Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Guest Post: Submarine Dept Head Retention

A guest post from "LT W":

I know this topic hasn't been commented on in three months but for me it was a very emotional issue and I wanted to respond. I was a JO on a 688i out of Pearl in the mid-late 90's and I got out 75% due to leadership/culture reasons and 25% lack of mission reasons.

Before stepping foot on board I never thought I would ever get out. In high school I realized all I ever wanted to do in life was command a submarine; enduring USNA and the nuc power pipeline were just necessary evils to get to use the sonar and weapons. Yet despite looking forward every day for 8 years to finally being an officer on a submarine, it took me only one month to realize something was amiss and another two months before I realized that the only way I could mentally survive the next three years was if I knew I was getting out (as my way of fighting back).

First, my first CO, XO, Eng and Nav were terrible from a leadership perspective. (My first Weps was an exception so when I say DH's I exclude him.) They basically fostered a culture of "Dept Heads and above vs. JO's plus Crew". For example, the CO would come up with a new decree on a whim, the dept heads would say "right away sir" and then force the JO's to have the instructions carried out. Yes I understand that is the way the military works, but what I am talking about here is "busy work" as opposed to "real work". Busy work tends to demoralize when sailors are unable to go home until it is accomplished. Anyway the JO's could see the new requirement for what it was, i.e., non-value add and yet another demand on a crew already working 100-hour weeks in port, so the JO's were in the terrible position of having to order the crew to comply with a new requirement that the JO's themselves disagreed with as much as the crew. When you factor in that the JO's knew many of the crew fairly well in a way the DH's and above never did nor even cared to, it was heartwrenching. Basically the DH's and above looked upon the JO's and crew as expendable resources to be used and discarded.

It was so bad that at one point almost all the JO's tried to eat second sitting in the wardroom because we all wanted to avoid eating with the CO, Nav and Eng. Eventually it got to the point where the oncoming EOOW would be the only JO eating at first sitting (and he would excuse himself early). Eventually someone caught on and we were told either we eat at first sitting or we don't eat at all. Often many of us chose the latter. I once had the Eng pull out his tickler over meal and ask me for an update on each item on it. I do not deny that it was my JOB to know the status of everything, but the way he did it helped us view meals as adversarial proceedings to be endured, not time for teambuilding and camaraderie.

One other telling story involved enlisted retention. Not surprisingly, our boat had the lowest enlisted retention in the squadron (officers just went to shore tour and got out). When the CO heard about the low enlisted retention from the Commodore, the CO's response was to implement a mandatory enlisted advancement exam study program. The CO figured, hey, it can't be leadership or culture as the problem, it has to be the enlisted aren't passing their ratings exams and so they don't get promoted which makes them unhappy and so they don't re-up. So now the crew has one more requirement, they can't go home (while in port) until their mandatory exam studying is done. Remember again the purpose of the mandatory studying was to improve crew morale. Amazing.

The way these "problems" were handled was a good example of senior officer mentality - when something happens, generate a new requirement to deal with the symptom and force compliance. Never did the DH's and above get together and discuss, hey is there anything leadership-wise contributing to the problem? One crewmember told me that the thing he looked forward to when the boat went to sea was it denied the ability for the leadership to say "this gets done before you go home".

My second Eng was even worse than the first, he tried to run the engineroom like the Marine Corps and as any sub vet knows it is a lot more collaborative than that. He came from a 726 and his attitude was like, "S6G, S8G, whatever same thing" and thought that by being a hardass he could hide his lack of S6G-specific knowledge, which the crew saw right through and they had zero respect for him. My second CO was assigned to the boat specifically because he was much more of a people person and the Commodore needed to do something about the (surprisingly continuing) low retention. The second XO was fair and just, an improvement on the first and I respected him greatly. The second Nav was almost as bad at "use-up-the-JO's" as the first, and the second Weps was nice but a bit of a limp noodle. So after experiencing six DH's, there was only one (first Weps) that I thought was a true asset to the fleet. And he was miserable because he was as in touch with the crew and felt their pain as many of the JO's did. About that second CO, he would spend half an hour talking to the ERLL watch about their family and such, he truly gave a sh*t about the crew and enlisted retention jumped up. If we had had the second CO first, the ship's culture may have been a lot different and so I may have thought the first CO I had was the leadership fluke and not the norm, but in my case by the time the second CO showed up I had my letter of resignation almost finished.

I remember making a little splash on the way out, my letter of resignation was four pages long, but was not combative like some are. It just detailed some of the leadership issues mentioned here (and more). Most JO's just submit a "I just want to spend more time with my family" letter in order to avoid having a showdown with every officer up the chain. I realized such an easy out would not do any favors for bringing attention to the underlying problems. What surprised me most was when I got a call from the head of submarine detailing (a Captain, I forget his name). Basically instead of trying to argue with me about how I had it all wrong about the boat, and instead of trying to scare me about how tough civilian life is, he simply said I can tell by your letter you care about the force and people, it's people like that we need to stay in to change things. That really got to me but by that time I had already been accepted to an Ivy-league business school and I was still very upset. I see now that it was partially my fault due to unrealistic expectations; I had showed up expecting the kind of leadership I read about with Mush Morton and Dick O'Kane in WWII, and instead was greeted with DH's and above who all acted like Ghost of Rickover. I do strongly believe the nuclear power mentality of check everything, trust nothing and massive micromanagement (basically) causes good leadership practices to suffer, but I have to assume some boats out there have both high Eng Dept morale and good ORSE scores. We achieved the second at the expense of the first.

I originally meant to address the other big aspect of why I got out, which was my entire time on the boat all we did was ORSE workup. If memory serves, we even once pretty much blew off our entire TRE workup time to run ORSE drills and we just winged the TRE. Seeing as how I joined up to try and find the Red October, but ended up being on a permanent ORSE training platform, I was basically faced with a terrible command climate while doing nothing actually submarine-mission-related. But this post is long enough already, and I see now that whole mission-focus issue was in many ways a subset of the leadership issue.

Now...all that being said, recently I have been curious about if I wanted to, could I get back in. Recently (on this blog) I saw a post showing the names of the people who just screened for CO and some of my year group friends were on it, and the words that head of officer detailing said came back to haunt me. That, plus I have pretty much maxed out civilian life, the only thing left for me is to be a CEO/CFO/COO of some middle-market company somewhere. As mentioned I got out and finished a top-5 MBA school, and work in a niche industry fixing broken companies which is as much leadership, planning and execution as it is finance. My first job out of b-school paid about what I was making when I left the Navy, but having the nuc sub training quickly pulls you ahead of your pure-civilian peers and as such my compensation has doubled every couple years. Not to brag but last year I think I brought home three times what my old CO's made. Point is if I got back in I would be taking a massive pay cut. But life is more than income and I sincerely miss a lot of the leadership and execution - getting things done, being in charge - that even a C-level position in a company doesn't match up to. The problem is, with the economy not doing great I'm sure a lot of JO's are staying in just to weather out the economic cycle so I'm probably simply not needed, and also it might be too late being in my mid-late-30's to get back in. I just hope if I could get back in I could be assigned to only 688's, I really love those boats and remember almost all the piping diagrams and systems, maybe the detailer could swing that as I imagine everyone wants a Seawolf or Virginia.

