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The Navy and the Submarine Force are facing an indefinite future state of both violence and something less than violent war. Given this environment, we would benefit from a better, more mature discussion of the bridge between encouraging aggressive, innovative leaders who are not adverse to experimenting and allowing mistakes, on the one hand, and fostering a standard approach of deliberately judging the potential costs and consequences of endeavors where failure can result in lives at risk. There is a lot at stake in getting this formula right. If we become too conservative, we will become relatively stale and impotent, and drive away good Sailors who want to be part of an exciting, winning team. If we get too aggressive, we can end up with more disasters at sea, ultimately undermining the public’s confidence in our institution. This is a core issue for us.

It is also an issue that will remain elusive to clearly capture and define. The many communities in the Navy will each have their own corporate view. More importantly, the very nature of the Navy is to distribute the interpretation and execution of leadership policy to ship/squadron commanding officers, of which there are hundreds. But we can collectively focus on the issue in a continuing way to keep continual awareness and constructive thinking at work.

The USS GREENEVILLE tragedy has caused me to think more on the natural tension between inspiring and innovative leadership, on the one hand, and mature risk versus gain assessment by our sea going leaders. One way the Submarine Force can get traction here is to use the seminar method to challenge our leadership on scenarios that cause them to have to really think about risk versus gain. But first a word of caution. When I was a commanding officer I was frustrated when the Squadron/Group would hold CO meetings that I would label as mechanical in subject, such as a reiteration of recent message guidance on what has gone wrong lately, etc. When I grew up and became a squadron commander I would collaborate with the other local unit commander to hold CO training that was battle/deployment tactics focused , and encouraged participation in a learning environment aimed at creating new value. The stimulation factor was there or we didn’t schedule the meeting to happen. Hopefully I will continue in this way as a group commander.

So with the need to keep the training stimulating and participatory in mind, here are some candidate examples:

  • Surfaced submarine operations in challenging environments
  • Force projection
  • Tactical innovations during workups for patrol or deployment
  • Tactical innovations during deployment or patrol
  • Search and rescue by submarines
  • Inspiring the crew
  • Inspirational engagement with the public

We are commencing to work our way through this list at Submarine Group NINE. Hopefully it will serve a useful focusing purpose in achieving a balance in our leadership challenges.


The Naval Submarine League is building a display of current submarine uniform insignia from all countries that have submarines. This display will be exhibited at our annual symposiums and housed at League headquarters. According to Pete Prichard, in his book, Submarine Badges and Insignia of the World, (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Atglen, PA) over fifty countries have had submarines since their invention. Anyone having current foreign submarine uniform insignia they would be willing to donate is asked to contact League headquarters at (703) 256-0891 or 1-877-280-SUBS.

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