Friday, September 30, 2011

Damn the Torpedoes...

Review by Bill Doughty
The Navy’s first four-star admiral began service as a preteen in the War of 1812.  He was a son of the South who fought for the North in the Civil War and later served as a pallbearer at President Lincoln’s funeral.  He commanded blue-water naval warships in brown-water littoral operations in the Mississippi river, reclaiming New Orleans and later winning at Mobile Bay, famously having himself lashed to the upper rigging to ensure command and control.
“...full speed ahead.”
It’s not till the final pages of Robert J. Schneller, Jr.’s Farragut: America’s First Admiral that Farragut’s hispanic ethnicity is discussed.
At the tender age of 12 Glasgow “David” Farragut sailed as a midshipman with his mentor Captain David Porter aboard the 32-gun frigate USS Essex, fighting in the War of 1812 to stop the British from interfering with commerce on the seas.
After a stormy passage around Cape Horn and a stop in Valparaiso, Chile, the Essex roved through the Galapagos Islands, capturing a dozen British whalers and earned Porter the distinction of commanding the first American warship in the Pacific.  During the voyage Farragut saw albatrosses, flying fish, seals, sea lions, redheaded lizards, iguanas, Galapagos terrapins and other exotic wildlife.  He also weathered fierce storms and choked down his share of worm- and weevil-ridden food.
Farragut served aboard, sailed with or commanded USS Vandalia, USS Boxer, USS Consellation, USS Erie, USS Pennsylvania, USS Saratoga and USS Hartford.  Ashore, he served as commandant of Mare Island Navy Yard.
Commodore Farragut aboard USS Hartford, 1864.
Schneller describes the admiral’s distinguished service in the Civil War, fighting against the Confederate Navy, despite his roots in the south -- born in Tennessee, a resident of Virginia.
Farragut achieved a hero’s status after the Civil War.  He was promoted as the nation’s first four-star admiral on the same day that Ulysses S. Grant became the nation’s first four-star general.
After his final promotion to admiral,  Farragut was assigned by Secretary of State William Seward as commander of the European Squadron, where his Hispanic heritage and Spanish fluency helped him succeed in building partnerships and promoting peace.
The author provides a CliffsNotes version of Farragut’s life, purposely focusing on the historical details of key battles and military strategy.  Farragut is revealed as a courageous leader unafraid to make bold decisions in the heat of battle but unwilling to fully adapt to new technologies of ironclad ships, rifled cannons and mechanical means of propulsion.
For those who wish to delve deeper into Farragut’s life, Schneller offers these suggestions:  Loyall Farragut’s The Life of David Glasgow Farragut, First Admiral of the United States Navy, Embodying His Journal and Letters, Alfred Thayer Mahan’s Admiral Farragut, and Charles Lee Lewis’s two-volume study, David Glasgow Farragut: Admiral in the Making / Our First Admiral.
Today Adm. Mike Mullen turned over the reins as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The former Chief of Naval Operations prior to Adm. Gary Roughead and now Adm. Jonathan Greenert, Mullen initiated the Navy Professional Reading Program.  
As a student and teacher of history, Mullen often invoked memories of naval heroes.  Six years ago at a dedication ceremony of the Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center and Jewish Chapel at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Mullen said:
“I believe in the power of our past to inspire and instruct, and I believe in the power of our convictions, which have sustained generations of leaders...
“We think of heroes like John Paul Jones, Stephen Decatur, David Glasgow Farragut; as well as Carl Brashear, Grace Hopper, and Jim Stockdale.     

“Their legacy is our tapestry, a uniquely American tapestry, sewn of many diverse faiths and beliefs, cultures and backgrounds, colors and creeds.  
“We recall those leaders not in terms of where they came from, but for what they left us.”
President Barack Obama, left, shares a moment with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff change of responsibility ceremony on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Sept. 30, 2011. Mullen was succeeded by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, who became the18th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during the ceremony. DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Confidence, Commitment, Character

