PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- The former commanding officer of USS La Jolla (SSN 701) has been named winner of the Stockdale Award for inspirational leadership.
Cmdr. Brian Howes, who currently commands Naval Nuclear Propulsion Training Unit in Ballston Spa, N.Y., was named the Pacific Fleet winner of the award in an Aug. 31 message from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen. The award will be presented in October in Washington, D.C.
Howes, who left La Jolla in October 2005, said it was an "honor and very humbling" to be nominated by his peers for the award.
"I never thought I'd receive this award. It's kind of a shock," he said. "It's a nice feeling to have had a great relationship with the commanding officers on the waterfront."
The Stockdale Award is given annually to two commissioned officers on active duty below the grade of captain who are, or were, in command of a single ship, submarine, aviation squadron, SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) team, SEAL delivery team, special boat team, explosive ordnance disposal mobile unit, mobile diving and salvage unit, or Navy special clearance team. Nominations are made by peers who also must be eligible for the award.
During Howes' tenure as commanding officer, La Jolla completed a six-month Western Pacific deployment, a shipyard maintenance period, and follow-on preparations for a surge deployment. The submarine also participated in numerous national and multinational exercises, and was selected as the Pacific Fleet's top Naval Special Warfare submarine. La Jolla's retention rate also increased from 60 to 70.4 percent.
Howes said the award was a testament to his entire crew.
"Teamwork was our focus," said Howes. "Our goal was going to war, and everybody on La Jolla was involved and part of that effort. It didn't matter if you were E-1 or an officer, everybody made a contribution. That's what made the La Jolla team so special."
Past and present La Jolla crew members applauded Howes for his selection, saying that his values were key to the submarine's success.
"One of his legacies was establishing a sense of teamwork," said Lt. Cmdr. Axel Spens, a former La Jolla officer who now serves on the Submarine Squadron 1 staff. "Even after leaving almost a year ago, that's still how the ship operates. It really takes the commanding officer to set that as a model, and then the crew will quickly follow."
Spens said another legacy Howes bestowed upon La Jolla was no micromanaging.
"He wasn't involved with every little detail, because he had department heads and chiefs to manage those details," Spens said.
"He was very understanding," added Chief Machinist's Mate (SS) Johnny Pedersen, Auxiliary Division leading chief petty officer. "He let the chiefs take charge and went with what we recommended. He brought up big picture questions and made sure all the bases were covered."
Spens agreed. "His ability as a commander to step back and look at the big picture, looking at what things are happening well and what things need improvement really made the difference," he said.
Yet another Howes legacy was knowing your people. "He took the time to understand the Sailors who were a part of his command," said Spens. "He had an open-door policy; the crew knew their ideas were getting heard by the captain."
The Stockdale Award was established in honor of Vice Adm. James Stockdale, whose distinguished naval career symbolized the highest standards of excellence in both personal example and leadership. Previous winners of the Stockdale Award include Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Mullen and former U.S. 7th Fleet Commander, Vice Adm. Jonathan Greenert.
For related news, visit the Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/subpac/.