The Naval Academy has world-class facilities, faculty and coaches, staff, alumni, friends, and families who actively support our institution and its mission. On top of all this, the Brigade of Midshipmen is one of the most talented and energetic student bodies in the country. So how do we use these strengths most effectively to carry out our mission?
The Academy’s senior leadership team, which includes the Commandant, Academic Dean, Athletic Director, Dean of Admissions, Command Master Chief, Chief Finance Officer, Chief Information Officer, and the Interim Director of the Center for Ethical Leadership, join me in presenting the following three key beliefs, which form our vision and will serve as the basis for our actions and decisions.
1. We are a nation at war.
2. We are all here to develop Midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically for the privilege of serving as leaders of Sailors and Marines who volunteered to serve their country during wartime.
3. We are the ''Face of the Navy.''
So, what does all that mean?
First, we are a nation at war. You may visit many places throughout America and not get the sense that we are at war, but make no mistake; our enemies want to hurt us and our allies at home and abroad.
The mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, and sons and daughters of the more than 4,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and National Guardsmen killed in action, including Naval Academy graduates, realize quite clearly that we are a nation at war. We cannot allow ourselves to be complacent by believing this war is happening ''over there.'' We must remember every day that it started on our own soil: in New York, at the Pentagon, and in a field in Pennsylvania.
This is not just the Army’s war. This is not just the Marine Corps’ war. The Navy is actively engaged in the Global War on Terror. We have Expeditionary Strike Groups and Carrier Strike Groups deploying at a moment’s notice to provide air and sea support to troops on the ground. We have thousands of Sailors serving in Individual Augmentee billets, side-by-side with their brothers and sisters in arms. Right now, this very minute, there are ensigns and second lieutenants serving ''over there.'' This is our war too.
Every Midshipman currently attending the Naval Academy applied for this particular institution knowing that we are a nation at war. We must ensure they have all heard the call to duty and are fully prepared to serve the Fleet at war. This conflict will last for the entire commissioned careers of Midshipmen who are currently at the Academy. It is our responsibility to prepare them for the challenges of wartime service.
Second, as we fight this war, our focus must be on the output of the Naval Academy, not just the institution itself. We are all here to develop Midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically for the privilege of serving as leaders of Sailors and Marines who volunteered to serve their country during wartime. ‘Develop’ is an active verb requiring intrusive leadership from staff, faculty and coaches. We must all direct and facilitate the moral, mental and physical development of Midshipmen. The activities we supervise must support our mission to create strong junior officers for Sailors and Marines. Everything else is secondary, optional, and conditional. We must remove distractions and guide development.
Our newly commissioned officers need to join their divisions or platoons ready to humbly serve as leaders of an all-volunteer force serving in combat. Graduating from the Academy and earning a commission are significant accomplishments, but they are just the beginning. This is a place to develop one’s skills before assignment to the Fleet to lead Sailors and Marines. The Navy needs officers who meet specific Fleet needs, and newly commissioned officers need to be ready to lead starting on the first day.
Our program of instruction is very challenging - earning a Bachelor of Science degree in four years while developing military professionalism requires the utmost efficiency. Four years is not a long time to develop the skills Midshipmen will need to lead Sailors and Marines in the Fleet, and every available minute is critical.
Fleet Sailors and Marines, and the Chiefs and Gunnies leading them, don’t care where officers received their commissions, their class rank, their majors, or their extracurricular activities. Sailors, Marines and their senior enlisted leaders care about three things:
1. Competence. Does this ensign or second lieutenant know their job?
2. Character. Will they make the right decision even if it costs them personally?
3. Compassion. Do they care about me more than they care about themselves?
Midshipmen should be proud of graduating from the Naval Academy, of being among the best the nation has to offer. There is no need to brag about it. That kind of excellence shows itself in actions, not words.
When newly commissioned ensigns and second lieutenants leave Annapolis, they should:
- Know how to listen, learn, and lead.
- Have real, face-to-face experience with the Fleet that will prepare them to succeed and overcome the challenges they will face in the Navy and Marine Corps.
- Realize that as the new kids on the block, they need to be humble, roll up their sleeves, work harder than their troops, and serve as leaders.
- Seek out the people whose help and advice they need - the Chief, their Department Head.
- Learn about every man and woman working for them.
- Understand their Sailors and Marines’ families and family readiness issues.
The best way to learn these critical leadership skills is through real-life experience. Fleet interaction is the only way Midshipmen will fully understand the challenges of leading Sailors and Marines who are married and have children, rent or mortgages, laundry to wash, and dinner to put on the table. These are only the most basic life responsibilities that confront our Sailors and Marines every day. Issues outside the workplace often have the biggest impact on military readiness and are the toughest leadership challenges a junior officer will face. Practice and actual experience are the only means to learn about these challenges. Each commissioned officer produced at the Naval Academy, regardless of class rank, will go on to lead Sailors and Marines. For this reason we must ensure that no Midshipman is left behind in their professional development.
We must train as we will fight. No matter how challenging the Naval Academy may be compared to other colleges and universities throughout the nation, the challenges facing junior officers in the Fleet are tougher. During USS Dwight D. Eisenhower’s last deployment, the strike group spent 233 days deployed, and only 15 days in port. This is the demanding environment in which our graduates will be expected to excel.
That leads me to our third fundamental belief: the Naval Academy is the face of the Navy. As Commander of Navy Recruiting Command, I spent three years in traveling across the country, and I was amazed to discover that many people do not know the difference between the Army and the Navy. So during this war, whenever an American sees a Midshipman, they think ''soldier.'' And when our Naval Academy ''soldiers'' are on the news and in the paper, they are next to those soldiers who have been killed in combat. We should always be proud of the images Midshipmen portray, because we are always on display.
Every year more than one million people visit the Naval Academy. Americans come here believing that we are preparing the best of the best. To our visitors the Brigade represents Sailors and Marines who have made the ultimate sacrifice and also those who are currently forward-deployed in harms way. Our behavior as an institution must reflect a commitment to excellence in everything we do. We will never get another chance to make a first impression. We must all demonstrate honor, courage, and commitment every day. We must always remember that we are the face of the Navy.
In nine short months, we will send the Class of 2008 to a wartime Fleet that expects them to serve and excel as leaders. Together we must demonstrate a sense of urgency to execute this vision during such dynamic times.
I am honored and humbled to be back at the Naval Academy after 29 years to serve as the 60th Superintendent. I look forward to working with our superb staff, faculty and coaches in leading this extraordinary institution.
Vice Adm. Jeffrey L. Fowler
U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent