Excellent leadership isn’t hard… but it can be difficult. 2

Excellent leadership isn’t hard… but it can be difficult.

There are probably hundreds of thousands of books on leadership written in every language on earth. In these books you will find words like “character”, “strength”, “wisdom”, and any number of words that define what competencies a leader should possess.

What makes an excellent leader?

It is always great to observe the rare occasion when all of the core competencies come together in a person that make them the one people choose to follow. This can happen regardless of their age, sex, race, background, or physique. They just managed to build the needed skills and competencies that help them to offer a path forward for the group they are leading. They are the ones who found the North Star, understood its significance, and show others the way to use that guiding element for success.

I have observed good and bad leaders for most of my life. I am sure that I am not alone. Whether it was in school or the military or the work life that many of us have experienced, the examples are all around us.

I have seen the best and the worst imaginable forms of what is loosely described as leadership. There have been many studies over the years that try to place leaders on a spectrum that ranges from rigidly autocratic to grossly accommodating. Many people possess skills that could place them at any point along the scale at any given time (situational leadership) but to be honest, most people choose one style or another.

The Autocrat

The rigidly autocratic style is best demonstrated by the “leader” who uses any means necessary to achieve their own personal vision. They become so laser focused on what it is they want to gain that they are not interested in who has to suffer on the path to achieving those gains. They often use deception, control of facts and information, intimidation, threats, vocal disruptions and underhanded methods to manipulate anything they need to. They are the bullies, the pompous jerks, the grenade that has no pin, and the canon that has broken free from its lashings on a rolling deck, careening madly about while taking out everything in their path.

The Accommodator

The grossly accommodating “leader” is one who makes few decisions and lets fate take the wheel in nearly every case. They are everyone’s friend while not really being anyone’s friend. They are loose with the compliments and nearly impossible to hold accountable for actual results. They are the consummate politician who use survival skills to make sure that their position is protected with no real concern for achieving a goal.

Somewhere in the middle is the assertive leader. They are the ones who find the careful blend of accommodation and achievement. They value the people whom they are honored to leave yet still find the way to hold them accountable. Instead of tearing down, they focus on building up. This leader recognizes that without a team working together in common harmony, too much effort is wasted on distracting issues that keep the group from achieving their next goal. They recognize that to be successful, you need some key elements in place:

  • A shared Vision. This vision is having a shared understanding between all involved that there is a vision of something greater than just today and a temporary moment of satisfaction. It may mean working hard together; it may mean sacrificing short term comfort together; or it may mean each person giving up their own selfish interests so they can achieve a common goal together. But the key word is together.
  • A group that works together as a team. There is a huge difference between a group of people and a team. A group may come together because of a common need, but a team comes together to combine their resources, their commitment and their belief that together they can achieve more than they could if they remained apart.
  • An ability to turn the vision into a plan and the plan into action. The North Star may never change but the obstacles along the way do. Leadership means that you can develop a plan with enough structure to get the job done but enough flexibility to overcome the barriers that emerge. It means you develop the people on the team while learning from them. Never forget that even though someone may not be the leader, they may possess knowledge and skills that the leader does not have. You might be smart enough to be the leader, but you aren’t smart enough to know everything.

With so many examples to choose from, why do so many people choose poorly?

There are so many reasons people choose substandard leadership behaviors. Examples from their past, lack of understanding, lack of training, maybe even selfish motivation all lead people to choose less than optimal leadership styles. In the end, those people who never get “it” get “gone”.

Throughout history, people eventually throw off the yoke of poor leadership. Individual rebellion almost always leads to group rejection of the ones who take the low road. The “curing” process often leads to a better place for the group.

Sadly, it can also lead to extinction.

I have a theory that the dinosaurs were once lead by a very autocratic leader named “Paul”.

Day after day, the storm clouds gathered and the winters were longer and longer. The sound of the approaching ice masses must have been a warning but “Paul” bullied and harangued all of the other dinosaurs to stay where they were. He browbeat them and made their lives miserable while never really providing leadership that could have led them forward.

Even when a few Notoceratops tried to warn the group of the impending doom, “Paul” would remind them that he was a Tyrannotitan and told them all that he was their Last Chance for survival.

“You must fear me to survive” was his favorite mantra.

