While reading an article about the changing of guard duties as Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba “GITMO” I came across the following paragraph;
‘To be sure, Guantanamo is still a Navy base — the oldest belonging to the United States overseas. A Navy captain, whose rank is the equivalent of an Army colonel, is the base commander. He’s known as the “skipper,” Navy lingo for the commander of a ship, which in this instance is a 45-square-mile corner of southeast Cuba that has a McDonald’s, public school, seaport and suburban-style housing for sailors who get to bring along their families.’
As a 20 year retired sailor, 1974 to 1994, I have a slight issue with the above statement……
The title “Skipper” is one that I believe has been bandied about lightly. Below is what I feel are the qualities that determine a “Skipper”.
You become a “Commanding Officer” by appointment through orders. “Skipper” is an honorific for a commanding officer who is addressed as such because he is respected, admired and appreciated by the men under his command. Not because of his rank or position, but, by demonstrating the same respect, admiration and appreciation for those he commands.
A fact that is highly overlooked these days but should be drilled into the head of every midshipman and officer candidate… RESPECT is EARNED, never given. It is a symbiotic relationship between officer and enlisted, where the success of the command, and the officer’s career, depends upon those he has been privileged and fortunate enough to be assigned to lead.
Just because the UCMJ binds me to respect the rank and the authority that goes with it, that does not mean I have to respect the person. During my career I “just did my job” for those I respected on the basis of their rank and referred to them as “captain” which, in the Navy, is not just a rank but also the title for the position as Commanding Officer of a ship or large installation. But I would work above and beyond WITH those I respected as a person for the success of the command. It was these individuals whom I was proud to call “Skipper”.
You can read the associated article here;
“Soldiers Relieve Sailors as Gitmo Guards” http://www.military.com/daily-news/2012/08/21/soldiers-relieve-sailors-as-gitmo-guards.html?ESRC=eb.nl
In addition, the portion of the above comment concerning respect could also be applied to this article;
“Ship Commander Fired After Harassment Claims” http://www.military.com/daily-news/2012/08/21/ship-commander-fired-after-harassment-claims.html?ESRC=eb.nl
In conclusion, a salute to all the “Skippers” I was privileged to have served with during my career.
Captain Larry Davis, USS Groton (SSN694) CDR Gary Francis, USS Baton Rouge (SSN689) CDR “Jack” M. Davis, USS Baton Rouge (SSN689) CDR William Helfen, USS Phoenix (SSN702) CDR K.T. Juroff, USS Cincinnati (SSN693) CAPT L.G. Vogt, Submarine Squadron Eight CDR Dennis Jones, USS Birmingham (SSN695) CDR G.D. Hicks, USS Memphis (SSN691) CAPT Collins H. Haines, USS Paul Revere (LPA248) CAPT E.M. Moore, USS Paul Revere (LPA248)
Additional Honorable mention and an additional salute to CDR Pierce “The Silver Fox” (he NEVER knew we called him that, he would have killed us all), Chief of Staff, Submarine Squadron Eight. And RADM Charles J. Beers who I never served under as C.O. but was the Executive Officer of the USS Memphis and, who I heard was an outstanding Commanding Officer onboard USS Minneapolis – St Paul (SSN708)
Gentlemen, It was my pleasure and my honor……….
USS Groton (SSN694)