Anyway, sorry this became so long, it was planned to be shorter but any place I think about cutting might be the one thing that really resonates with someone. As a side note, nowadays I tell any Navy person I meet who is a junior enlisted or JO to not make their stay-in/get-out decision solely based off their first CO; at least wait to see how your second CO is before you make up your mind as the first, if bad, could be the exception not the rule. Also, while you certainly can make a lot more money with nuc power training on the outside, unless you're running your own company you won't get the same opportunity for leadership and direct hands-on operations that you get on the boats.

Take care everyone, and as I remember saying at the end of my letter of resignation nine years ago, God Bless the US Navy and those who serve.


Blogger Curt said...

Nice post, LT.

9/25/2010 11:10 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post, but, as the old saying goes, there are no new lessons learned here.

This is and continues to be the result of a peacetime submarine force. Sure you can argue that theater commanders need 1200% more submarines, but the fact is that has always been the case.

9/25/2010 11:29 AM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

I find it amazing Bubblehead, you show utter contempt for the whistleblowing of Christopher Brownfield...but it is his grating on your nerves that got you talking about your past life in Navy submarines.

We have found that effect throughout our whistleblowing endeavors in the civilian area. Generally we are hated and despised by is pretty rough out there. But our actions evoke such deep seated emotions...we are hated, but it creates such a broad opportunity for silent and some open soul searching. We touch so many people in unexspectant ways....especially the people who hate and despise us. The fundamental question is why we are hated...because we tell the secret truth that everyone else wants to speak.

As I have always known, you submariners always had the information to change the sub service for better, but you just threw out what you learned down the toilet.

Today I am very attuned when bad feelings unwell in me about a person.. disgust, hate and anger...I study and analyze these feelings very carefully. People who ruffle my feathers have much more to teach me...or as much... than people who admire me or love me.

Those people who ruffle my feathers...what bugs me and evokes such strong emotions in is really my image or a reflection of myself in the mirror that I am responding too. There becomes a dissonance in who I am and who I should become.

Even my friends can’t do me that kind of favor to me...seeing myself in who I really am.

Very few people today ruffle my feathers!

9/25/2010 12:05 PM

Anonymous T said...

I think basically that every JO who's getting out, that's not a total waste of space goes through this in some respect. The complaints are the same now as they were then. There doesn't appear to be any change afoot to make things better or make your job more meaningful.

There might be a chance to come back, only way to tell is to try. That said, it would take a lot of patience and humility to go from a C level position at a company back to a LT in the Navy. We are not exactly heralded with tons of respect all of the time (depending heavily on the makeup of your command). I also think SOAC would be a challenge, I'm sure that doctrine has changed quite a bit in the last 9 years. I too wish the submarine force was different, it never measured up to what I really hoped and thought it would be

Retention is up, as you surmised, but there are certainly PLENTY of job opportunities for post JO tour guys, I separate pretty soon and have had lots of interest from various companies. That said *ahem* if you happen to be looking for somebody...

9/25/2010 12:20 PM

Anonymous Been There, Done That, Got The T-Shirt, Too... said...

Human nature is to sugarcoat or fantasize about the "if-onlys" in life, and ignore the serious downsides.

I'd encourage the good Lieutenant W to focus on the good things in life that being out of the service offers, rather than looking back through rose-colored glasses and imagining a submarine CO tour that does not exist.

In particular...focus on the really good stuff. Like, if married, having your family around you, especially children that you actually see grow up and have lives that you participate in. If single, having lovely ladies in the world - God bless them every one - as far as the eye can see.

Yes indeed, the submarine force does need good leaders that care about it. At the same time, it is undeniably a form of insanity.

Be honest with yourself: who the bleep goes to sea for six months at a time and leaves his young wife and family behind in good conscience? As a mid-grade or senior officer, do you really think you'd be that immune to dealing harshly with a set of post-shipyard JOs (for example) who are a practiced, self-focused group of crybabies that seriously do not give a flying fuck?

Or how would you like to deal with real-world situations like the deranged throttlemen who hang their cock & balls out in maneuvering simply to haze the newly qualified, shiny-faced EOOW in a fashion they can brag to their buddies about, who in turn only try to out-do them?

Do this, good LT W: go to your local drug or discount store, buy a cheap pair of rose-colored glasses, go to the nearest mountain-top...and crush them under your heel into tiny pieces...and bury them.

And let it go. And thank your lucky stars that you survived being stuck inside a metal tube for months at a time with a bunch of social misfits. Make no mistake: more than one or two grieving sets of parents in our United States certainly wish that their child had.

9/25/2010 1:54 PM

Blogger FineNavyGray said...

Interesting but extremely common story. What are you gonna do. You got college paid for and your efforts, combined with USNA education and military service, got you where you are today.. earning "3 times" what CO's make. So wading through a little shit to get there isn't the worst thing in the world. As a current submarine JO, the worst thing to me is listening to JO's who think the 32-36 months they have to spend on board aren't worth the benefits. Most of the time it's a loss of big picture casualty. In the words of Dennis Leary, "Life sucks, wear a fucking helmet".

9/25/2010 2:38 PM

Anonymous ex-MMC said...

Good post, I couldn't agree with you more. After 3 688's and 1 726 I have definitely seen a lot of bad apples in the wardroom. As an MMC I realized that the CPO mess can only do so much to change things. Now I am an ENS going through the pipeline. My goal is to be a DH (or beyond) that can fix some of the crap that flows downhill. In fact it is the only reason I am still in. Retirement aside Southern Company almost lured me away but changing the "kick the dog" culture will be much more fulfilling in the long run. On a side note, I believe that the root cause of general dissatisfaction with sub life is the inspection mentality that causes mountains of paperwork and leads to integrity issues because you simply can't do all that is required (training, admin, pms, watch, maintenance, cleaning, etc...). To that end, I often wonder how different things would be if ORSE was only every 1 - 2 years and ALWAYS a SURPRISE. Would the phony standards drop - yes, but the dog and pony show would be mostly gone and NR might actually see how things are actually done. Besides if NR was really serious about training then there would be standardized NYC training and a ship drill kit (as opposed to rocks in coke cans for noise etc...). What do you think?

9/25/2010 2:44 PM

Blogger ETCS(SS/SW) said...

To LT W.: I applaud your enthusiasm for wanting to join the submarine community and fight the submarine instead of pushing it from behind. It concerns me that you decided to throw in the towel after only three months.
Surely having survived the Academy you'd have had more perseverance than that? To want to quit after only three months... well that's just sad. For some reason, it reminds me of a lot of the moaning and groaning from junior enlisted that hated the fact that they joined and were in submarines. They double-volunteered, did they not? It's not difficult to figure out what you are getting into if you do some research.

When I was an instructor of PNO/PCOs at the Navigation Officer Training Branch at Dam Neck, I found out that officers (particularly the PNOs) were much the same on the inside as the junior enlisted folks. Call me naive, but that was an eye opener for me. I guess I expected more because they were officers.

To the point in general - This certainly sounds like a different submarine force than the one I grew up in. By and large I had very few problems with the officers I worked with. Yes there was one 'screamer' CO, and a number of less-than-optimal O's, but nothing that I can remember being as bad as pointed out in this thread, and this was across four boats I served on. I didn't have a bad COB in the bunch. Bitching? Whining? Sure. Busy work? Sure. It's part of being in the navy. "A bitching sailor is a happy sailor." Please don't think I've forgotten the bad days. I very well remember them. But they were expected. No one ever told me being a submariner was an easy job.

