I was very pleased to see a piece in San Diego Union-Tribune this morning about the establishment a Top Gun-type school for our Surface Warriors. VADM Tom Copeland, Commander of Naval Surface Forces established “Top Shoe” (my term, not his) to foster a generation of young surface warriors who really know their craft, not just their weapons systems. For those outside of the Navy, there are a few terms which you should probably know. Aviators are know as “Brown Shoes” because they wore brown shoes with their working uniforms and their aviation green dress uniform (which was reserved for aviation only). Aviators commonly referred to the Surface Warfare community as “Black Shoes” because they wore the traditional black shoes with everything, including their pajamas. They also seemed to have penchant for wearing those thick plastic, black-framed eye glasses that no self-respecting Brown Shoe would be caught dead in. Over the years, aviators tended to drop the Black from the equation and generally used the term “Shoes” to describe their beloved surface counterparts. I don’t know what’s happened in the last few years with aviator uniforms, but I know the Aviation Greens are gone and thankfully, so are the black glasses.
When I was on the Joint Staff during the time that General Powell was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, I remember receiving bits of wisdom on the occasions that I happened to be in a meeting with him. There are the famous 13 rules for leaders ( in any position, military or otherwise) that General Powell is known for and worth repeating here:
- It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better tomorrow.
- Get mad, then get over it. (my personal favorite)
- Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position fails, your ego goes with it.
- It can be done.
- Be careful what you choose: you may get it.
- Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
- You can’t make someone else’s decisions. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
- Check the small things.
- Share credit.
- Remain calm. Be kind.
- Have a vision. Be demanding.
- Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
- Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
I also seem to recall a few others that didn’t get so well publicized. I can’t vouch for their authenticity, but with all due respect to one of my greatest role models, I have always attributed these two to the good General as well.
- There are no rumors in the Pentagon. Sooner or later everything comes true.
- There’s nothing new in the Pentagon. It’s all been seen before.
The establishment of the “Top Shoe” school reminds me of the second unofficial rule. As a young lad I was very lucky to be assigned to a “Black Shoe” staff as one of the few aviators aboard (back then it was called a Cruisier-Destroyer Group) and part of my training was to attend the dreaded Tactical Action Officer School (TAO). It was the most intense six weeks of training I have ever experienced. But when I graduated, I knew just about everything about operating the combat systems, the threat, tactics and the logistics of running combat operations. In my mind it was a “Top Gun” for Surface Warriors. Over the years I think that TAO training was scaled back in favor of more technical subjects. With the establishment of the new school it appears the emphasis is back and I think it’s a great idea. Let’s hope it doesn’t fall prey to the budget axe.
But remember…with all due respect to my surface buddies……..there’s nothing like launching from a carrier, zipping around at Mach 1, turning and burning against a worthy adversary, and winning the fight (Fox 2, You’re Dead!). And after all that, you still have to come back and land your 20 ton machine of death on a pitching and rolling deck before you can brag about your victory in the ready room. That’s Top Gun!!!!!