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Magazine Articles

01
21st Century Sailors

July 2011 - Navy
By CMDCM Richard S. Dodd

As the Navy continues operations into the second decade of the 21st century and we move toward celebrating our 236th anniversary in October, I thought I’d take a moment to think about the Sailors who will take us into the next 100 years. Naval Station Great Lakes is celebrating its centennial anniversary this year. Since 1911, Great Lakes has transformed civilians into United States Navy Sailors, passing through the “Quarterdeck of the Navy” to the fleet. Today, every enlisted Sailor in our fleet passes through this institution. As discussions emerge about the challenges the Sailors before us encountered, the challenges today’s Sailors face every day, and the complex challenges Sailors of tomorrow will face, the question “if the next generation is up to the task” always arises.

As we continue into the 21st century, our warfare methods continue to become far more advanced than ever before. We continue to move away from mass waves of humanity “storming beaches” much the same way as we moved away from ranks of Soldiers lined up on a battlefield facing off to fire muskets at each other – a sort of “last-man-standing” mentality. As we move to a more precision strike, technologically advanced battlespace, the often unspoken message is that people are valuable. Sending people into battle has never been palatable, but, unfortunately, often required. As a father of three sons, I understand the pain felt when a child is lost. If technology can prevent unnecessary loss of life, I’m all for it. Our modern defense technology continues to advance and our Sailors must be able to keep up with the technological advancements in order to execute missions, and prevent loss of life.

In the last century, our Navy ended the sail-versus-steam debate; moved from coal-fired boiler propulsion systems to gas turbines and nuclear power; aircraft flew at 100 kilometers per hour and had just started to land on ships. Naval Aviators now orbit the Earth. In the next 100 years, our naval gunnery prowess will not be measured by the barrel diameter but in mega joules. Radar suites may become obsolete as stealth technology moves forward. Propulsion systems may operate on a completely clean, renewable platform yet to be discovered. All of these systems will need to be operated, maintained and repaired by our Sailors just as they are now and have been for the past two centuries. The key to this continuous advancement is our ability as leaders to remain flexible and to identify the value of continuing to offer world-class training and education to the generations following us. The young citizens entering into the Navy today are equally capable as those who preceded them. They are up to the task of executing 21st century missions. Modern Sailors were born and bred with technology woven into the fabric of their lives, but they must continue to grow through training and education. This training and education is often lengthy and expensive.

Our Navy did not develop into its current state overnight. It has taken a voyage of over two centuries, with many lessons learned through bloodshed. As we move into the next 100 years, Navy leaders must continue to adapt to the changing environment, innovate, and ensure those they lead are properly equipped to accomplish the mission. The investment in our future must include our commitment to continue to provide top-tier training and education and is absolutely vital to our sustainment as a viable force. Occasionally, this investment carries with it tough decisions – decisions today that will influence Sailors for decades. Remember, at one point in our history, many leaders were advocating square-rigged ships over those with steam propulsion.

I never wonder if our young Sailors are up to the task. As I stare into the mirror each morning, I wonder if the person staring back at me is up to the task.


The author, Command Master Chief, Recruit Training Command Master Chief Dodd is a native of Michigan City, IN. He entered the Navy through the Delayed Entry Program and completed basic training at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, IL, in July 1984. He entered various technical schools following Recruit Training in preparation to his duty assignments.

Master Chief Dodd was selected into the Command Master Chief Program in January 2006. In November 2008, he became the Command Master Chief of Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, IL.

He holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Illinois and is an Executive Scholar at the Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University). His units and his crews have earned various awards and recognitions.

(For his complete biography, please go to Web site http://www.bootcamp.navy.mil/lship_command_masterchief.asp)

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