“Paul” of course was wrong. I like to think of him as I fill up my gas tank these days. The creatures who adapted and overcame were the ones that actually survived.

You have a choice on what kind of leader you want to be and who you want to follow.

Don’t be a “Paul.”

Mister Mac

A Better Alternative: The American Dream 4

This morning, a good friend and shipmate asked this question on Facebook:

“Can you explain to me what the American Dream is? I fought for it for 21 years, but what is IT.”

I had just finished my time on the treadmill and it struck me that I am living my American Dream. Here was my response:

‘This morning I woke up in my home and had little fear that either the police or an enemy would come and unexpectedly rob me of my freedom. I can sit at this keyboard after choosing to exercise for an hour and shortly go upstairs and make the coffee. Then we will sit down and study the Book of Hosea followed by a prayer. Again, no secret police will come charging through my screen door to take that Bible away from me. The American dream is where we are all working towards a goal of freedom to be left alone when we want to and protected from bigger evils when we need to. God Bless America.’

Thanks Michael Beaver for the inspiration and motivation for today. Since this is graduation season for so many young people starting out in life, it seemed kind of appropriate.

Who gets to live the American dream?

There are many in America today who feel they are not living an American Dream. There is probably some truth to that if you believe the description I wrote above. Circumstances for each of us are different. How we were raised, our family life, our neighborhoods, educational opportunity and on and on are definite factors on where we begin our dream. These things all make up part of our individual journeys. But do they rule the outcomes? Are they precursors to predestination?

I have shared before that I was raised in a middle class American family where we had rules and a strict adherence to a moral code. There were consequences for bad behavior and they were both swift and convincing. We went to church together every week and did more than just sit in the pews. We ate together as a family every night around an actual table and we worked as a family unit on chores and fun things. Even as a teenager, your mood and attitude were not licenses to skirt the expected family norms. There was never a question that God was present in our homes and in our lives. We prayed over meals, life decisions and tragedies and we did it as a family.

Mom and Dad insisted we knew the value of charity in the community and responsibility to judge people from a broad perspective instead of just the typical confines of race, creed, religion or sex. The week that Martin Luther King was killed, Dad asked us to forgo our traditional Easter candy and celebration and use the money for a local community church that was struggling. It was the last time I remember seeing an Easter basket as we continued that tradition in the following years. It was only one of many things we did as a family to show our concern for others.

The American Dream is freedom to succeed or freedom to choose failure.

Our history is filled with people who came from rough circumstances and used the power of the dream to overcome and prosper. Even people who have made mistakes along the way can still overcome those mistakes and be something more than what life defined for them in that moment. A jail sentence does not have to be a death sentence. A serious illness does not mean a life defined as crippled. A missed opportunity does not mean that no more opportunities will ever come again. Even being raised in a single parent home did not condemn Dr. Ben Carson to a life of crime or obscurity.

The American dream is more than the material achievements we see all around us. They certainly do mark a level of success but the longevity of that success is still a cautionary tale. Fortunes may change with the passing of time. The real mark of living the American Dream is the unmistakable character that comes with real wisdom. Character was once defined as doing the right thing when no one is looking. That is the symbol of the American Dream fulfilled.

The most basic freedom

In America, you are free wallow in pity for your past and moan about the unfortunate circumstances that life has dealt to you. We are a generous people with a bias to protecting and preserving and protecting the helpless and sometimes “hopeless” that struggle to find their American Dream. Even pampered overpaid athletes can kneel on the sidelines to protest real and imagined grievances. But one lesson of life that keeps being repeated over and over again is this:

Dreams start inside of each of us.

The secret to achieving the dream

A dream to gain an education begins with the understanding that you have to have the desire to learn. Then you have to have a desire to overcome the obstacles that you find on your path to learning. Finally, you need to invest in your dream every single day and never stop living in ways that will help to achieve that dream.

Now, substitute your goal for the word “education” in that first sentence. Any goal. Following that path will help you to not only reach your goal but to exceed it beyond your wildest belief. Look around you. The evidence is everywhere.

Here is the alternative

  • Do nothing.
  • Choose someone else’s dream and moan about the fact that it is out of your reach when you don’t actually do a damn thing to achieve it.
  • Let every obstacle become an excuse.
  • Assign as much blame as possible to others: Blame the system for each failure and let bitterness absorb the light of your soul. Important things to blame include your parents, your genetic makeup (too small, too tall, too slow, too weak), the community, the government, churches, your school (or the one you couldn’t get into), history, the weather, the color of your skin, your sex (or lack of clarity of what your sex is), capitalism, things that are unfair, drugs, alcohol, opioids, and “fill in the blank”.
  • Remember to never actually blame yourself. How could that even be possible???

The most critical component of the alternative to the American Dream is to just give up.

You’ll never reach it anyway, so what’s the use in trying.

Your plan will include waiting for a government check and a house you didn’t earn and medical care that is somehow your “right” even though at no time in the history of mankind has free and universal health care ever been a right. If you are lucky you can get an all-expense paid education in a state run school that you will do little to contribute to in either effort or substance and at some point go to work for a government agency with a strong public service employee union to protect you from being fired. (By the way, I know that there are some good people who chose government service as a career who did so out of an actual desire to serve their fellow people. I apologize to those who can genuinely claim that as their motivation).

While some may view that as a “dream” the reality is that it is a nightmare of the worst kind.

You get to choose. Every single day.

The American Dream is what you define it in your life. Having lived and worked in many countries around the world, I can assure you that it is uniquely American. And most important of all, it is worth fighting and sacrificing for each and every day.

Mister Mac

Adversity is a refining fire. 9

I achieved a minor but important breakthrough this morning at around 4:50 AM when Angus the dog decided he needed to get up and go outside.

I have been struggling for months to properly title the book project I have been working on now for about five years. The last three chapters have been the hardest since these chapters cover the most well known parts of my subject, Captain Cassin Young, US Navy Medal of Honor awardee (deceased).

The breakthrough is that I believe I have the name that fits the work I have done and best describes what I want people to see when they pick up the book.

I will reveal that in the weeks to come.

Debbie and I have tried to get into a habit each day of studying God’s word through the Bible and some study guides we purchased for individual chapters. The study has been a lot like going back to school and we have both gained much from reading and looking at the many resources. This morning’s lesson for me came from Ecclesiastes Chapter 7 verses 1-2.  These verses focus on adversity and how we are defined in its shadow.

We include a prayer each day for the country, the President and Vice President and their families and for all of those who love and protect this country.

While there are some who see nothing but hatred in this country because of the past, we see the goodness and the mercy that happens here every day. Without freedom, there is little chance for people to rise up from the ashes of adversity, no chance for charity that overcomes greed and absolutely no hope for a world that is broken in so many ways.

My ancestors came to America under very adverse circumstances and because of the land of their birth were faced with tremendous adversity. Yet they managed to use the freedoms and opportunities that were available to rise above those humble beginnings. We have doctors, lawyers, Navy, Army, and Coast Guard Officers, teachers, millworkers and business men and women of every kind in our family. Nearly all have contributed to the song we call “America the Beautiful” and every single one that is alive stands for the pledge of allegiance.

We rise or fail when we remember that adversity is the refining fire that either prepares us all for our destiny or gives us the excuse to never achieve what we should.

I am hoping to have the book completed by the end of July. Then will start the process of editing and hopefully finding the right publisher. But I am absolutely passionate about the story the book will tell and the life of Captain Cassin Young. I hope passion equals success.

Mister Mac

Cassin Young, Captain, United States Navy MOH Recipient, Information request 1

Good morning. For the past few years, I have been searching through Naval Records, newspaper articles, period books and a number of other sources to help complete the picture of one of the greatest heroes the Navy has ever produced, Captain Cassin Young. The journey has had a lot of twists and turns but I am nearing completion of the project.

I am missing one crucial element of the story that the rest hinges upon. During 1940-1942, then Commander Young was the Executive Officer of the Naval Submarine Base in New London Connecticut. He was a submariner from his earliest days in the Navy during some very pivotal times and served as a Submarine Squadron commander prior to this assignment.

But something happened at the base that changed the course of his life. I have part of the story but it comes to me from a second hand source. The only way I can validate it is to speak with a family member that can corroborate what I have found. I have reached out to them on social media and in other ways but so far no response.

So I am taking a shot in the dark.

