Admiral Gilday: It is indeed an honor to be with you today... in this hallowed place... to celebrate the leadership of these two fine Naval officers. There is no finer venue than the Hall of Heroes to honor the essential role of command in our Navy’s culture and to pay tribute to the legacy of VADM James Bond Stockdale.
This is the most prestigious award the Navy bestows upon our officers for three reasons.
First, the award is peer nominated. Only individuals that are eligible for the award can nominate others for this honor. Aside from their exceptional performance, their standing among their peers is something to celebrate in its own right.
Second, the award bears the name of VADM Stockdale... a lion of the Navy and the archetypical leader of character. His command philosophy… hammered out on an anvil of combat experience and refined in the crucible of a Vietnamese POW camp… considered a true naval leader to be much more than a competent authority.
To Stockdale, our leaders… especially in times of war… must be moralists, jurists, teachers, and stewards. They must have the “audacity to make clear what the good is” to those under their charge, and the conviction to stand by their judgements. They must “show the way” and set the “moral, social, and motivational climate” of their command. They must lead with compassion and handle fear with courage. Their most important legacy is comprised of the ideals they inspire in their followers... ideals that will then propagate through the Navy and make us all stronger. VADM Stockdale aced that exam... leading our POWs home with honor and shaping the character of our Sailors for generations.
The third thing about this award that I think is particularly special is that it is also about the legacy of the Stockdale family. Admiral Stockdale and his wife Sybil wrote a book titled, In Love and War, which details their joint service and sacrifice on behalf of our country.
Sybil was a remarkable woman, who took great personal risks in challenging the government’s policy regarding Prisoners of War. By communicating with him in prison, she resolved the tremendous uncertainty for families at home. Her husband was a confirmed POW, and yet she found the strength to rise above the grief and lead a community of POW and MIA families. She stared down world leaders... including the North Vietnamese at the Paris Peace Talks… and ultimately altered U.S. policy to recognize the inhumane treatment of our service members at the hands of their captors. This is a family whose name is synonymous with courage, sacrifice, devotion, love, and leadership.
Likewise, we recognize that the officers we celebrate today would not be here without their families. And this has two dimensions. Families of course support what these two leaders did, giving freely the time and talents of their loved ones to devote to the experience of command... the demands that are attendant to command... and the career of service that necessarily precedes command. Families also support who these leaders are, strengthening and fortifying their character, making them even better in the best times, and providing strength in times of challenge... just as Sybil Stockdale did throughout her remarkable life. Just as our veneration for the Stockdales is a family affair, so too is the celebration we are witnessing right now.
Now, for what we’ve been waiting for... I’d like to recognize the winner from the Pacific... Commander Carl Trask. Carl is joined here today by his lovely wife Amy and his three wonderful children Grace, Alexander, and James.
Carl commanded USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22)… one of the fastest, most heavily armed, hunter/killer submarines our nation has ever put to sea. Undersea warfare remains one of the U.S. Navy’s key warfighting advantages... and although we can’t talk a lot about Carl’s operational accomplishments... we can sleep soundly at night knowing that our submarine force is on patrol with officers like him in command.
He poured his soul... and I’m told a good deal of Dr. Pepper... into his boat and more importantly his crew. He led with enthusiasm and built a strong team onboard the “Double Deuce.” Maintaining high morale on a submarine is tough... but he found ways to make the ordinary extraordinary, like celebrating the 22nd day of each month... or anything that would lead to “two two” being said. Carl, I’m sorry that we couldn’t make this on the 22nd day of November... He set high standards ashore during a challenging depot availability period and at sea. He took our “Arsenal of Democracy” across the Pacific and under the Arctic... his team earning the 2018 Battle E along the way. More importantly, he led with heart... something that would truly make Jim Stockdale proud.
Next, let’s recognize the Atlantic winner - Commander Ryan O’Loughlin. Ryan is joined here today with his lovely wife Becky and their children: Clare, Patrick, and Ross.
Ryan commanded the FORREST SHERMAN (DDG 98)... one of our heavyhitting ARLEIGH BURKE destroyers. Ryan led his team in support of the HARRY S. TRUMAN in a historic deployment to the high north. For the first time in 30 years, we had a carrier operating north of the Arctic Circle and... just like anywhere else in the world... that carrier was relying on FORREST SHERMAN and her crew to protect them. And they did so in remarkable fashion earning the 2018 Battle E.
Ryan’s tour in command was the result of years of personal and professional development, starting on his first tour in USS O’KANE (DDG 77). He was one of the Officers of the Deck when O’Kane was on her maiden deployment and he found himself in the Gulf of Oman on September 11th, 2001. So he was used to making tough decisions under demanding circumstances.
As another example of his leadership, Ryan identified an issue with the command climate on his warship. Leading with moral clarity and compassion, Ryan worked with his team to uncover biases and deal with deeply human issues. This made his team more resilient and effective. Ryan then shared his journey with the other COs on the waterfront because that's what leaders of character do... they make us all better. Ryan led boldly... and with humility... traits that hearken to Admiral Stockdale.
Both Carl and Ryan will say this award is a reflection of their entire team...and they’re right. However, we considered how this honor is in many ways a family affair, something shared not just by two remarkable officers, but by two remarkable families. So please join me in a round of applause for these two terrific leaders and their families.
Stockdale talked about feeling the weighty obligation to be “worthy” of the great warriors that went before him. Truly, I tell you today... he would be proud of you both. Gentlemen, would you please join me on the podium.
Admiral Michael M. Gilday
18 November 2019
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