I always thought there was too much focus on the NUCS to the detriment of the true submarine mission; sounds like that's not gotten any better.

What I find interesting is how so many others are saying the submarine force is better now than it ever has been, and will continue to get better as we continue down the path of 'political correctness'. Something is amiss, no doubt about that.

Oh, BTW, to "Been There, Done That, Got The T-Shirt, Too"? - What is the axe you are trying to grind? Sounds like you are the one that still has the rose colored glasses on.

"Social misfits"? "Deranged throttlemen"? "...leaves his young wife and family behind in good conscience"? I can state categorically that the shipmates I served with were not social misfits, people without conscience, or deranged in any way, shape, or form (except for one E-1 on my first patrol... and he was taken off the boat the minute we tied up to the pier). No one forced you to join the military; hopefully you joined knowing that you would be sacrificing significant time away from society, your family, and other loved ones.
For whatever reason, you don't seem to be proud of your time in the service. For my part, I am very proud to have served my country in the greatest submarine force in the world... even if it was not perfect. Of course submariners are only human; maybe you expect them to be something above that.

Perhaps things really have gotten this much worse since I retired (1994). If so, that saddens me.

9/25/2010 3:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Southern Company lured me away...and a ton of other nukes. It is a really good time to be getting out. I had 5 offers before I got out and only two were in the nuclear industry.

If you're a JO worried about the economy...don't be.

9/25/2010 3:57 PM

Anonymous boomerchop said...

I will second the comments on how a change in personnel above you can really change how you feel about the boat. My first XO was a tyrant, my second XO was exactly what I had wanted/expected of a leader, and the last six months I had on the boat were my dream job instead of a daily nightmare. My work load didn't reduce significantly, and I didn't expect it to, but just the way he carried himself and treated the crew was enough to completely lift my spirits and make me actually sad to leave the boat.

9/25/2010 4:17 PM

Anonymous Cupojoe said...

This pretty much sounds like my experience, although the 688Is had to be in better condition than the first flight boats.

I would add one thing, the good chiefs make good boats. However, there were simply too many substandard chiefs on the waterfront. The navy needs to get past thei sacred cow status and actually ensure the chiefs are effective enlisted leaders, not just the ones who hung around long enough.

I can't imagine an easier gig than being a boomer chop, btw, without traveling to the dental clinic

9/25/2010 5:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is not a new problem. When O-gangers finish their initial commitment, there is such a strong civilian job market (recession or not) that a lot of the good guys who can hack it in a non-military environment, are going to get out. This is exacerbated by bad leaders such as those written about here.

Who wants to stay in and deal with such jerks? Well, other jerks and folks not equipped to handle the civilian world. That's a big generalization and there are major exceptions, but there's just such a huge difference between JOs and DH/XO/CO in terms of quality, human decency, and leadership. Maybe going from 80% good guys down to 30%.

9/25/2010 6:17 PM

Anonymous LT W said...

LT W replying, part 1:

Curt - Thanks.

Anon @11:29- I agree, I think a lot of this has to do with how oin peacetime, inspections replace focus on fighting the enemy since CO's can't be judged by how many Russkie's or Chinese did you sink. I can't see in wartime being racked out because the Eng Dept exams need to be re-graded because some of the scores were too high or too low.

T - great thoughts, thank you.

Been there - I can tell you don't have many books published on how to win friends or influence people. That being said, I did experience a punk throttleman once (trust fund baby) who was so insubordinate he would have been shitcanned immediately in the civilian world, yet somehow he served out his full tour. He was more the exception than the rule, but I also had the sonar chief while standing DOOW change the planes configuration to nothing in the book (fucking around) then deny in front of everyone he did anything when I caught him switching it back. ETCS(SS/SW) may disagree but now that Been There mention it there were a couple misfits I would enjoy firing if they worked for me. But Been There makes it sound like I would sign up for another three years as a JO except this time I hope it will be different, which isn't the case.

FineNavyGravy-I guess technically you're correct, the Academy was monetarily free, but the best description I've heard of it was getting a $100,000 education shoved up your ass a nickel at a time. We also completely missed the normal human development that comes with civilian college and actually regress in maturity from being treated like babies, I think Rickover said of the Academy it takes 18 year olds with the maturity of 22 year olds and outputs 22 year olds with the maturity of 18 year olds. Also no need for the "3 times" scare quotes, I'll send you my W-2.

More below...

9/25/2010 6:30 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a great post. It is great from an officer perspective, but the one thing it doesn't touch on (maybe from lack of knowledge) is that many chiefs' quarters around the fleet are just as bad as some of the higher up O-gangers. There is nothing I would argue with in this post, as my first 2 years on the boat sound almost exactly like this. It's a shame when the would-be diggits get chased out of the navy because of poor leadership. I'm would consider myself one of them.

9/25/2010 6:31 PM

Anonymous LT W said...

LT W replying, part 2:

Ex-MMC: Couldn't agree more, the inspection mentality is probably a, or possibly the, root cause. What, FT division did well on their test? Re-grade it till you get the average down and the junior guy fails, because that's what the CO (or ORSE) expects. I also like your thoughts on ORSE. I read in depth the comments on a recent post about cheating, and feel a lot of the problems with testing and training could be solved by eliminating all training-paperwork requirements and just letting an ORSE exam and a TRE formal written exam be the final decider of the quality of a crew's training.

ETCS (John) - thanks for your great post. Surviving the Academy was easy because I kept my eye on the prize, i.e., being an officer on a boat. Some of you may have strong feelings against this, but I also qualified silver dolphins before my junior year, I extended the month I had on board by using the one month of leave we had during the summer to get it done (I qualified BSO, stood BSO on the watch bill, cranked in the galley, did field day, everything). So suffice to say I did my research, and the reason the three month turnaround from wanting to set the boat's record for qualifing EOOW (which I did) to typing my letter of resignation while on the boat so I would never forget how bad it was, was simply the delta between what I thought should be going on (from a leadership perspective) and the way the senior officers functioned. It had nothing to do with, oh my goodness I'm port and starboard, I had no idea I could get so little sleep and I have to do training too! I was ready for all that.

Related story: After a particularly bad day one day one of our rock star nuc MM2's had had enough and he asked to speak to the COB alone in the Chief's quarters. Closed the door and said, COB, what the HELL [paraphrasing] are we doing to fix morale and other messed-up things here. Instead of toeing some part line, the COB simply hung his head down and said, "I know." Didn't try to argue at all. He pretty much told the MM2, do the best you can to hang in there, we're all in it together, one day it will change.

(Sorry I had to break this into two posts, was getting an HTML error when I tried the whole thing)

9/25/2010 6:32 PM

Anonymous Been There, Done That, Got The T-Shirt, Too said...

@ LT W: The throttleman thing never happened to me...but it was apparently one of the things that tipped the author of "My Nuclear Family" (Christopher Brownfield) to go rogue.

That story is literally how he starts his book off. The intentions seems to be to form sort of a foundational, inarguable reason (to the common person) as to just how FUBAR and unlikable the submarine force is.

He is a bit of a douchebag...that does come across...but that kind of behavior is not as rare as anyone might like to think, and certainly does not portray the submarine force in a favorable light.

9/25/2010 6:41 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joel, this has turned into a
crying thread almost as bad as
the baby nook jo thread. The mentality of not fixing and just getting out is ruining THEIR Navy.


