Scoop Deck blogger Lance M. Bacon took a day trip with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead this week. This is the play-by-play report.
Dinner time. CS1 Russell Allison served up a field green salad with citrus vinaigrette that opened the festivities, followed by spinach and feta stuffed chicken breast with white wine cream sauce. Wild rice and sautéed green beans accompanied, and culminated with cheesecake that could make your tongue smack your forehead.
I’m beginning to think we should host a cook-off among this squadron’s culinary specialists.
Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific, (right) and Vice Adm. Raymond A. Spruance, commander, Central Pacific Force (center) tour Kwajalein Island, Marshalls, on Feb. 5, 1944, following its capture.
The flight home was one in which talk of political positions, budget constraints, operational tempos and future fleets were set aside (you’ll be reading about those in Navy Times soon enough, so stay tuned). Instead, the CNO invited Scoop Deck into a pleasant and personable discussion on a variety of topics as we headed back to Andrews.
Roughead talked about boyhood memories, recounting how much of his youth was spent in the Middle East, where his father was in the oil business. He is well versed in the region’s culture and history, bringing a perspective that can’t be learned in a war college. He was evident he was especially fond of his time living in India.
An avid reader, the CNO discussed a few of his favorites and his growing appreciation for his Kindle. Notably, he discussed a book about the climactic clash between the Alabama and Kearsarge in the Civil War he read as an adolescent. He recounts the tale as though it was read only yesterday, and with good reason: It was this story that sparked a passion for the Navy that would ultimately bring the young man to the Navy’s top spot. Roughead also said Mohsin Hamid’s bestseller “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is a recent read that has “really stuck with me.”
The CNO shared a very poignant moment as he discussed feelings that overwhelmed him during an unplanned visit to Appomattox, and how Generals Lee and Grant were able – through their wisdom, leadership and integrity – to prevent a subsequent disintegration of the Confederacy and Union. In continuing dialogue, Roughead talked openly about some of his heroes. Among them: Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, for his skills as a military leader and unifier while serving as Supreme Allied Commander, and Winston Churchill and Gen. Stonewall Jackson, both of whom he called “a unique character.” But it was the strategic leadership and personal fortitude of Adm. Chester Nimitz that drew the most discussion. Roughead, who for two years occupied Nimitz’ office and lived in his house, said he would often sit and imagine the discussions that must have taken place within those walls.
So many times, I thought about what was going on there and what he was thinking. I often, and even to this day, say ‘give me just one night to eavesdrop on those conversations during a major battle.’ [Nimitz] had to deal with a lot of politics … and there were massive egos out there. And they didn’t pull any punches.
The discussion concluded with a twist, as Roughead argued for naming Commodore John Barry, not John Paul Jones, as the Father of the American Navy. Versed in the nautical and tactical skills of both, Roughead pointed out that Barry was the first to capture a British warship on the high seas and also captured two British ships after being severely wounded in a blistering battle (perhaps had he yelled “I have not yet begun to fight!), history would have been equally as gracious to his memory as to that of Jones).
Utlimately, the CNO contends that such an honorable title should look beyond single historic moments and also consider the longevity of service and lasting contributions that helped establish, develop and maintain today’s Navy. And for this, Barry wins hands down. From his willingness to serve without pay, his budget battles with Congress, his lasting example of how to quell a mutiny (which he did three times), to being the first commissioned officer and a teacher of midshipmen an officers, his 17 years of naval service made all the difference.
We’re back at Andrews Air Force Base. The CNO heads out to get a few winks before his next busy day. We can’t tell you what the rest of the week holds for him, due to operational security. As for Scoop Deck, we’re ocean-bound.
Stay tuned …