We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France


Weekend Wanderings: Mid-December 2012

It’s been a while since I’d posted a Weekend Wanderings, so let me share some of the interesting things I’ve found of late:

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Naval Institute Annual Meeting
11 April 2012, 15:49
Filed under: Books, Navy | Tags: ,

Today, I spent the day in Crystal City, attending the 138th Annual Meeting of the US Naval Institute. I had joined the Institute a few years ago, after getting Gators of Neptune as a Christmas present. I’ve joined a few other organizations to help increase my knowledge, get exposure to veterans and, perhaps, an audience for this blog and future writings. I belong to the Society of the 3rd Infantry Division due to the Operation Dragoon and Colmar Pocket seminars that I help out with, and I belong to the Marine Corps Association & Foundation due to my interest in their history. I expect I will continue to add to this list as time passes.

The meeting was terrific. VADM Daley started the meeting by reading the Mission and Vision statements of the Institute aloud. This was music to my ears, as last year there was a tremendous alarm when the Board had decided to reword the mission to identify the Institute as an advocate for sea power (I read about it first on CDR Salamander’s blog.) The mission has returned to proper focus after much pressure from the membership:

To providing an independent forum for those who dare to read, think, speak and write in order to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues critical to national defense.

I think the experience of the past year has done a great deal to improve the Institute. The uprising of the membership may have served as a reminder of exactly what it is that the Institute is – a membership organization. The strength of the Institute is its members, as VADM Daley pointed out in his comments. He noted how the staff has been energized by the feedback from the membership and that communication is central to the completion of the Mission.

One of the key goals of this association of naval minds (officer AND enlisted) is to expand the active duty membership. It was noted that USNI is basically invisible to the junior officers and enlisted personnel of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. That needs to change. With the recent update of the website (launched last Friday) and with plans to roll out an app with the next 2 to 2-1/2 months, they’re making strides to reach them. The Admiral also noted that members could sponsor undergraduate gift memberships ($20 for students, about 5000 students in NROTC, USNA and USCGA) to expand exposure to new officers. So, if anyone has about $100,000 and wants all those undergrads to become members, bring it on!

In the discussion about the prime value that the Institute provides, RADM “T.C.” Cropper cited “Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal”, which he uses every day to train his leaders how to fight. Of course, there was a little chuckle at this moment, because that particular book is not published by the Naval Institute Press, though it does exemplify the type of books the Press publishes and, as another member in attendance noted, the Institute “owns the bibliography” having published so many books on naval history in the past.

Admiral Daley noted that he expects a rich harvest of leadership lessons from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq from junior officers who fought those wars and the Naval Institute Press stands ready to publish those works. A common theme of the day was that the Institute is a dynamic entity that is dependent upon an engaged membership. Having met a few of the younger authors at the Awards Dinner (CDR Matthew Harper, who wrote “Chinese Missiles and the Walmart Factor” and CDR In H. Ha, who wrote “Away All… Hovercraft!“), I know that they’re already engaging some bright young minds. I have great expectations going forward.

I would encourage everyone to go check out the Institute, read some articles, buy some books (eBooks even!) and consider joining. You’ll find a serious-minded dedicated community standing ready to share knowledge and welcome new ideas.

For another report on the meeting, check out the Steel Jawed Scribe’s blog.



Do harsh environments produce strength?

When you visit a vineyard, especially in France, one of the shocking things is often how difficult and unforgiving the soil appears. Often, rocky, sloped hillsides that drain water like a sieve, lying exposed to the sun produce the grapes and, thus, the wines of greatest character. In Bordeaux, the sweet wines are the product of what winemakers call “noble rot”. In difficult environments, the skilled winemaker makes magnificent wines.

I recently attended the US Naval Institute’s Honors Night, at which it honors authors of articles and books published by the Naval Institute. I believe that it was in VADM Daley’s remarks that mention was made of the current fiscal situation and looming belt-tightening in the Navy. As I sat, I thought about the recent talk Dr. David Ulbrich gave in the Perspectives in Military History Lecture Series up in Carlisle (you can watch it), which is based on his book on Thomas Holcomb, Commandant of the Marine Corps in the lead up to WWII. Lean times in the Marine Corps, yet the source of many of the ideas that formed the framework of the wartime Marine Corps.

I think about Marine boot camp. It is not by gentle guidance that they turn civilians into Marines. It is by forcing them through the crucible that they produce a finely-honed blade.

So, while the money may be tight, I have faith that our military will dispense with nonsense and trivia, concentrate mental effort on the mission and produce the leaders and the guidelines that we will need moving forward.

Of course, it ain’t gonna be easy, but if anyone told you life was going to be easy, they were lying.




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