9/25/2010 8:57 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post. Even without the "LT. W" tag I could have guessed the author, considering I too was a member of this 688I wardroom.

I am surprised that the pain seems to run as deep as the pride in LT W. almost 10 years later. I am also impressed by the detailed memories in this post. Most of these stories have faded from my conscience, and the ones I remember now all involve liberty, smokin' stogies on the bridge, and the good people I did it all with. In my mind, I had a good time on this boat -- especially when I was on The Island of Smoke and Truth.

The leadership climate was poor on the boat you describe -- I agree. What hit me most when I arrived on board was the lack of wardroom camaraderie. The boat I had come from had the same micromanaging nuke leadership at its core, but the wardroom was strong and pulled together. We made the best of it.

I don't really have a point in commenting so I'll close by reminding LT. W. that you make your own luck in this world. It sounds like you done that, but haven't figured it out yet.

9/25/2010 9:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm on a similar path as LT W but a few years behind. When I got out it was 95% lack of mission and 5% leadership. I worked for several outstanding leaders in the 2000-2005 timeframe (after much deadweight had been egpted during the Clinton years), and I have yet to meet that calibre of boss in the civilian world.

$0.02 for LT W - sounds like you need to go lead a startup. That's the only place you'll likely find organizational purpose and drive like you find on good boats. Not too surprising that a PE strip and flip shop would come up short in the purpose department.

FYI for the rest - LT W got into the right industry at the perfect time: you'll do well on the outside, but don't expect to pull 500k at the age of 35. Possible but not likely outside of a few select industries!


9/25/2010 11:24 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I actually do agree with LT W's post, I do find it ironic that he talks about what appears to be a lack of concern for the sailors on his submarine, yet now he works in private equity, buying companies gutting them (I'm making an educated guess on what PE Flip and Strip shop is), and then selling them.

It seems like maybe he's just as conflicted about his current existence as he was on the submarine. I don't think that's too surprising, really. Maybe it's time to look forward and find something worth doing going forward, and forget about what occurred in the past except as a lesson to be learned from.

9/26/2010 12:08 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suggested reading: The Shift, by Wayne Dyer. He gets it.

9/26/2010 2:23 AM

Anonymous LT W said...

Anon 9/25 @9:59: Good to hear from you my friend. You may confuse some talking about your prior wardroom experience; for everyone's reference that JO did a split tour, IIRC he came off a 637 right after finishing PNEO quals, he shows up and then immediately gets assigned to be the AWEPS working for the one good department head we had. So while he definitely paid his two years of dues back aft, he did it on a boat with a decent wardroom. Had he spent all his time on the boat in question he likely would have had different memories. We were all envious of your luck. But I do remember specifically one of the other JO's described you as the "world's best JO" to which I did not disagree. Good to hear from you. And thank you for the good wishes.

Anon 9/26 @12:08:
--"While I actually do agree with LT W's post, I do find it ironic that he talks about what appears to be a lack of concern for the sailors on his submarine, yet now he works in private equity, buying companies gutting them (I'm making an educated guess on what PE Flip and Strip shop is), and then selling them."

Wherever did I say I work in Private Equity? "Ex LT C" made an inference that I did but was wrong, and then you doubled down on it. I do not work in PE, I work in the Turnaround/Restructuring industry where we go into distressed companies, fix the income statement to get the company long-term cash flow positive and growing again while simultaneously restructuring the debt to a level the company's cash flow can support. Most of the time it involves pushing for the firing of incompetent management, and sometimes it involves closing a factory in order to save the rest of the business, but that is a far cry from "gutting" a company to temporarily improve profitability to re-sell it. If you are going to impugn someone's motives or accuse them of hypocrisy, be careful about what assumptions you ride off into the sunset with as it could make you look like an ass. That being said, and while I'm not really "conflicted" about anything, the last sentence of your comment post has good merit.

Anon 9/25 @ 11:24: The PE thing aside, great thoughts about a startup, that is really making me think. That's probably the way to go, and probably also would be the case with a smaller company (vs. a larger one). I miss a lot of the applied engineering aspects of sub service, which is why I love fixing manufacturing companies, but you don't always make it to your ideal place in life.

-(ex) LT W

9/26/2010 6:52 AM

Blogger DDM said...

The most satisfying time I had in the Navy was a WestPac in 1996. We had a CO that had extended on board to our dismay (he was micro-manager that made sure he was never at fault for anything). Just before our mission, the Pintado had gotten shyte upon for running drills instead of mission stuff. ADM Konetzki briefed the CO accordingly so we did our mission without having to invent things to do on watch. We did after watch clean-up instead of field days. We walked through drills/procedures on a section basis. Our EDMC stood watch with the rest of us. It was great. Our end of deployment ORSE work-up time got cut back a few more days so we cycled the crew for a week instead of weeks or months. We passed the ORSE without a lot of drama. Port calls to Australia and the PI also helped make it a positive experience. We hear of very few deployments that our guys come back with a postive attitude because of the inspection mentality that overwhelms our leaders. As I think back, the leaders I most respected and admired were the ones who, at least outwardly, treated inspections like a checkbox instead of the end-all, be-all of our existence.

9/26/2010 6:59 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious about what boat LT W was on and what his story is. As a PCO, I might be one of those on the list he's seen who he feels he left the Navy to...

Note that I am very happy with my career choice, have had very rewarding experiences, have seen good and bad, and through it all have never found myself writing guest posts on business blogs wondering what life would've been like if I'd taken my MBA and hit the business world...

9/26/2010 8:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a child my mind was open wide
Seeing many wonders all the time
I had to close it just to survive
At school they tried to break my soul
Doing all the things that I was told
And trying to push me in an automatic life mode
I couldn't live my life that way
It's bad for my health
Never lose your sense of wonder
Even if you lose all else

So I took a trip inside my mind
And it opened up these eyes which had been blind
I saw wonders I can't define

Then I lost control and I fell
From this earthly heaven into hell
how long i stayed there, I couldn't tell

And so I climb up on a lonely ladder
put my heart on the shelf
Never lose your sense of wonder
Even if you lose all else

Love is the key
And only love will set you free
Its all yours now, everything that you need

Go give a little piece to others
Take a piece for yourself
Never lose your sense of wonder
Even if you lose all else
You can keep your sense of wonder
Even if you lose all else


9/26/2010 9:23 AM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street...Money Never Sleeps”

It was one of the most sophisticated and thoughtful movies I have seen in a long time.

It ask us, do you have faith in altruism there such a thing as a happy ever after ending story?

Do you believe in the end about Grandpa Gordon Gekko? The happy ever after marriage of Jake Moore and Winnie Gekko daughter of Gordon. The prodigy baby Gordon Moore developing in the womb of Winnie. The earth is saved by wind farms, fusion power and the altruistic 100 million dollar heart of Gordon Gekko?

Do you believe in the dreams of the few psychopathic you believe even in god and altruism...while such rampant poverty and dislocation is predation rampaging through the streets of our nation?

How can you ever believe in good and dreams anymore?

What happens when the day dawns when we all think alike!

9/26/2010 9:36 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with finenavygray above...people do you realize you are serving in a military organization not touchy feely Google or Ebay. We exist to protect our country in time of war, not to have the best benefit package or worry about being ranked in the Forbes top 100 best places to work. With that being said, what other countries pay their junior officers close to or above equivalent American dollar six figures??? The job is not the easiest in the world, hence a bonus is given. If you wanted easy, then you should have joined the airforce or another community where you get straight stick pay. Still even further, it's nice to have the opportunity to conjecture about how bad life sucks as the Marines and other ground forces are taking fire in the sandboxes and most don't even get a bonus, yet they don't complain and feel good about having the opportunity to fight for their country....

9/26/2010 10:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please. "Real" hard-core, jarhead grunts - and I certainly mean this with no disrespect, just a healthy dose of reality - aren't exactly in high demand in the business world. They enjoy doing the ground-pounder, dust-in-your-nostrils thing because that's who they are.

Amgen, a biotechnology pioneering company, is headed by a former nuclear submarine officer...who hires many former nuclear submarine officers.

Supply. Demand. Dharma. Get used to it.

9/26/2010 10:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the same no disrespect, then get out and do not be one of those typical life sucks and this place sucks cancers in the wardroom. There is a reason why some businesses like ex nukes and if it were not for the job being tough, then you would probably no longer be highly desired. It is not all about you or me me's about the team and serving our country...if you don't agree then please do get out ASAP!

9/26/2010 10:44 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

LT 'W'

While everything you say about your boat experiences seems realistic and sincere, apparently you would have suffered similar disillusionments in the real (civilian) world, too.

As to CO, XO, DH generally not caring about other crew and lack of mission, these tell me how much and how fast the silent service is turning into the 'underwater bus service' within a surface naval hierarchy. By 2012, the attrition of uniqueness trend will nearly be completed (thanks to female billets by late 2011), and solutions to any lingering netcentric comms problems.

Certainly, you must never harbor faint misgivings about leaving nor vague hopes about returning. Yielding to such nostalgia would only leave you more disappointed than you could possibly be now.

Like Mr. Brownfield, you chose to walk away from a lengthy naval career, withgout being damaged. Fine!

Could the admissions panel at the academy have utilized better screening techniques, or instructors better curricula to assure submarine expectations after graduation were not so utterly 'unrealistic'? No, neither do I.

Finally, your title make us wonder, exactly how many of your Submarine Department Heads on that boat were retained?

Well written, thoroughly enjoyed.


9/26/2010 12:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This isn't rocket science. If you are in a sucky situation, it will be over in less than 3 years if you want it to be. Do your job every day with honor and commitment. Try to hold the high ground, eventually your efforts will be recognized; and even if they're not, you'll have done your best...right? Maybe you made life better for a few people, or for a division, and for that you will be remembered.

9/26/2010 12:42 PM

Anonymous ex-ET nuke said...

DDM @9/26/2010 6:59 AM

I was on the Pintado during the events you described, and believe me, it was definitely not pretty.

Our ENG allowed the EDEA to take all the nukes he possibly could underway to allow himself to be completely off the watchbill to work the whole deployment on his COB quals, and so his back-up could play midnight cowboy as acting EDEA to run ORSE work-up drill for the whole deployment.

The only good deal for the whole deployment was our port call in Brisbane, Australia.

9/26/2010 3:18 PM

Anonymous lt w said...

Okay, thank you all for responding. I have enough to go on. Some of the commenters' attitudes was enough to cause flashbacks and help me see people are still missing the point about what causes a lot of JO's to get out.

This needs to be made clear, as it seems some are missing it. There are two aspects of sub life that people, not just JO's but crew too, factor in to their career decision: the leadership climate and the actual job requirements. If you read my post without automatically looking at it through the lens of here comes another whiny bitch JO crying about how hard it is, you'll see that it is all about the LEADERSHIP aspect, i.e., the way people are treated. Never do I complain about the JOB aspect: long hours, duty, being at sea, having to study, getting 3 hours sleep most nights, being Midwatch Cowboy OOD yet still having to stay up all day for training and drills....I loved that stuff, bring it ON, none of that I had a problem with, that is what I signed up for. And if you want to complain about the job aspect, it's probably best you get out, the job's not for everyone. But it is very, very sad that many who read this post have not, can not or will not make the distinction between that and the other aspect of why JO's leave. To say "that stupid JO was just a whiner about hard work, the force is better off without him," how do you explain the COB giving up and feeling hopeless about changing anything on the boat? Did the COB "not know what he was getting into?" No, the leadership and desire to improve it was just that bad. Clearly there is a difference between JO's having something to say about how they were led as opposed to them complaining about long hours and no sleep. For those whose reflex is to not see the difference and just think any JO complaints are about the hard job, I would have to argue that respectfully you may be part of the problem described herein.

Glad I didn't waste anyone in the sub detailing office's time exploring this further. Anon 9/26 @12:42, your words are poetic and I would be happy if your comment post was the final post here.


9/26/2010 6:38 PM

Anonymous T said...

I can't help but laugh at this, anybody who has ever tried to raise these points to this forum has received the exact same vein of comments. LT W, you are 100% right, I honestly don't even think all that many JO's get out because of the # of hours worked. But the # of hours worked + bad leadership, treatment, and/or command environment make it basically untenable.

You can argue this until your blue in the face, and people who have chosen this line of work to dedicate their life to this will continue to disagree with you. With a few exceptions, they are completely incapable of seeing it your way because they never saw it that way to start with.

The frustrating part, honestly, is that submarine JO retention is actually a relatively easy problem to fix. You tweak a few admin programs, and stop acting like people are treasonous slackers every time they take their wife to the hospital or something.

And obviously, it's not every officer higher than O-3 that acts like this, but it's enough of them. I can tell you that from my personal experience, every JO who already thought it was cool to be a dick for no reason 1) stayed in and 2) was generally rewarded for it.

9/26/2010 8:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Business as usual.


9/27/2010 6:57 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a doctor, but I'd like to prescribe "LT W" 500mg of Cowboy-the-Fuck-Up

9/27/2010 10:19 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

LT W...
As someone who just finished their JO tour and elected to stay in, I completley understand your point on the "lack of leadership." We had some of that on our boat - though not to the extent that it appears you did. But it made our JO's want to perform better than the DHs and see if we could prove to them that everyone should be treated like a human being. There is a lot that you can take from "bad leaders." Did you ever think about staying in to project the right leadership style and traits to the future JOs and train them in the positive light that you clearly still hold the submarine force. Isn't that what makes organizations better?

On my choice to stay in, I will say that I had a solid second CO who empowered our JOs to make decisions and he let us stand OOD on deployment. I tell my counterparts that and they freak, as if our CO would be nuts to let us stand mission OOD. But his philosophy was that we trained for it and he qualified us and that standing the watch and making the decisions was the only way to learn and get better from a tactical perspective. And no, we had no untoward incidents on deployment - it was a great environment to be a part of. I hope to be able to take all the positive and negative lessons learned to my DH tour and keep our JOs/Chiefs/Enlisted excited about the capability and responsibility of the submarine force.

9/27/2010 11:18 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't find PCOs writing on business blogs because 80% probably cant balance their checkbooks, let alone speak intelligently about the business world.

I can appreciate the "deal with it and drive on" attitude on display here, but it is probably the single greatest impediment to progress in the Military. As an active duty officer, that attitude allowed me to survive the boat without going batshit insane, but from the outside it just looks delusional.

I also observe with amusement the general level of disdain that lifers hold for those who went back to civilian life. Guess what fellas, as Americans you want your best and brightest joining the productive economy, because without it there's pretty much no reason (or funding) for your job!

