WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Vern Clark recognized two outstanding Navy leaders Oct. 30, presenting them with the Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale Award.
The Pacific Fleet awardee this year is Capt. Charles M. Gaouette, commanding officer, USS Fletcher (DD 992). The Atlantic Fleet awardee is Cmdr. Kevin J. Kovacich, former commanding officer, Fighter Squadron 211. Gaouette was deployed and unable to attend the Pentagon ceremony.
The Stockdale Award has been given annually since 1981. It recognizes commanding officers who have demonstrated the highest standards of excellence in leadership and conspicuous contribution to the improvement of leadership in the Navy. Only commanding officers of single ships, submarines or aviation squadrons are eligible and must be nominated by their peers who are also eligible for the award.
"The Stockdale award is an incredible recognition tool because of the way it was set up," said Clark. "It's set up so that a peer would have to nominate a commanding officer to be singled out for their leadership skills and qualities in command."
While praising the awardees, the CNO also addressed the importance of command.
"Command is the ultimate compliment we pay to someone's professional capabilities. It is a trust that we give them. We give them large responsibilities. We give them, virtually, complete authority over people's lives in a manner and a way that you don't see in other walks of life," CNO said. "And then we hold people accountable for what they do with the authority we give them. We select these people very, very carefully, because our institution rises and falls based on the success of the people who are leading in command. It is that important."
Gaouette grew up surrounded by Navy. "I grew up in San Diego, Calif. My grandfather was a Navy chief petty officer, and my father was a Navy F-8 Crusader pilot. Coincidentally, the same plane that Vice Adm. Stockdale flew during the Vietnam War," explained the 44-year-old surface warfare officer.
He credits this award to the crew of USS Oldendorf (DD 992), who won the Battle Efficiency 'E' two years in a row. "When you hear about ships that are older doing just as well as the newer ships, that's a big deal. It's like taking your family station wagon to a NASCAR race and winning."
Gaouette is already living one of his goals by commanding Oldendorf. His next assignment is in Washington, D.C., on the OPNAV Staff.
Forty-five-year-old Cmdr. Kevin Kovacich was designated a naval flight officer in 1984 and attributes his selection to his family's support and the professional, patriotic and dedicated Sailors he has had the good fortune to serve with.
"Everyday, they are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges that they routinely tackle, solve and move on to the next," Kovacich said.
The Spokane, Wash., native added that although his name is attached as the recipient, the award belongs to the squadron.
"It isn't about the individual, it's about the team," he noted.
This years Stockdale award recipients were announced in NAVADMIN 257/03 on the Web at www.persnet.navy.mil/navadmin/nav03/nav03257.txt.
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