Review by Bill Doughty
On Sept. 11, 2001 Michael P. Murphy was an ensign in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training.
Michael Murphy, a graduate of Penn State University, who grew up in Patchogue, Long Island, New York, internalized and personalized what happened on 9/11, according to colleagues, mentors and writer Gary Williams, author of SEAL of Honor: Operation Red Wings and the Life of Michael P. Murphy, USN.
Murphy led a SEAL team into Afghanistan in 2005 where he faced a profound ethical dilemma after capturing some civilian non-combatants.  His dilemma and moral decision is examined in detail in another book about Operation Red Wings, Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell.
The team then endured a prolonged firefight against a larger Taliban force.  At the end of the terrifying and deadly fight, Murphy faced a second, more personal moral choice.  At great personal risk, he put himself directly in the path of enemy fire in order to call in help for his team.
In SEAL of Honor Williams introduces us to Murphy’s family, shows in detail his training regimen as a Navy SEAL, describes the mission Murphy led in Afghanistan during Operation Red Wings, and describes the honors paid to Murphy and his family after he was killed.  SEAL of Honor  preserves history and offers a well-documented biography of an American hero.  
Murphy’s bond with first responders from his home state is legendary.  He had his unit wear the bright orange patch of FDNY Engine Co. 54, Ladder Co. 43 -- “El Barrio’s Bravest” -- on their uniforms as a team symbol and constant reminder of 9/11 and why the SEALs were in Afghanistan, according to Williams.
Marcus Luttrell refers to the patch several times in Lone Survivor.
Luttrell’s book is understandably an autobiographical account.  Before describing Operation Red Wings, Lone Survivor explores Luttrell’s upbringing in Texas, his SEAL training in San Diego and a mission in Iraq desperately searching in vain for weapons of mass destruction: “chasing shadows out there in that burning hot, sandy wilderness.”
Luttrell’s telling of the firefight with the Taliban in Operation Red Wings is gripping and graphic, but at the end of Luttrell’s book the reader is left with a hunger to know more about the hero of the tale, leading protagonist Michael P. Murphy.
Spartan warrior culture depicted in the movie 300.
Seal of Honor shows us how Murphy’s qualifications as a leader developed starting in early childhood.  As a toddler, Michael’s favorite book was Wally Piper’s The Little Engine that Could.  He was a voracious reader at Canaan Elementary School.  
According to Williams, Murphy’s favorite book was Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield, a historical fiction novel about the 480 B.C. Battle of Thermopylae, in which 300 brave Spartans protected their homeland and democracy from an invading Persian Army.
Greek warrior culture is part of the SEAL tradition.
The never-give-up attitude, willingness to sacrifice for a cause and strong personal ethos all contribute to what makes a Navy SEAL, provided the individual can tough it through BUD/S training, described in detail by Williams.
Despite the brutal training, Michael soon realized that almost anyone could meet the physical requirements of the SEALs, but the unending challenge from day one would be the mental toughness, that never-ending inner drive that pushes you forward when every nerve and muscle fiber in your body tells you to stop -- to quit.  That warrior mind-set -- the mental toughness -- is what separates a Navy SEAL...
SEAL of Honor includes inspiring SEAL Creed excerpts or, in some cases, complete remarks from SEAL leaders like Adm. Eric T. Olson, Chief Warrant Officer Mike Loo and Commodore Pete Van Hooser.  All focus on leadership expectations and maintaining high standards.
Williams describes the tragic rescue attempt in which Lt. Cmdr. Erik S. Kristensen and 15 other would-be rescuers were killed when their MH-47E Chinook helo, call sign Turbine 33, was shot down by the Taliban.
Both Lone Survivor and SEAL of Honor showcase the importance of the concept: “no one left behind.” 
Near the end of SEAL of Honor, Williams lists each of the warriors who died trying to rescue Murphy and his team.
Lt. Michael P. Murphy.  U.S. Navy photo.
He describes the many tributes to Lt. Michael P. Murphy, including the awarding of the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush.  One of the most significant tributes, especially as far as Sailors are concerned, is the naming of an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer for him, dedicated May 7, 2008.  
During his remarks, Secretary Donald C. Winter predicted, “Every Sailor who crosses the bow, every Sailor who hears the officer of the deck announce the arrival of the commanding officer, and every Sailor who enters a foreign land representing our great nation will do so as an honored member of the USS Michael Murphy,” writes Williams.
Osama bin Laden haunts both books, written prior to President Barack Obama’s authorization to kill or capture the terrorist leader of al-Qaida, the group responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.  After a Muslim ceremony, bin Laden was buried at sea from USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) just days before the USS Michael Murphy christening.
USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112) was christened at Bath Iron Works, Maine on May 7, 2011 (after publication of Williams’s book), on what would have been Murphy’s 35th birthday.
“It is my sincere belief that this ship will build on the momentum gained by our special operations forces in the fight against extremism and sail the seas in a world made more peaceful by sustained American vigilance, power and dignity,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead. “This ship will carry Michael’s legacy and values to Sailors several decades from now and to a new generation of Americans...”