9/27/2010 11:25 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

All the boat CO/XO who read this blog (there must be some out there), need to print out this entire thread and put it in the wardroom's required reading binder.

9/27/2010 1:39 PM

Anonymous Mark/MM1(SS) said...

Bravo zulu LT W for your thoughtful post and follow-ups. It's an intriguing look at the cultural gap that apparently still exists in the submarine force. I have no sympathy whatever for the Mulligans and Brownfields of the world, and agree that the right thing to do is suck it up and hack it. I can also understand, and honor those who choose to make a career out of it, especially those who work to make it better. It is interesting though, how there are still so many that would find fault with those who have the bad luck to have their first sea tour on a boat with serious problems in leadership, and are not willing to roll the dice with another sea tour, when there are opportunities open to them. This thread has been a stark reminder of the fact that a disproportionate number of knuckleheads make a career out of it. Bless the good leaders that are willing to stay in, and keep things from getting totally nuts.

9/27/2010 5:14 PM

Anonymous LT W said...

---"I'm not a doctor, but I'd like to prescribe 'LT W' 500mg of Cowboy-the-Fuck-Up"

I saw "Tears of the Sun" too, and you're no Bruce Willis. The quote works well when running from an army behind enemy lines with a mob of refugees with their leader shitting his pants - or for that matter anyone having a character-based, job-related shortcoming. You want to tell someone on a submarine to "cowboy up" because they don't like standing watch after running drills all day, fine. But if you are telling someone to "cowboy up" because their leaders are treating them like a piece of disposable human fucking dog shit, and you think they are a pussy because they speak out about it, what kind of leader does that make you? Further, what kind of a PERSON does that make you? Of course I am assuming your comment is related to the discussion of the leadership aspect of the issue at hand; if you are referring to the job aspect, then kindly read the comments where we make it clear we are not talking about that.

---"people do you realize you are serving in a military organization..."

I don't think anyone DOESN'T realize that. But just because one serves in the military does not mean that they should expect to have shitty leadership. Working long hours with no thanks: yes. Making a lot of personal sacrifices that go unnoticed: Yes. Being treated like an expendable stepping stone so your department head can look good to the CO: not so much. Just because you're in the military doesn't mean you should be expected to be treated like shit because in the military you have to follow orders. The decent treatment of people and the carrying out of orders are not mutually incompatible, unless of course you are one of the shitty leaders who can't figure out how to do it any other way.

More to follow...


9/27/2010 6:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always made it a point to learn something about leadership from everyone I worked with. I didn't care if they were a senior, or a subordinate, or an equal...there was always something to learn.

Sometimes, it was a positive thing - i.e. know your job better than anyone else, and do it with pride.

Sometimes, it was a negative lesson. But if you learn one negative thing from someone else, it's one less mistake you have to make....

9/27/2010 6:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for your post. I'm just starting out at NPS, and this thread leaves me a little disheartened at the kind of problems you discuss, but mostly excited at the prospect of entering a field that clearly has so much untapped potential. This is clearly a discussion that needs to be had in the submarine force. Don't really have anything to add at this point myself, but thanks again.


9/27/2010 7:04 PM

Anonymous LT W said...

----"You don't find PCOs writing on business blogs because 80% probably cant balance their checkbooks, let alone speak intelligently about the business world."

Anon @11:25AM I also think the PCO who wrote the comment that inspired yours was not making a strong argument, but please don't respond with personal attacks. That causes people to respond in kind and the discussion to degenerate into general vitriol and at that point everyone's mind closes and you lose the constructive dialogue necessary for things to ever get better.

Anon @11:18AM: Given how hell bent I was to be the best submarine officer ever, if the leadership climate had been any less terrible early on then I certainly would have stayed in. Partly because I thought the submarining part of being on a submarine was awesome, partly to be a positive influence as you mention. But even though my second CO and XO fostered a better climate, the DH's I worked with directly were still terrible and the CO didn't do much to change that. I didn't have any (or at least many) of the developmental experiences you cite where the CO gave you enough rope to hang yourself, instead for the most part all the JO's (even senior ones) were relegated to the engineroom because none of the DH's, EVEN THE ENG, knew dick about the plant and they only stood their proficiency watches. So all I had was the image of me being a DH with one of them as XO and, as Mark/MM1(SS) mentioned, no way was I going to role the dice on that since based on 5 out of the 6 DH's I served with being poor leaders, by that sampling I had an 83% chance of further serving under them or their type. In summary had I shared the experiences you had on your boat, I too would have stayed in. Regardless thank you for your continued service to your country, and also thank you for being one of the good ones.

Some final thoughts to follow...

9/27/2010 7:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

-"people do you realize you are serving in a military organization..."

Of course. That's why great leadership is expected, and its so shocking when its absent.

9/27/2010 7:17 PM

Anonymous LT W said...

Sorry I have to break this up, I get HTML errors if too long.

ENS L - thank you for sharing your thoughts my friend, I am sure you will do fine. You have a DISTINCT advantage over where I was, in that you will know 1) there is a chance you may end up on a boat with bad a climate, and 2) in general the whole nuc power mindset, the principles of which are necessary, can be taken too far and some people let it replace good leadership practices. Just do not be like me and read every book you can find on great WWII submarine captains (I managed to personally met two WWII submarine captains who won the Medal of Honor, and one had me over to their house) and expect that's what you will find. What caused a lot of my angst was not just the absolute value of the completely shitty climate I encountered, but it was also the DELTA between the high morale I had read about (and was expecting) and what I actually had to survive in.

Anon @6:31PM: Yes having some negative experiences absolutely makes you a better leader, no doubt. But like most things, moderation is key. If you try to help train someone to hold their breath underwater by tying cinder blocks to their feet and throwing them in the deep end of the pool for an some point the negative of the constant exposure outweighs the upside of the training value - at LEAST from a stay in/get out point.

Blast, almost done...

9/27/2010 7:55 PM

Anonymous LT W said...

Okay now, here is some comedy about this whole thing.

If you read my initial post again, you'll see the point of it was to say that even though I had some terrible experiences as a JO, I was thinking about exploring getting back in because maybe I had just experienced a major statistical anomaly with wardroom quality, and plus my initial wounds had time to heal. I ended up defending the reasons why I got out. I had expected the majority of responses to be "good for you, go get 'em", but the "there's nothing wrong, you're the problem" responses were sufficient and clear enough to tell me the underlying issues are alive and well. I am amazed so many of the smartest people in the country cannot see that many, if not most, people don't get out because of the work requirements, they get out because of they way they are treated. AGAIN, this does not apply to all of those who stay in, but apparently it applies to a not small portion of them. Seems it's true what they say about the difference between intelligence and wisdom: Intelligence is the ability to formulate a well-thought-out argument, whereas wisdom is the ability to see the right side to be on.

I don't mean to sound cocky, but the Navy missed out on a good potential retention asset. JO's get back in all the time after having washed out in the civilian world (I met some who got back in and they were complete dicks, basically the civilian world didn't want them so their best option was to get back in). But to have someone get back in after really making it pretty well in the civilian world, who took a big pay cut to do so, now that might cause people to think. But with a little luck and a little time I'll hit a C-level position in a few years and laugh about the time I considered it, and some of the responses I received.

