Can We Help It to Continue?
Service in the armed forces of our nation provides the individual with many opportunities and rewards that are extolled by the individual services’ various recruiting organizations and our military leadership. These benefits are offered by a country that appreciates the fact that this world is still a dangerous place, and that the true cost of peace is strength. Strength of our armed forces is derived from several sources, which includes the personnel themselves, the equipment available for their use, and the national political will to employ that strength.
Personnel strength can be measured in sheer numbers of people, the training and education they have achieved, the quality of their leadership, and their morale at any given time. All of these factors, when coupled with the most appropriate equipment for each given situation, provides our nation! capability for response, when mandated.
One of the most significant factors in a successful war-fighting military organization is the interacting relationship between officers and enlisted personnel. Each has a long-standing and sound relationship and each bears significant responsibilities towards the other. There is no single military outfit that can function properly without the dedicated contributions of both parts of the equation-and all of the professionals involved are very aware of that fact.
Having said the above, let us now turn to the specific interactions and relationships between enlisted personnel and officers on board USN submarines. The very confined environment of a submarine, coupled with lengthy voyages of those vessels, provide a forced familiarity that cannot be avoided. After a World War II war patrol, 30, 60, or even 90 days of continuous submerged operations, or a peacetime six month deployment from home port, it is not at all unusual for many men in a specific submarine to be intimately aware of other mens personal lives or habits. This applies to officer or enlisted men alike-and between either. A healthy outgrowth of this camaraderie can be one of mutual admiration for another’s abilities, particularly regarding such items as intellect, sense of humor, personal dedication, etc.
During the constant training and operations involved in all submarine operations, each enlisted man and officers contribution to the success of the team effort is obvious for all to observe. The newest enlisted mans efforts to become qualified for his Silver Dolphins and the youngest officed similar work towards earning his Gold Dolphins are under constant scrutiny by everyone. Each person on board works to gain acceptance by the others, and they respond in a similar manner. Check points are established to ensure progress is steady, laggards are suitably motivated, and rewards are offered for meeting or exceeding goals. These relationships have been in existence throughout the long history of the U.S .. Navy Submarine Force, and are expected to continue. A three word description of this effort could be pride and professionalism.
These words are the cornerstones in the life of the successful active duty submarine officer and enlisted man, alike. They echo in their daily relationships at sea and often when ashore in a military environment. However, when those men take off their uniforms during their personal liberty or leave time on the beach, in spite of military law requirements never ceasing, the close working relationship that existed when actively involved in the military arena is not required or expected to continue. In other words, the familiarity found at sea is not required, desired, or even considered necessary in the personal social lives of either. When absent from the ship, modem civilian social mores and values provide relevant emphasis on patterns of daily behavior. In spite of current efforts to normalize our democracy, the normal social strata defined by such things as education, income, personal or professional responsibilities, or organizational memberships, become some of the understandable defining guidelines for their behavior.
There are three major national organizations that exist to perpetuate the memory and serve to support the U.S.Navy’s Submarine Force. Each of them has their own purposes, creed, or charter, and slightly different membership requirements. There are active duty and former submarine officers and submarine enlisted men as members of each of these groups. The Naval Submarine League (NSL) has many submarine-supportive members who have never seen a real submarine. The NSL also has Corporate memberships. Some women belong as members of a “ladies auxiliary” to the Submarine Veterans of World War II (Sub Vets, WWII), in strong support of their husband! membership. Submarine Veterans, Incorporated (Sub Vets, Inc.) is growing and picking up many areas of responsibility being passed along by the inexorably shrinking Sub Vets, WWII. Each of these groups has its own emphasis on social interaction, ranging from intensive to virtually non-existent. Participation varies by both the organization itself, and within each geographic location. Membership in any of these organizations can be relatively inexpensive and require very little in the way of personal commitment of time or money.
Recent interesting statistics clearly indicate that the number of our nationals elected representatives with any former service in one or the branches or the armed forces is decreasing rapidly. Additionally, members of the administrative staffs that support those successful political professionals are also markedly deficient in any background military experience or understanding, whatsoever. In fact, more and more of these two groups that control our defense strength and ultimate future itself, have their own heritage in the turbulent times of the 1960s and 1970s, when military recruiters’ cars were being fashionably overturned and burned on our nationals campuses, ROTC units were being stoned or disbanded, and successful draft-dodging was a survival art-form.
What can we do to make sure that our current submarine sailors, enlisted and officer, are aware that those of us in these three vibrant organizations are working hard (and together) to support them? This is especially true in these days of dwindling national fiscal resources and the ill-perceived notion by many that threats to our nation’s security no longer exist.
A partial answer to the foregoing question lies in the two following thoughts:
1. Let us (the three submarine outfits) strengthen and share each of our membership base as much as possible. Increased membership numbers will increase revenues and if we continue to improve quantity, we will most certainly be able to manage quality.
2. Strong, cohesive and coordinated support or the current active duty Submarine Force by all three of these organizations will provide much greater opportunity for recognition and respect by our nation! political administrators. Another word for this is clout. This unified endeavor will be readily noted by our active duty Submarine Force.
To get us on a track for better communications and coordination, the following suggestions are offered for consideration by the NSL, Submarine Veterans of World War II, and Submarine Veterans, Incorporated:
1. Each continue to maintain their current membership policies, but advertise as widely as possible to the general public and active duty Submarine Force regarding their respective organizations. Present a united front regarding the cohesiveness of the three associations.
2. Encourage a minimum of one combined annual meeting each year, on a local basis. Each organization to get a minimum of 33 percent of meeting time to show and tell. The goal is to simply establish communications and provide growing friendship. Rotate the hosting organization on successive years.
3. Establish a joint annual meeting between the top national officers of all three groups. The goal would be to discuss support for the current U.S. Navy Submarine Force and to share in an understanding of each others major missions, etc. Promulgate results of meeting to respective memberships, to show solidarity of purpose.
There can be many discussions regarding the melding of former submarine officers and former submarine enlisted men and current submarine officers and current submarine enlisted men and civilians and contractors and other patriotic USA citizens in our three organizations. It is submitted that there is no doubt that many current and former enlisted men do not relish any relationship whatsoever with officers, other than the minimum required for active duty. It is further submitted that there is no doubt that many current and former officers similarly do not relish any relationship whatsoever with enlisted men, other than the minimum required for active duty.
On the other hand, there are some of each (officers and enlisted men) who do enjoy a limited social relationship among-st the others, most particularly after they have left their active duty for whatever reason. These are also the officers and enlisted men who hold a mature understanding of the appropriate relationship at all times, and genuinely respect the roles of the other. Invariably, each of these submarine men have, at some time or another, had the lives of all of their shipmates in their own hands at sea – and sharing a social Dr. Pepper or two at a combined meeting of officer and enlisted submariners is really not that big of a problem. It is therefore postulated that these are the desired men for whom membership in any of our three outfits would prove most beneficial. All would be welcome, and all are needed, if we are to support today’s Submarine Force pride and professionalism with a truly coordinated united effort.