One of the refrains we heard often from the commanders on the USS Carl Vinson was “it’s about the sailors.” (here’s the XO-Executive Officer, Capt. Slaughter saying as much in his welcoming remarks)
After 24 hours on the ship, you start to see what they mean.
Here are 19 and 20 year olds with REAL responsibility and REAL accountability.
I asked the CO, Capt. Whalen if the Navy was different today than 30 years ago. You know, with all of the talk about Millenials and lack of responsibility. Also about Facebook/Social Media.
He said that when he first took command, he was against permitting Facebook access on the ship, but was persuaded otherwise and changed his mind. He believes it has been good for morale.
I met one Gunner’s Mate, G2 (I think) from East Los Angeles who grew up in a gang-ridden area. He had been kicked out of high school. Friends back in the ‘hood who are “on the wrong path.”
Somehow, through a bit of luck (he had an intervening aunt) and some strength of character, he ends up in the Navy and decides to take control of his life.
Now, he’s in charge of keeping the machine guns on the ship operational, he’s well-spoken, confident, and optimistic about his future.
Whether it was the Culinary Specialists who served us dinner, the chef who went to the same high school as my dad in San Antonio, TX, the medical personnel…the stories and the sailors made the ship special.
You often hear the Armed Forces promote themselves as a pathway for people to raise their standing in life and, being the marketer I am, you know there’s some truth but that there may be a bit too much polish at times.
Obviously, it’s not always the case and there are people who decide after a while that “they don’t want to be in the Navy,” but I couldn’t help feel pride and excitement about how these young people are doing something about their station in life.
It makes you think about things like welfare and the meme that is making its way around many circles of “the challenges of managing millenials.”
From what I saw on the Vinson, with some structure, guidance, training, and commanders who genuinely care (more on that later), there is at least some group of people who are taking ownership and pride in their work (notice the guy whose job it is to repaint the seal of the ship).
However, the commanders were right:
It’s about the sailors.
And if you’d like to hear Capt. Slaughter for yourself, here’s the video