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Focus on Service

An Honor and a Privilege

A unique ceremony for three Navy leaders

"We the people...," "I will support and defend...," "...bear true faith and allegiance...,"

For service members the Constitution of the United States of America is not just a piece of paper the forefathers drafted as the backbone for the country, it is an idea, a feeling, a purpose for their service, for their sacrifice. It reminds them that no matter the distance from their families, the task at hand, or the absence of sleep, their time and effort is not in vain.

For three Sailors in particular, having the opportunity to be promoted and take their oaths in the presence of the founding fathers, in front of the U.S. Constitution at the National Archives in Washington D.C., was one of the greatest honors they could have had bestowed upon them in their naval careers.

During the early summer of 2012, Cmdr. Robert Witzleb, Lt. Cmdr. Ken Wallace, and Senior Chief Todd Morabito were the leadership triad at the Naval Oceanography Special Warfare Center in Coronado, Calif., and all received word they were selected for promotion.

"It was a real honor last year to learn that I had been selected for captain, especially considering the other officers, a lot of quality officers that were in consideration," said Witzleb.

Witzleb was excited by his promotion; however, within months after his selection, he was thrilled to discover both his executive officer and command senior chief were also selected for promotion.

"It would have been disappointing for one of us to promote and the others to learn that we hadn't," said Witzleb.

With all three men preparing for their promotion ceremonies, the idea came to Witzleb and Wallace to have the ceremony at the archives, a fitting backdrop for what would be one of the proudest days of their lives.

Once the idea was in place, it was just a matter of making the arrangements with the archives staff and saving the date.

On Sept. 3, surrounded by their loved ones, Capt. Witzleb, Cmdr. Wallace and Master Chief Morabito pinned on their new ranks.

"Having friends and family there, and to be in front of the document ... was definitely very memorable, and it brings it home to what you're doing, day in, day out, and what you're committed to in the service and your responsibilities and the significance of the oath of office," said Wallace.

"I couldn't have thought of a more special place to do my last re-enlistment - in front of the Constitution of the United States of America - with my family there. It's truly an honor," said Morabito.

Senior Chief Michael Garza from Fleet Weather Center San Diego was one of many proud Sailors who served under the leadership triad of Witzleb, Wallace and Morabito.

"What I liked about this triad was no problem was too small or too big," said Garza. "All problems were treated equal in the sense that they gave their full attention and effort to commit to the issue and how we can all share our experiences to help them come up with a solution."

When Witzleb took command of Naval Oceanography Special Warfare Center in Coronado the promotion rate was extremely low. Together with Wallace and Morabito, they worked to increase it from essentially zero to 50 percent among petty officers by the time Witzleb transferred.

"That's true Navy leadership right there," said Garza. "I was really proud to serve with those guys."

This type of leadership may very well embody all that the forefathers had in mind for the future of the country - leaders who put their people before themselves.