Some of you who posted, I can tell you are quality guys and I would be happy to have any of you on my staff once I go from an advising to an officer (civilian company officer, not military officer) position. For those who stay in, who realize maybe JO retention and crew morale in general isn't just about weak people who never should have been on the boat in the first place - to you, as Mark/MM1(SS) said, bless you all and thank you for trying to make it better.

-(ex) LT W

9/27/2010 9:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"LT W": Exactly! You were not in a combat zone with genocidal maniacs trying to gun you down, you were just in a sophisticated machine with many modern comforts and amenities surrounded by people with bad attitudes. Grow a pair for f*ks sake.

9/28/2010 9:31 AM

Anonymous Been There, Done That, Got The T-Shirt, Too said...

Interesting: submarine officers go to Iraq and Afghanistan via IA orders and sometimes get killed in the process...but you don't see too many knuckle-dragging jarheads get assigned TEMDU to an SSN.

Gee...I wonder why? ;-)

Maybe the 'brave' anonymous has an intelligent answer? Maybe not.

9/28/2010 10:10 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The leadership problems LT W describes are by no means unique to the submarine service, and he should know by now that they are as common in civilian life. The excuse of military organisations is just a fig leaf to cover unacceptable leadership, but that bad leadership usually has 2 outcomes: people tough it out, get closer together and endure it and relish it because is uneccesarily tough (take the corvette sailors of WW2) or they just grow tired and quit. At the end of the day everyone ends up quitting unless the toxic leaders are transferred. Top leadership is unlikely to ever do anything about this people because they don't perceive a problem, since, sadly, they do look like they kind of guys they want on the driving seat.

9/28/2010 11:35 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"LT W": Exactly! You were not in a combat zone with genocidal maniacs trying to gun you down, you were just in a sophisticated machine with many modern comforts and amenities surrounded by people with bad attitudes. Grow a pair for f*ks sake.

Pricks like this are why I was a six and out. (LT's general issues are also an enlisted problem.) It's also these same assholes that I love to screw with in the commercial world.

9/28/2010 3:10 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@T: "With a few exceptions, they are completely incapable of seeing it your way because they never saw it that way to start with."

While we all know of some exceptions, this does explain a lot because most of the people who have a major problem with the way people are treated get out, and the people who don't mind it or assume that's just the way it has to be are more likely to stay in.

I guess it's like how a fish doesn't know it's swimming around in water, and if you tried to tell the fish it was, it would look at you like you were crazy.

9/28/2010 3:24 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm another PCO, and want to thank you for your initial posting and your calm responses throughout. I wish more folks could get past their disdain of people that complete their obligated service then choose to leave.

There's a lot to be learned by asking the question, "Why is LT/PO/Chief so-and-so choosing to go?" In my opinion, deciding that everyone who leaves the submarine force is just a weak whiner is a copout.

Anyway, I'll take your observations to heart, and try to be as good a steward of my men as I can. Thanks for your continued support of the Force.

9/28/2010 5:23 PM

Anonymous Mark/MM1(SS) said...

Wow... anonymous PCO - your post brought a lump to my throat (sorry if that's a little gay...not that there's anything wrong with that). I sincerely hope my son, a sonar tech a week or two from getting his fish, winds up on your boat, or someone's of like mind. Godspeed sir...

9/28/2010 5:38 PM

Anonymous YNC(SS), USN, Retired said...

Yikes! Well folks I've been paying attention here. Early in my career I had no direction. I volunteered to go to Viet Nam for no other reason than it was there. I served two different tours assigned to the U.S. Army. During those two tours I learned some things. I grew up a little. Some years later I entered the submarine force as a non-qual Chief. You may not understand, but that is when I started growing up.

In the submarine force I learned about ships, and I also learned about leadership. I had long since learned to take responsibility for my actions. I am grateful to the Force for completing my education and training. I retired from the Navy only because it was time to let younger men assume the task.

9/28/2010 8:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe one key point has been overshadowed by strong emotion - there are a lot of damn good people in the submarine force, both up and down the chain of command. True, there is a lot of bullshit. But the vast majority of submariners are intelligent, hardworking, and eager to do a good job.

ENS L - don't let the negative comments slant your view too much. They contain a lot of truth, but there aren't many moderate posts to provide a counterargument. A few words of advice:
1) Read every WWII book about great boats and skippers that you can find. Remember - there were over 1500 war patrols and about 500 war-time skippers but only 7 received the Medal of Honor. There were very few great, quite a few good and average, and a few outright poor skippers - just like today.
2) Don't underestimate your influence on the command as a JO. After a couple of years, you will be one of the ten most influential people on board. Be it for good or for bad.
3) That said, make yourself an expert. Study hard, work hard, take care of your guys.

In the end, good guys get out and good guys stay in. Shitbags get out and shitbags stay in. The benefits of submarine service may be maddeningly difficult to explain, but they are there.


9/28/2010 8:45 PM

Anonymous Former 3363 said...


I applaud you for your honesty, as well as your ability to keep your emotions in check in the face of unchecked agression. Like you, I had success during my initial sea tour, but was faced with poor leadership.
I vividly recall the career review board about a month prior to my separation. I was able to look the XO & CO (these guys were from the new regime, and not at all part of the problem) in the face and explain to them that it wasn't the current leadership, but the threat of having to deal with people like the past CO, COB, EDMC that influenced my decision.
Like you, I had no issue with the job. I actually enjoyed it. It was the BS portion that got to me. An example:
I understood the need for field days, and after watch cleanup. I didn't understand the need for field day on saturday followed by field day on sunday since we were pulling in on monday.
I was fortunate enough to have seen both good and bad leadership on the same ship. I was able to see how a few people could influence the lives and attitudes of many. From a sociological standpoint it was amazing.
When I checked out, I recounted a story to my CO as an example of why I wanted to get out. When I finished the story (I'll tell it in another post), his response was heartfelt and honest, "PO , I'm truly sorry that you had to endure poor leadership like that, but I thank you for sharing it with me."
I could go on for a long time about that CO, and how he truly had an open door policy, and how I knew he genuinely cared for his crew (and their families). He had the ability to balance mission priorities and family priorities in such a way that families didn't feel neglected, and people didn't hate coming to work. But, like I said before, it only takes a few VERY bad apples to ruin the applesauce and make you want to stay away.

9/29/2010 6:42 AM

Anonymous Former 3363 said...

Now for the story...

We were in the shipyard and trying to get through a crucial phase of testing in the engine room. I had an approved leave chit so that my wife and I could celebrate our first wedding anniversary (she stayed in our original homeport, when we went into the SY). The date for the leave chit was fast approaching, and the testing was not progressing as planned (who would of thought that?).
Nobody in the command had approached me about the fact that had I gone on leave I would have left a critical watchstation severely undermanned. Being the team player, I approached the EDMC and brought the issue to light. I asked for a 4 day weekend to celebrate our anniversary following completion of testing. He agreed, thanked me for bringing this up, and we went back to work.
Fast forward to completion of testing and prior to fast cruie. The EDMC sends out an email and asks if anyone is owed special liberty (PORSE test incentives, etc.). Knowing that we had agreed on a 4 day weekend, I worked out with my division how to cover the watchbill, etc. I proposed my plan to the EDMC to go on a 4 day liberty/leave (whatever the command desired). His single word response to me was "NO". He never offered an explanation, never approached me to discuss an alternative, simply "NO" (via email).
I saved that email, and recounted the story and provided a copy to my CO (the good one) upon my checkout interview from the boat.