I am asking that if you read this, you would consider sharing it to your own Blog or to any social media that you are connected to. Have them reach out to me here at theleansubmariner and I will do the rest.

When I started the project, my motivation was that so little was known about the amazing life and service of an American Hero. Last Christmas, I was given a book about Pearl Harbor and the author and one of the men he wrote about alluded to something that was both reprehensible and unthinkable. They attacked someone who had spent a lifetime preparing for just the moment that occurred on that December morning in Pearl. My book will show a different view of those events based on many sources. I feel compelled that the rest of the real story be told.

The time period Young spent in New London would help to fill in one last gap in the book. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks

Mister Mac

Things we got wrong (or did we?) Predicting the Atomic Navy (1939) Reply

Things we got wrong (or did we?)

In 1939, a book was published called “Sea Power and Today’s War” / by Fletcher Pratt

Murray Fletcher Pratt (25 April 1897 – 10 June 1956) was an American writer of science fiction, fantasy and history. He is best known for his works on naval history and on the American Civil War and for fiction written with L. Sprague de Camp. (He was also a contemporary of one of my favorite writers of all time Isaac Asimov).

This particular book was written in the summer of 1939 and was an attempt to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s navies from a technical perspective. The usual chapters on the battleship being the backbone of any world power’s navy was predominant as is to be expected from any book written before Pearl Harbor and the first gruesome years of struggle during the Second World War.

What was most interesting to me was his surprising information about potential new developments. In the latter part of his book, he discusses some possible changes that might be coming which might have an impact on the way future wars would be fought.

In a section called “Atomic Power” he notes:

“The scientists at M.I.YT in Boston, where they have a cyclotron, or atom smasher, claim to be within measurable distance of realizing the dream of tapping reserves of power within the structure of the atom. Under the impulse of war needs, which always supply a spur to invention, they might conceivably make it.

“But even if it comes the effect on naval warfare would be slow and not quite so profound as imagination likes to picture, The greatest result would, of course, be that giving every ship so powered unlimited cruising range. “Atomic power” would not be power itself, but heat – vast reserves of heat from an insignificant quantity of combustible material. A warship using atomic power would still find boilers and engines necessary; it could dispense with nothing but the present fire rooms. There would not even be much saving in weight, for an atom-smashing machine is a cumbersome and weighty device.

Thus no very small ship, such as a torpedo motorboat or submarine could use the new source of power, and it might be limited to battleships, carriers and large cruisers. For ships of these classes, it would take a good deal of time to install. Ships would either have to be taken off duties on which they were urgently needed to make the installation, or it would have to wait to be built into new craft.”

The author goes on to write about a “death ray” that uses short wave radio frequencies that was barely able to kill a mouse no less a man. His prediction was that such a ray would be centuries in the future in the making. Rocket powered planes were also beyond the reach of man’s abilities since the speed of acceleration would kill any human being and the solution to the issues lie long in the future if at all.

The most interesting thing about the book is not what he got wrong but how much he came close to getting right.

It will be interesting to see if I can find other books he wrote that may shed some light into how he knew about Atomic Power long before the Manhattan Project was known.

He was not without controversy, however.

In an article by Henry Wessells in AB Bookman’s Weekly for 30 June 1997 it was noted that “Pratt was a syndicated naval correspondent for the New York Post, and his views stirred up controversy as early as December 9, 1941, in the aftermath of his comments on Pearl Harbor and what it revealed about the state of readiness of the American Navy. He apparently lost this job after speculating incorrectly on the outcome of a naval engagement.”

His banishment must have been short lived however since he went on to write many Navy themed books and articles for a number of publications including:

    • America and Total War . New York : Smith & Durrell, 1941.
    • Ships, Men — and Bases , by Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy with Fletcher Pratt. Philadelphia : Curtis Publishing Company, 1941. An eight page pamphlet : “ This article from the April 5, 1941, issue of The Saturday Evening Post , has been reprinted for the Navy Department in the interests of National Defense. ”
    • What the Citizen Should Know About Modern War . New York : W.W. Norton, 1942.
    • The Navy Has Wings . New York : Harper, 1943.
    • U.S. Army : A Guide to Its Men and Equipment . Racine, Wisconsin : Whitman, 1943.
    • The Navy’s War . New York : Harper, 1944. With a foreword by the Honorable Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy. 14
    • My Life to the Destroyers . New York : Holt : 1944. With Captain L.A. Abercrombie.
    • Short History of the Army & Navy . Washington D.C. : Infantry Journal, 1944 (wraps).
    • Night Work : The Story of Task Force 39 . New York : Holt, 1945.
    • Empire and the Sea . Illustrated by Inga Stephens. New York : Holt, 1946.
    • Fleet Against Japan . New York : Harper, 1946.
    • The Marines’ War : An Account of the Struggle for the Pacific from Both American and Japanese Sources . New York : William Sloane Associates, Inc., 1948.

