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lessonslearned Listen and Learn


During a navigational exercise, two officers dismiss their teammate’s counsel, unheeding of the expertise she has acquired during 14 years of enlisted service.


I


n 1981, I was a relatively new lieu- tenant junior grade assigned to a CONVOYCOM unit as a drilling naval


reservist in San Diego. Most didn’t know I had 14 years of service as a prior enlisted radioman, on active duty at two of the busi- est communication sites on the West Coast during the Vietnam era, before reenlisting in the Navy Reserve. As a Civil Air Patrol cadet, I had exten-


sive training in plotting aviation flights in a course called “Airports, Airways and Navigation,” which I ended up teaching. I received my certificate of proficiency, signed by Gen. Curtis E. Lemay while he was chief of staff of the Air Force. Our unit training scenario one drill


weekend was to manually plot a ship’s course, with submarine evasive course, into a safe harbor. We were given coordi- nates for both ship and submarine up to several nautical miles out of our destina- tion. Teams were then to chart the remain- der of the voyage into port on our own. My team consisted of two senior lieu- tenants and me. The men immediately assumed leadership positions, although neither had any navigational experience. Initiative on my part was not welcome. My attempts to make tactful suggestions were ignored, so I soon decided to take an ob- server’s position without further comment. I thought that, should my teammates get into a situation they couldn’t resolve, they would ask. They did ask the opinion of those on other teams, who also were


66 MILITARY OFFICER OCTOBER 2016


stymied when arriving at the last of the given coordinates. At this point, the navi- gational exercise had become stagnant, and a general “flail-ex” ensued. “Respectfully, Lieutenants,” I inserted,


“I may have a simple solution.” I proceed- ed to explain how to find the perpendicu- lar into port using the legged compass. The lieutenants declared my suggestion


would never work. A lieutenant in a nearby group said he was going to “throw a ruler down on the map” and draw a line. The results overall were humbling during post-exercise feedback by the coordinator. In a position of leadership during an exercise, anything that has va- lidity should be con- sidered. I’ve worked on teams in the military consist- ing of both officer and enlisted personnel, some of the latter with advanced degrees. A team is a think tank, where imparting wisdom and eliciting new concepts is a learning pro- cess for all, providing valuable input. At least, it’s preferable to learn on a


MO


A lieutenant in a nearby group said he was going to “throw a ruler down on the map.”


team, rather than waiting to learn while going into action.


— Christine Dickman is a retired Navy Re- serve commander in Lemoore, Calif. She is a Life Member of MOAA. For submission information, see page 4.


Tell Your Story Military Officer seeks service-related anec- dotes that left an im- pression. See Directory on page 4 for submis- sion information. All submissions will be con- sidered for publication.


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