
I learned that whether you serve 4 years or 40 years you will never, ever regret your decision to have joined the United States Army. You will serve beside the finest men and women in America. You will be challenged every day. You will fail. You will succeed. You will grow. You will have adventures to fill ten life times and stories that your friends from home will never be able to understand.
Your children and their children and their children’s children, will be incredibly proud of your service and when you pass from this earth, the Nation that you served so very well will honor you for your duty. And your only regret will be that you could not have served longer.
And if for one moment you believe that because Iraq is over and Afghanistan is winding down that the future holds few challenges for you, then you are terribly, terribly mistaken. Because as long as there are threats to this great Nation, the Army upon which this Nation was founded, will be the cornerstone of its security, it’s freedom and its future. And you, as Army Officers, will shape that future, secure our freedoms and protect us from harm.
So what has this sailor learned?
That there is no more noble calling in the world than to be a soldier in the United States Army.
Good luck to you all as you complete your final 500 days. May God bless America and may we always have the privilege to serve her.
Thank you very much
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Reflections of a Blackshoe

By
Vice Admiral Harold Koenig, USN (Ret), M.D.

I like the Navy,

I like standing on the bridge wing at sunrise with salt spray in my face and clean ocean winds whipping in from the four quarters of the globe – the ship beneath me feeling like a living thing as her engines drive her through the sea.

I like the sounds of the Navy – the piercing trill of the boatswains pipe, the syncopated clangor of the ship’s bell on the quarterdeck, the harsh squawk of the 1MC and the strong language and laughter of sailors at work.

I like Navy vessels – nervous darting destroyers, plodding fleet auxiliaries, sleek submarines and steady solid carriers.

I like the proud names of Navy ships: Midway, Lexington, Saratoga, Coral Sea – memorials of great battles won.

I like the lean angular names of Navy ‘tin-cans” Barney, Dahlgren, Mullinix, McCloy, -mementos of heroes who went before us.

I like the tempo of a Navy band blaring through the topside speakers as we pull away from the oiler after refueling at sea.

I like liberty call and the spicy scent of a foreign port. I even like all hands working parties as my ship fills herself with the multitude of supplies both mundane and exotic which she needs to cut her ties to the land and carry out her mission anywhere on the globe where there is water to float her.

I like sailors, men from all parts of the land, farms of the Midwest, small towns of New England, from the cities, the mountains and the prairies, from all walks of life. I trust and depend on them as they trust and depend on me – for professional competence, for comradeship, for courage. In a word, they are”shipmates.”

I like the surge of adventure in my heart when the word is passed “Now station the special sea and anchor detail – all hands to quarters for leaving port”, and I like the infectious thrill of sighting home again, with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends waiting pierside.

The work is hard and dangerous, the going rough at times, the parting from loved ones painful, but the companionship of robust Navy laughter, the ‘all for one and one for all’ philosophy of the sea is ever present.

I like the serenity of the sea after a day of hard ship’s work, as flying fish flit across the wave tops and sunset gives way to night.

I like the feel of the Navy in darkness – the masthead lights, the red and green navigation lights and stern light, the pulsating phosphorescence of radar repeaters – they cut through the dusk and join with the mirror of stars overhead.

And I like drifting off to sleep lulled by the myriad noises large and small that tell me that my ship is alive and well, and that my shipmates on watch will keep me safe. I like quiet midwatches with the aroma of strong coffee – the lifeblood of the Navy – permeating everywhere.

And I like hectic watches when the exacting minuet of haze-gray shapes racing at flank speed keeps all hands on a razor edge of alertness.

I like the sudden electricity of “General quarters, general quarters, all
hands man your battle stations”, followed by the hurried clamor of running feet on ladders and the resounding thump of watertight doors as the ship transforms herself in a few brief seconds from a peaceful workplace to a weapon of war – ready for anything.

And I like the sight of space-age equipment manned by youngsters clad in dungarees and sound-powered phones that their grandfathers would still recognize.

I like the traditions of the Navy and the men and women who made them. I like the proud names of Navy heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry, Farragut, John Paul Jones.

A sailor can find much in the Navy: comrades-in-arms, pride in self and country, mastery of the seaman’s trade. An adolescent can find adulthood.

In years to come, when sailors are home from the sea, they will still remember with fondness and respect the ocean in all its moods -the impossible shimmering mirror calm and the storm-tossed green water surging over the bow. And then there will come again a faint whiff of stack gas, a faint echo of engine and rudder orders, a vision of the bright bunting of signal flags snapping at the yardarm, a refrain of hearty laughter in the wardroom and chief’s quarters and messdecks. Gone ashore for good they will grow wistful about their Navy days, when the seas belonged to them and a new port of call was ever over the horizon.

Remembering this, they will stand taller and say,

“I WAS A SAILOR ONCE. I WAS PART OF THE NAVY, AND THE NAVY WILL ALWAYS BE PART OF ME.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vice Admiral Harold M. Koenig USN (Ret), M.D.

Chair and President, The Annapolis Center 32nd Surgeon General of the Navy and Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

Vice Admiral Koenig became Chairman and President of the Annapolis Center on July 30, 1998. In this capacity, Dr. Koenig leads the organization as its chief spokesperson and chairman of its Board of Directors.

VADM Koenig became the thirty-second Surgeon General of the Navy and Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, on June 29, 1995. He retired from that position on June 30, 1998 after completing 32 years of active duty service.

A native of Salinas, California, he attended the U.S. Naval Academy and received his Bachelor of Science Degree from Brigham Young University. He received his Medical Degree from Baylor University College of Medicine. He is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in general pediatrics and pediatric hematology-oncology.

VADM Koenig is a Diplomate of the American College of Healthcare Executives. In 1994 the American Hospital Association named him “The Federal Health Care Executive of the Year”. VADM Koenig served in a variety of clinical roles in the Navy, including general medical officer, residency training program director, department chairman, hospital executive officer and commanding officer.

His staff assignments before becoming the Navy Surgeon General included: command of the Naval Health Sciences Education and Training Command,
Director of Health Care Operations in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) for Health Services Operations and Deputy Surgeon General and Chief of the Medical Corps.

VADM Koenig’s personal awards include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with Gold Star, Meritorious Service Medal with Gold Star, Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal.