Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Commissioning Speech

Today, you enter a new and exciting phase of naval service. It is a phase not to be undertaken with arrogant abandon, but embraced with humility. The attachment of gold bars to your collar or gold lace to your sleeve does not imbue you with any special knowledge here-to-fore unknown by humanity, but you are decidedly different than your new fleet peers. The gold bars you will be wearing as a newly commissioned Limited Duty Officer are significantly heavier than those worn by fleet Ensigns. That is a privilege to be fiercely guarded. Do not speak without thought nor act without dignity for you are observed by seniors, peers and juniors alike who take your measure and decide upon your character and your professionalism. Learn to embrace that as it will follow you through the ranks as you advance. Your seniors will continue to listen a little closer to your words, your peers will often ask for advice and your subordinates will have more confidence in you than your fleet peers because you were one of them.

Always remember that, “I don’t know, but I will find out and get right back to you,” is a much better answer than some fairy tale that does not come true. Even in the face of withering disappointment by your superior, do not tell him or her what they want to hear. Tell them the truth as you know it. If something sounds like a bad idea, even though others do not think so, provide your opinion and your well thought out reasoning.

Take pride in your accomplishment as few are chosen to enter this brotherhood and you are among that number. I remember my commissioning and my buttons could scarcely contain my joy. I know you feel the same. I welcome you into a unique fraternity within an exclusive group that leads a host of warriors for that, above all, is what your are, a warrior. It is not your job to start wars, but it is your job to finish them.

You bring with you unique insight and abilities to accomplish your mission that others will not have. Immerse yourself in your new world and train yourself to become the beacon in the darkness and the font of knowledge that other Limited Duty Officers before you have been. You will know when you have arrived when the captain comes to your space and sits down to have a cup of coffee and talk.

I give you three thoughts to reflect upon:

1. Being a warrior is an honorable profession. David was a warrior and, with all his other faults, was still described as a man after God’s own heart.

2. You are never alone, even in the heat of battle. I would like to call your attention to Psalms 144 verses 1 and 2 which says in part; Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teaches my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and He in whom I trust;

3. You are not infallible. When your Master Chief says, “Boss, I wouldn’t do that shit if I were you.” Take time and reflect upon his words and don’t do that shit.

LCDR William S. Fortner, USN (Ret)

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