I have read a number of stories about Commanding Officers, Executive Officers, and Command Master Chiefs, being relieved of their positions of authority on Naval ships over the last few years. It seems to me, a casual, but very interested, observer, that this trend is increasing at an alarming rate. I cannot help but wonder how many other officers have been relieved for cause, at sea and ashore, that we do not hear about in the news. The reasons reported in the news are varied, but they all boil down to a breach of good order and discipline!
First, let me state, having been a Command Master Chief at sea for a Destroyer and an A-6 squadron, that Command at Sea is a demanding, difficult, self-sacrificing, position that demands more from the individual than anyone who has not been a Commanding Officer at sea can imagine. Long, sleepless, stressful hours, worrying about every small detail. No rest, even when in home port or on leave. Yes, the Commanding Officer is responsible for what happens on and to their ship, even when they are on leave or at home on the weekend! This level of responsibility leads to CO's staying on or close to their ships during the entire command period! Think of it, no rest, no escape from the pressure of command for 24-30 months! That is a recipe for disaster.
Then, let's discuss what I believe is the real cause of these lapses in good order and discipline. I believe the total blurring and erasing of the lines between the different levels in the chain of command are the exact reason for the total breakdown in the exercise of good order and discipline. Let me draw an analogy. When I was a young GMG3 on the USS Stein, the Gunnery Officer, a fresh young Ensign, was just a couple of years older than me. We were having a division party in Singapore. Naturally, we were drinking heavily, as was the custom back then. I called my Division Officer by his first name, and my Chief beat the crap out of me. All the time explaining to me that Officers were called Mr. Jones or Ensign Jones, and who did I think I was calling him by his first name when the Chief did not even dare to call this young Ensign by his first name. The Chief was old enough to be his father, but he still respected his position as the Division Officer.
Today, Chiefs are standing every officer watch, including, I am told, Command Duty Officer of a ship. This was traditionally a position help by Department heads in the line of command succession! Why, because they are empowered and qualified to get the ship underway and fight the ship in the absence of the Commanding Officer and the Executive Officer. Now a Chief is doing that? Why is this detrimental to the exercise of good order and discipline? Because the Chiefs and Officers now call themselves by their first names. They have become "Familiar" with each other, thus blurring or erasing that line in the chain of command. First Class Petty Officers are standing Junior Officer of the Deck underway, again, blurring a line that is watched by the rest of the crew. These blurred lines confuse the entire crew and place everyone on the same plane. Thus, we are all equal and all "Buddies". So, when I correct Seaman Jones for some minor infraction, she says, " Don't be so picky Bill", instead of, "Yes Sir Mr. Smith". If you are not military, you may not understand or see the difference. But look at our schools. There is NO discipline in the school system and our schools are a combat zone. Students are not respectful or frightened of the consequences of their actions against other students or teachers. When I went to school, teachers wore business attire, were addressed as Mr. Jones, and their authority was absolute. Being sent to the Principles office was a frightening event, even in High School. Now I challenge you to pick a student from a teacher! They all dress like bums and call each other by their first names! Some teacher and students even have sex! See, there is no division and therefore no good order and discipline.
Again, why is a strict chain of command so necessary for good order and discipline? Simple, everyone must know who is in charge, all the time. Ashore, on the ship, on liberty, in the mall, everywhere! That is one reason I so dislike the new powder blue camo uniform. Everyone looks the same, therefore everyone IS the same, and we can all just ignore the rules and customs! The Marine Corps does not seem to have these problems. They have not changed their uniform in one hundred years! Of course, the Marine Corps does not have a problem with all of their male members shaving either! Maybe they screen their people for pseudophaliculitus before enlistment. NOT!. It is discipline!! A Marine Corporal has a much authority and respect from his/her troops as today's Chief in the Navy. Heaven forbid, a young Marine should run afoul of the Gunnery Sargent!
How shall we fix this issue and re institute good order and discipline? Put everyone back in their places and hold them accountable for their piece of the puzzle. Yes, it will hurt for a little while, but it will keep us from firing good Officers from Command Positions and maybe, it will save some sailors lives when the shooting starts. And trust me, it will start again, soon, I am afraid.
What think ye?