Pratt was also the inventor of a set of rules for naval war gaming, which he created before the Second World War. This was known as the “Fletcher Pratt Naval War Game” and it involved dozens of tiny wooden ships, built on a scale of one inch to 50 feet. These were spread over the floor of Pratt’s apartment and their maneuvers were calculated via a complex mathematical formula.

The full story can be found here: Fletcher Pratt’s Naval War Game (1940). A book on the Fletcher Pratt Naval Wargame

https://www.amazon.com/Fletcher-Pratts-Wargame-Wargaming-1900-1945/dp/1447518551/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1528071661&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=Fletcher+Pratt%27s+Naval+War+Game+%281940%29.+A+book+on+the+Fletcher+Pratt+Naval+Wargame+was+printed+2011

The book is probably pretty hard to find. I have a new source of reading that is called the HATHI Trust. HathiTrust began in 2008 as a collaboration of the universities of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (now the Big Ten Academic Alliance) and the University of California system to establish a repository to archive and share their digitized collections. HathiTrust quickly expanded to include additional partners and to provide those partners with an easy means to archive their digital content.

While you have to be a member to download the material, if you know what to look for (which I am still learning) an entire new world of books opens up for the dedicated researcher.

Mister Mac

 

Now More Than Ever – a Strong Navy and Peace 5

The Navy League has been tireless in its mission to support the sea services throughout the last 116 years. From its founding in 1902, they have tried to always live the spirit that Theodore Roosevelt embodied when he said “A good Navy is not a provocative of war, it is the surest guarantee of peace.”

Three years after he said those fateful words, the world was changed forever on May 27, 1905 when a smaller Japanese fleet defeated the powerful Russian Navy in the Straits of Tsushima.

This unexpected naval battle set the tone for naval conflict for the next century. It showed that a willful and resourceful nation could project sea power and influence the course of history in a way that the world would have to notice. It clearly demonstrated that no country, no matter how small or limited in resources, should ever be taken for granted.

Despite that warning, America was not ready for the Great War that was to come. We had lulled ourselves into thinking that the vastness of the oceans surrounding us would keep us from harm. We were wrong. An entirely new menace called the submarine destroyed that perception of safety once and for all. 100 years ago today, fighting men and women would serve in a cause that should have been avoidable. But the oceans brought the threat to us.

As many countries did, we relied on the promise of peace through disarmament when that war completed. The navy was shrunk and a peace dividend was expected in its place. It never came. Instead, the Axis of Japan, Italy and Germany once more used the oceans to project their power. We were ill prepared for that war too, but the drive and determination of the American people carried the day once more.

The global situation is much the same today as it was before the major wars. Countries are once more expanding their forces and influence through sea power.

  • China is pushing the boundaries in the seas and islands around her country that once enjoyed freedom;
  • A resurging and aggressive Russian Navy has a global reach and an eye on returning to their once unlimited status
  • Rogue nations that are seeking to capitalize on technology are once more challenging freedom around the globe.

 

On Memorial Day, we honor the fallen. We remember their sacrifices. But we honor and remember them best when we remain ever ready and ever vigilant. We pay them the ultimate tribute when we are once more ready to defend that which they gave everything for.

The Navy League stands with all of our sea services in paying honor and tribute to our fallen. We stand for maintaining the strongest military on the face of the planet. America stands for freedom in this world. In the face of so many challenges, maintaining that strength is the only way to maintain our freedom. America needs to be alert now more than any time in history.

Mister Mac

Attention on Deck: Mare Island Naval Cemetery Needs Your Help Reply

It is fitting on Memorial Day weekend that we honor those who have died in service to our country.

Many of us also remember those who served on active duty in peace or war time and have passed on to the final muster.

This morning, I got an email from Nestor Aliga asking for help in spreading the word about a proposal that would honor the many men who are interred at the Mare Island Naval Cemetery that has been forgotten by the country.

I am including Nestor’s email and contact information (with his permission) so that you can help to make this dream a reality.

I hope you will consider joining me in this mission.

Mister Mac

 

Dear fellow Veterans, Service members, and Friends,

The Mare Island Naval Cemetery (MINC) is the oldest military cemetery on the west coast. It is the final resting place for over 800 of our country’s heroes who served since the War of 1812. Designated as a National Historic Landmark, three Congressional Medal of Honor recipients – James Cooney, William Halford, and Alexander Parker – are buried there.

PUBLIC LAW 93-43 dated June 18, 1973 mandated that jurisdiction over naval cemeteries – including MINC – must immediately be transferred from the Navy to the Veterans Affairs (VA). However, that law was somehow ignored by the Navy and the VA in 1973 and during the Base Realignment and Closure process in 1993. The federal government left MINC behind and did not provide any funding to restore it to honorable conditions nor any support for its immense ongoing maintenance.

On April 18, 2018, the City of Vallejo stated its willingness to relinquish control of MINC to the federal government. This letter was critical because it cleared a “critical path” for our Representative Mike Thompson (CA-05) to introduce H.R. 5588 on April 23, 2018 and for our Senator Dianne Feinstein to introduce S.2881 on May 17, 2018. Their bills direct the VA to seek an agreement with and for the City of Vallejo to transfer control of MINC to the VA. MINC would be under the VA National Cemetery Administration – whose mission is to maintain our Veterans’ cemeteries as national shrines.

State Senator Bill Dodd and Assembly member Tim Grayson – co-authors of California (CA) Senate Joint Resolution #26 which urges all of CA’s federally elected officials to support the transfer of MINC to the VA – fully support H.R.5588 and S.2881. The CA State Commanders Veterans Council – sanctioned by CA Military and Veterans Code Sect. 73.4 and the official voice of CA’s 1.8 million Veterans – also endorses H.R.5588 and S.2881.

So what are the next critical steps and how can you our fellow Americans assist with a fast-break?

Go to this Navy League website:

http://cqrcengage.com/navyleague/app/onestep-write-a-letter?2&engagementId=476893

Then write this message:

Please co-sponsor H.R.5588 and/or S.2881 today so they can be hotlined and passed in 2018.

OR go to:

https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

https://www.house.gov/representatives

Select your elected officials, then write this message:

Please co-sponsor H.R.5588 and/or S.2881 today so they can be hotlined and passed in 2018.

We ardently believe that this legislation can be done in 2018 like what happened with the Clark Veterans Cemetery in the Philippines – which was abandoned in 1991. In 2012, H.R.4168 “Caring for the Fallen Act” and S.2320 “Remembering America’s Forgotten Veterans Cemetery Act of 2012” were introduced, voted before the year-end recess, and Public Law 112-260 was signed in 2013. That cemetery is back to national shrine conditions.

Don’t our American Veterans buried in the oldest military cemetery on the west coast deserve as much respect as our Veterans buried in the Philippines or in Europe or at our national cemeteries?

We Americans are certainly capable of flexing our muscle to “make right a historic wrong.” I urge all of us to urgently act and “show-of-force” our own American power!

Very Respectfully,

Nestor Aliga

Nestor.Aliga@comcast.net 

707-853-0062

The Line 13

As Memorial Day approaches, I know that all of us will be busy with tributes, ceremonies and parades of honor. At least I hope that we all would be so engaged. The truth is that many will be more focused on picnics and pools, parties and getaways, sales and sports. How far away from our own heritage have we drifted.

I will have the honor of participating in the Elizabeth Parade and Ceremony in Elizabeth PA. The ceremony goes back as far as anyone can remember and has been a regular part of my families tradition for nearly as long. I hope to be able to introduce a new poem written today for the occasion.

This poem is a reflection based on a vision I had about sailors today. I have copywrited the work so if you feel the desire to share, please contact me directly.

The Line

Mister Mac

“My child is a submariner… I’ll sleep when they come home” 5

I will never forget that day in June 1972 when my parents came to Pittsburgh International Airport to see me off on my way to Boot Camp. I was not the first in my family to leave home (big brother went to a nearby college three years earlier) but I was the first to go into the military. Dad had proudly served in World War 2 and I did not want to miss the adventure that I knew lay ahead of me.

Back in those days, the families could go to the gate with no problems and Mom, Dad, and my high school sweetheart all came to see me leave to go to the faraway land of Lincoln where the Navy had one of its three Boot Camps. (I had asked for Orlando and San Diego so of course was sent to Great Lakes outside of Chicago IL.) There were a lot of hugs and a few kisses and then it was up the ramp. I turned just before I went through the door and saw them all standing there. The girlfriend was sobbing, Dad had his arm around Mom, and Mom just had this sad look on her face. One of her children was leaving forever and he would never be the same again.

The next six months were fast and filled with all kinds of new adventures. Boot Camp, Machinist Mate A school, and temporary duty when I failed to make the needed requirements for Nuc school. Somewhere in the whirlwind of activity, someone sat down with me and placed a pile of paperwork in front of me. Since I was no longer going to nuclear power training, there were some forms to sign and the need to refocus on a different path. One of the options was to volunteer to undergo submarine training and ultimately serve on a boat. I will freely admit that I didn’t give it much thought at the time. The idea of making an additional fifty five dollars a month seemed to be the biggest motivator at the time. The decision to volunteer would change my life. And it would change my Mom’s life, too.

I will freely admit that I have never been a Mom of a submariner. But I did have a Mom that had two boys on board submarines who would eventually serve for over twenty years. For nearly four of those years, my brother Tom was on the same boat with me.

I knew from the first minute I told them that Mom was worried. As a kid growing up, we were not allowed to have guns or motorcycles since they were too dangerous. She would wait up for me to come home from dates to make sure I was safe and no harm would come to me. I suppose that is what normal mothers do.

Mom used to worry, I am sure, but despite serving on a combined total of nine submarines, we both came home each and every time. The boats we served on had the highest level of quality of any that had ever been built. The training is and has been the finest in the entire world. Between Tom and I, I am sure that we went to over a hundred different schools and classes. The mission could be a bit dicey from time to time but the emphasis was always on safety.

Communications were not always easy back in the day. There was no internet and phone calls were pretty expensive. So we wrote a lot and called when we absolutely needed to. The infrequent visits home would be celebrations that we survived another mission. But I know now that the times for her had to be pretty hard. She was always enough of a patriot that she never complained about the life we had chosen. Like our wives, she was as much a part of the service as those of us that wore the uniforms.

So how did my Mom handle things?

While we were deployed, Mom worked with the veterans groups in the community and did her best to support active duty men and women with her volunteer work, contributions and activism. She focused on the things around her and remembered every day that her boys were volunteers that did so twice: once to become a United States Navy sailor and once to become a volunteer in the submarine force.

I pray for all of the sons and daughters who go to sea in submarines and ships.

There are no guarantees. But know that we have the finest Navy and submarine force anywhere in the world and their main focus is and should be on the mission to protect this country. But I also pray for all the Moms who sit at home and wait for their child to return safely home. When they do, you may notice they are a little different from when they were younger. That can’t be helped. They have seen and done things they will never be able to fully explain. But in their hearts, they are still your children and still love you for all of your sacrifices that allowed them to be who they are today.

Thanks Mom.

Mister Mac

“Brandywine, Brandywine this is Singing Bush. Gertrude Check.” 3

There should be no question in anyone’s mind that submarines are one of the most challenging duties any person could ever volunteer for. The men and now women who sail on these unique ships do so with the understanding that all care has been taken to provide for their safety but in the end, safety takes a place in line behind the word “mission”. I have spoken with combat veterans who faced live fire who told me that they could not see themselves serving on board one of these underwater craft. Yet year over year since 1900, American Bluejackets and Officers have raised their hands and taken an oath to defend the country while serving within the confines of a steel tube, closed on both ends, surrounded by the darkness of the world’s largest battlegrounds: the oceans.

When things go according to plan, the crew submerges the ship, conducts their business in silence and returns to some port with stories they are not permitted to tell. Like the contents of a black hole, you are aware that something happened there, but it is only for those who participate to understand the whole story. Some spend a few years in this life and some spend a career. All have a unique story and all have seen and done things that range from the tedious to the terrifying.

Sadly, some join a special group that is known to the submarine family as “On Eternal Patrol”. The unfortunate members who gain this status gain entry in ways that are the stuff of every submariner’s nightmares. Whether it was fire, flooding, loss of propulsion, an enemy attack, or any of a hundred things that went wrong, the boat often serves as a forever resting place for their physical remains. http://www.oneternalpatrol.com/uss-scorpion-589.htm

The Navy marks this day, May 22nd as the official loss date of the USS Scorpion. This is the official US Navy History of the USS Scorpion

“USS SCORPION was laid down on 20 August 1958 by the Electric Boat Division, General Dynamics Corp., Groton, Conn.; launched on 19 December 1959; sponsored by Mrs. Elizabeth S. Morrison; and commissioned on 29 July 1960, Comdr. Norman B. Bessac in command.

Assigned to Submarine Squadron 6, Division 62, SCORPION departed New London, Conn., on 24 August for a two-month deployment in European waters. During that period, she participated in exercises with units of the 6th Fleet and of other NATO navies. After returning to New England in late October, she trained along the eastern seaboard until May 1961, then crossed the Atlantic again for operations which took her into the summer. On 9 August, she returned to New London and, a month later, shifted to Norfolk, Va.

With Norfolk her home port for the remainder of her career, SCORPION specialized in the development of nuclear submarine warfare tactics. Varying her role from hunter to hunted, she participated in exercises which ranged along the Atlantic coast and in the Bermuda and Puerto Rican operating areas; then, from June 1963 to May 1964, she interrupted her operations for an overhaul at Charleston, S.C. Resuming duty off the eastern seaboard in late spring, she again interrupted that duty from 4 August to 8 October to make a transatlantic patrol. In the spring of 1965, she conducted a similar patrol.

During the late winter and early spring of 1966, and again in the fall, she was deployed for special operations. Following the completion of those assignments, her commanding officer received the Navy Commendation Medal for outstanding leadership, foresight, and professional skill. Other SCORPION officers and men were cited for meritorious achievement.

On 1 February 1967, SCORPION entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for another extended overhaul. In late October, she commenced refresher training and weapons system acceptance tests. Following type training out of Norfolk, she got underway on 15 February 1968 for a Mediterranean deployment. She operated with the 6th Fleet, into May, then headed west. On 21 May, she indicated her position to be about 50 miles south of the Azores. Six days later, she was reported overdue at Norfolk.

A search was initiated, but, on 5 June, SCORPION and her crew were declared “presumed lost.” Her name was struck from the Navy list on 30 June.

The search continued, however; and, at the end of October, the Navy’s oceanographic research ship, MIZAR (T-AGOR 11) located sections of SCORPION’s hull in more than 10,000 feet of water about 400 miles southwest of the Azores. Subsequently, the Court of Inquiry was reconvened and other vessels, including the submersible TRIESTE were dispatched to the scene, but, despite the myriad of data and pictures collected and studied, the cause of the loss remains a mystery.”

For an unusually long period, beginning shortly before midnight on 20 May and ending after midnight 21 May, Scorpion attempted to send radio traffic to Naval Station Rota, but was only able to reach a Navy communications station in Nea Makri, Greece, which forwarded Scorpion’s messages to ComSubLant. Lt. John Roberts was handed Commander Slattery’s last message, that he was closing on the Soviet submarine and research group, running at a steady 15 knots at 350 feet “to begin surveillance of the Soviets”. Six days later the media reported she was overdue at Norfolk.

The message read: “Brandywine, Brandywine this is Singing Bush. Gertrude Check.”

Over the years, many stories have emerged from people who were on active duty at that time that tell of a harrowing choice of alternatives to explain the “mystery”. I will wait to go on my own personal “Eternal Patrol” and try and find the crewmembers themselves to find the real answer. Until then , I just know they are gone. They are heroes in the sense that they gave their all for their country. For that reason, I salute their memory and pray for those who still traverse the oceans in these underwater vessels. May the number of dives and surfaces always be equal in the end.

Mister Mac