Command at sea is the ultimate career goal for all naval officers. However, an alarming number of officers assigned to command various units of the United States Navy have failed to complete their command tours successfully. This qualitative study presents the views of a sixteen former ship commanding officers on meeting the challenges of Command in the first decade of the 21st century. Commanding officers identified challenges that reflected the pressures from shifting social, professional, and technological developments. Analysis of their reported experiences validated long-standing traditions and practices of those who have commanded at sea and generated deeper understanding for appreciating the path and preparation for command. Commanding officers make significant differences in their ships' readiness and performance. The Surface Warfare Officers path to command works. Navy leaders develop future Navy leaders, and future successful commanding officers served under successful commanding officers. The study offers insights on future inquiries to understand the concept and nature of Command and to discover how to appreciate the qualities, experiences, practices, and commitment necessary to Command well. The study identified areas to continue to explore in taming the information explosion. Ignoring systemic consequences and mission requirements, budget pressured, Flag-level decisions caused much turmoil in the Surface Force by reducing manning, maintenance, and training. Many of the informants who were Junior Officers at the time tried to warn the bosses of the projected results of those choices. Failure to listen to deckplate advice set up a crisis in credibility. Current practices tending toward micromanaging ships and their commanding officers are further eroding it. Yet, hope remains. Recent decisions have put factors in place to reverse negative funding, training, and manning trends for ships. The study provides seasoned advice targeted for the three levels of those progressing toward future Command of ships at sea. A focus on taking care of people, helping them excel by challenging them to greater achievements, and exhibiting a detailed sense of purpose to meet standards, as well as timing and favor, combined to make these Commanding Officers "More than Capable Mariners."
|Subjects||Management; Organization theory; Organizational behavior; Military studies|
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