Captain Jim Patton is a retired submarine officer who is an active consultant in submarine matters to government and industry. He commanded USS PARGO (SSN 650) and is a frequent contributor to THE SUBMARINE REVIEW.
In any good submarine, there is almost invariably a group of three fairly senior Lieutenants who have served on another submarine or two, consider themselves extraordinarily well qualified at both ends of the ship, and, as a group, are as cocky and arrogant as any stereotypical naval aviator as made famous by the movie Top Gun. It is right and proper that they be so, for the alternative, just as with pilots, is probably failure under stress.
These modem day Three Musketeers truly believe (and again on a good submarine the Skipper lets them) that they are the true architects of the boat’s successes and protectors of its reputation, but are magnanimously willing to let the CO take the credit- since he really is a good guy and was probably a pretty good Lieutenant a long time ago before he got old. They mentor and feel responsible for the younger, unqualified officers and protect them from anachronistic meddling by the well-meaning but somewhat dull and unimaginative LCDRs- who, after all, with the real running of the ship in capable 0-3 hands, are free to spend inordinate amounts of time fretting about all sorts of trivial and esoteric matters. The probability that they the Musketeers might someday have to pass through this 0-4 wicket is vaguely accepted, but is tempered by the assumption that they will be different than the current crop, and will continue doing what they are presently doing but with a different collar device and higher pay.
The crew realizes that these three are the virtual shakers and movers of the boat, and closely identify with which of them is their section OOD or EOOW. The healthy and constructive competition that emits sparks between these Lieutenants having permeated into their watchstanders, they too try to best one another with oolies – obscure factoids about the ship and its systems. A word of praise or encouragement from these officers is treasured, and even a disapproving look has the power to initially crush, then spur to greater effort.
Meanwhile, the CO, who had unobtrusively orchestrated this consortium of middle-management phenoms- and really was a pretty good Lieutenant before he got old – quietly sits at the conn, on the bridge and in the wardroom, takes extraordinarily good reports, watches them play like a Mother bear watching her cubs and thinks, in the words of Mel Brooks, “It’s good to be King”.
Thus is the nature of a good submarine’s Three Musketeers. Not all boats have them, but all boats should aspire to create them.
Mr. Jay W. Dietrich
CAPT Yanai Zvi, Israeli Navy (Ret)
CAPT Wilson Fritchman, USN (Ret)
ADM A. Clemins, USN (Ret)
Mr. Victor E. Hulina
RADM Lloyd R. Vasey, USN (Ret)
CAPT Nelson A. Blish, USN (Ret)
LCDR Richard Hausvik, USN (Ret)
CAPT Brian T. Howes, USN (Ret)
CAPT Richard J. Reuss, USN (Ret)
RADM Dickinson Smith, USN (Ret)
Mr. Brian W. Wynn
STl(SS) John I. Wynn, USN (Ret)
LTJG Gary M. Trammell (SS) (Ret)