Remember, it only takes 1 aww shit to take away 1000 atta boys. The same goes for shitty leadership.

9/29/2010 7:02 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Former 3363, were you on the Annapolis?

9/29/2010 9:11 AM

Anonymous Former 3363 said...

I wasn't on Annapolis, but I was in the same yard, near the same time.

9/29/2010 12:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We had your exact same story happen to a mechanic during DMP in 2003...

9/29/2010 12:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

For LT W and anyone who admires the hero's of WW2: read "Unrestricted Warfare" by James DeRose . The submarine force started WW2 with CO's that may have very much been cut from the same cloth as the DHs/CO that LT W (and many of us) have seen. In the 1930's, CO's were severely penalized for getting counter-detected. It was more important to remain stealthy than to complete a successful approach & attack (or even try an unsuccessful one in order to learn and train the crew)! The book goes on to tell the story of the Wahoo and a few others in the early days of WW2 and how very young officers took over the reins and became legends.

I fear our Sub force (and other forces in the USN & other services) are in that 1930's mentality: who cares if you can approach & attack or do everything else our weapon systems are designed to do as long as you do well on the ORSE or meet other metrics.

Speaking of metrics and their potential for paralyzing organizations, also check out "The Puritan Gift" by Ken & Will Hopper. Not as religious as it sounds, but it really guts the scientific management theories started by Taylor in the 1890's that, in their words, destroyed the industrial/manufacturing leadership in our country. I'd submit the same metrics-focused mentality is destroying our military too (and has been for a long time).

9/29/2010 7:28 PM

Anonymous Starbucks said...

@7:28PM Anon:

I'd go with decaf next time if I were you.

9/29/2010 7:55 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear you. I enlisted thinking I was going to do 20 and retire. Before I enlisted my dad warned me about the leadership in the Post-Vietnam navy, he is a retired BMC.
Chiefs were treated just as another enlisted and were not consulted on how to run a division. My CPO on my second boat turned down SCPO because he was tired of the BS.

I could list many examples of bad leadership but what got to me was when I was attending "A" school at ASW in San Diego the CNO was scheduled for a visit. Instead of getting a chance to meet the CNO the CO of the base restricted everyone to the barracks and posted sentries at all doors to make sure no one stuck their heads out to catch a peek.
Thats navy pride for you.
Bob Sepulveda

9/30/2010 8:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too enlisted intending to ride boats for 30 years and retire. After my third near death experience due to the ignorant arrogance of command, I bailed after 8. If I'm going to die due to stupidity, it will be MY stupidity, not someone else's.


9/30/2010 10:09 AM

Blogger Grandpa Bluewater said...

If you stay in, good. If you get out, good. If you get out for the wrong reasons,your judgement isn't real good, so good that you got out. The only negative case is that you stay in for the wrong reasons. Then you and your ship have a problem.

Every step along the way across the 20+ year tightrope that we all call a "career" affects everyone, but not everyone the same.

Yes, Virginia, the submarine force recruits from the human race. That guarantees that in a career you will deal with fools, villains, and incompetents, be they non-rates, PO's, CPO's, Warrants or JO's, DH's and CO/XO's and all the way up. Just remember, your take on people won't always be right.

Your job is to be firm, friendly, fair, decent and just. To know your job, your ship and your people. Sound hackneyed?

Here's the key. There is a spectrum at every level, luck always plays, and everyone moves back and forth across that spectrum, the bell curve if you will. A bonehead JO can grow into a super Captain. You can switch the adjectives, it's just as true.

Usually it's bonehead to good, up a step, bonehead to good...repeat.
To the limit of your ability.

It's all about observing and learning and teaching...and letting it roll off your back.

The only way to change the Navy or the Force is to stay, accumlate rank and power, and use it for the good of the Navy, nation, and your sailors, until they cut you orders "to home", or until you need to admit you aren't up to it anymore. Which also comes to us all (Even Rickover).

If you grow to the point of being able to create and keep an island of competent, dedicated people around you, pass your inspections, train to meet your wartime mission and keep a decent reenlistment rate, count yourself lucky and good.

This is a game for grownups. There is no softball variant. Peacetime is easy, compared to bare fang survival in war.Which is why tactician, submarine, is your capstone job.

Realize this. As a submarine officer, you are sitting in the catbird seat. Disagree? Best you don't stay. (See also "If" by Kipling.)

9/30/2010 1:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate LT W’s comments. As a PXO, I have seen a number of good and bad officers. In the end I think it all comes to their ability to deal with stress. Those who are incapable of dealing with it become toxic and lay into their subordinates and drive people out. Those who deal with it well can teach others and foster growth and good leadership. Good fosters good by teaching people the right way and causing them to stay and continue to teach. Bad fosters bad by failing to teach people anything about leadership and driving the potentially good people away. I have been lucky enough to have had “good” COs that fostered my growth allowing me to deal with the periods of time where I had “bad” ones. As a DH, it was easy to tell each peer’s experience based on how he acted…and unfortunately, bad people continue to rise. We who foster growth have to continue to do what we can and be a mentor for the junior guys to learn from.

9/30/2010 7:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now I only remember the one or two really great CO's and the one's that never lived up to them.

Sounds like the young JO was a spoiled brat, couldn’t hack it, and is full of regret. No offense, but he was trying to change the world, like all of us that care – and had some pretty high expectations.

My "Sea Dad", whom I'd eventually run into a few subs later told me "Don't let one bad command make you get out". Simple advice, but heavy in meaning.

Good commands are few and far between now, it’s the nature of the beast in a fairly somewhat peacetime submarine force, especially when we train for inspections, and NUKES being the “golden children” get all the glory (unspoken favoritism). The JO may have inherited a bad divisional Chief, who didn’t take him under his wing, and train him.

Don’t we learn what NOT to do, from poor leadership, once we earned Khaki’s? I did! MANY lessons in itself!

In retirement, and knowing the entire BS we put up with while active duty, the worst day in a civilian employment will never stack up to the toughest day underway drilling and killing with a bad command. All of us submariners can truly appreciate the sacrifice, to be part of the solution, and not the problem.

10/05/2010 10:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bubblehead; Your not to friggin bright,,,Took you 8 years to figure out that the subforce is bullshit.. Hope you dont tell to many folks in the real world on how slow you are on picking up or sensing things..
By chance, are you a Banker?

10/06/2010 12:41 AM

Anonymous Spelling Bee said...

Dumb-dude anon:


"You're"...not "your"

"too"...not "to" (twice)

"don't"...not "dont"

Hope you're not being relied upon for your spelling in the "real" know, the one that the submarine force protects?

10/06/2010 9:03 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, thank you Mrs Spelling Bee. Indeed I have faired very well in the real world after 6 yrs in the early 80"s on a 594.. A few properties here in NYC. Cash.. not spelling is where its at you yoeman type jizz swallower..

10/06/2010 2:31 PM

Anonymous Red Sox Fan said...

To pile on where appropriate:

It's "fared well" not "faired well."

NYC. What a shock.

10/06/2010 4:12 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A yoeman? What's a yoeman??

How about it cock knocker...are you trying to say Yeoman? Spelling Bee is correct, you need to rethink what you're attempting to say here and the manner inwhich you're attempting to display it.

10/06/2010 11:24 PM


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