Chafee and the Power of Integrity

PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 12, 2017) The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90), right, leads USS Stethem (DDG 63), the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) and USS Sampson (DDG 102) while transiting in formation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder/Released) By Rear Adm. Brian Fort
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific

A modern U.S. Navy destroyer weighs approximately 9,000 tons. The anchor – not including the weight of the chain – which is designed to hold the ship safely in place, weighs only two tons. Amazing! When anchored offshore, Navy commanders depend on their anchor to hold fast when the weather or tide turns and when leaving or entering port they depend on their anchor in an emergency.

So when it comes to your leadership, what’s your anchor? Ask yourself this question: what do you want most from your leaders and what do those you lead want most from you?

The answer is simple – integrity. That’s your anchor.

Last week, our guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90) returned to homeport at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam following a seven-month deployment. Sailors aboard Chafee served throughout the span of the Pacific, from Western Pacific to South America. They demonstrated warfighting readiness, speed, precision and reach.

I am very proud of Team Chafee, not only for their command of the seas but also for the honor and integrity they showed throughout their deployment. And, by the way, check out their great online video with a particular shout-out to their namesake – John H. Chafee! John Chafee epitomized integrity. He was a 19-year-old sophomore on the wrestling team at Yale University Dec. 7, 1941, when Oahu was attacked. Two months later he enlisted as a private in the United States Marine Corps. Six months later he was in combat with the original invasion force at Guadalcanal – just over 75 years ago.

During World War II, Chafee was selected for officer candidate school. He was commissioned a second lieutenant and returned to lead and fight with the 6th Marine Division in the Battle of Okinawa. He also served in Ting Tao, China, at the end of 1945.

In 1946 Chafee returned to Yale and became captain of the wrestling team. He then took the initiative to study at Harvard Law School.

In 1950, war ignited on the Korean Peninsula when the North invaded the South and duty called once more. Chafee returned to service as a captain and a company commander with the 1st Marine Division. His young Marines loved him because he led with integrity. His lieutenant, James Brady, who would author a book called “The Coldest War,” called Chafee “the most admirable man I’ve ever known.”

One day when Chafee’s rifle company had to cross a snow-covered ground believed to be a minefield, he took point and led his men across. The Marines, trusting their leader’s judgment, followed precisely in his footsteps. When they looked back, they saw one set of footprints in the snow. PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 27, […]