Thursday, February 7, 2013

God Bless Senior NCOs!

One of the few "up sides" to the economic woes here is that the Greek satellite TV service, NOVA, as well as our island movie houses, have begun showing a lot of "classic" and older hit movies.  Since the royalties are lower, they can show "more for less".  (We have one "commercial" movie house, and the municipality shows a weekly movie in two towns, with the proceeds going to philanthropic ends.)

So, what does this have to do with Senior NCOs?  Last night, NOVA broadcast "Crimson Tide", the story of a conflict between an "Old Navy" nuclear sub commander and his "New Navy" XO when faced with a "coin toss" decision as to whether or not a nuke salvo should be launched.The CO states that they will launch, as their last successfully received message said so, and the XO says there is reason to think that a garbled subsequent message could be a launch cancellation, and thus will not concur.  There ensues a verbal battle between CO and XO over the "right and wrong" of the launch, which is time sensitive in the plot, with the XO ultimately "relieving" the CO and taking command, cancelling the launch order and maneuvering the sub to try to get a another shot at receiving the garbled message.  Obviously, the officers and men of the boat are cast as "taking sides" in the conflict, debating wheter to launch or not. 

However, it is the Chief of the Boat who makes the most profound statement.  When the XO thanks him for supporting the XO's decision to "relieve" the Captain, the COB simply said, "I did not side with you sir.  I side with the Navy, and the Navy says there must be CO and XO agreement to launch.  By the book, that means no launch, no matter what I think."  And then the COB performed his duties under the XO turned CO in his already demonstrated, impeccable manner, while it was clear that other officers and men were supporting a "cause" or personality as the story plays out.

My bet is that, amongst all the moral and ethical debate of the consequences of either option, most people miss how significant this one statement by the COB really was.   The only "lawful order", by the book, was not to launch.  Any further ethical, tactical or strategic debate over potential outcomes, was irrelevant.  All so often a good Sr NCO is a most invaluable "right arm", the writers scripted this COB well, and made me mindful of the Sr NCOs that aided me so exquisitely over the years.   Roughly three sentences captured the essence of what it is all about, and why guidance such as that was so valuable to so many Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. 


  1. Hackman and Washington made a good combination here.

    And here's your CotB, George Dzundza


  2. One of the things that used to really bug me about many of the Command Sergeants Major I worked under was their willingness to go along to get along with the officers they worked for. There were still a few; this guy (, Tadeusz Gaweda was my 3rd BDE SGM in the early Eighties. A real soldier, and not afraid to tell an officer the truth whether that officer wanted to hear it or not.

    I wonder, without the slow infusion of the draftees and the pressure of "professionalism", how many of this kind of senior NCO are left?

  3. Only caught parts of the flick on TV rerun. But I have posted the book it was based on to my reading list. I assume that the author, Richard Henrick, has experience in the submarine service. He has many other novels of that genre and has been called "a recognized master of submarine adventure".

    I like the play on words between the film title, the name of the boat 'USS Alabama', and the nickname of the athletic teams of the University of Alabama.

  4. mike-

    Very little (like almost ZILCH) info on Henrick's bio, and not one of his books has been published in eBook format! Gonna have to wait until our next trip to The Colonies to gather up more reading from him.