Lessons learned: The commander is the commander; order and discipline needed

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Juan Covarrubias
  • 452d AMDS
The CC is the CC.
I listened to a young sailor recount the story of how the USS Constitution earned her nickname Old Ironsides.  In 1812 she was sailing off the coast of Nova Scotia when she met HMS Guerriere. After protocol signaling by the Constitution, the HMS Guerriere fired upon the USS Constitution. 

Captain Hull of the Constitution stood firm in front of her crew, barked out orders to re-position the constitution and faced her nemesis head-on. He also directed that no cannons fire until he gives the order. 

As they charged toward the HMS Guerriere they came within the range of her cannons-1,200 feet. Within 1,000 feet the crew waited for the order. Within 500 feet, they began to wonder why the captain had not made the order. 

Captain Hull charged the crew to remain steady as they dodged some cannon balls and were hit by others. The crew began to worry and wondered if the captain had lost his wherewithal to be an effective skipper. However, as the USS Constitution charged forward, the cannons began to hit and bounce off of her, thus the nickname. But the crew began to really worry given the fact that the Constitution was not firing back. But just as the constitution was coming next the Guerriere, Captain Hull yelled, "FIRE!" and within 25 minutes, destroyed her opposing vessel. 

Master Sgt. Diggs, first sergeant for the 60th MSGS, Travis AFB, imparted on me two very important facts: First -- the commander is the commander and second -- good order and discipline. It does not matter if the commander is a squadron commander, wing commander or the chief of staff -- the underlying authority is the same. The bottom line: the commander has been appointed to be the commander (for us enlisted, remember the oath you take each time you re-enlist) and as such we -- the whole squadron -- follow the direction and the orders of the commander. Sometimes we, individually, might not
agree with the commander, but the fact is the commander sees the bigger picture. The commander knows and understands what will make the squadron, wing and Air Force as a whole work and not just as a part. 

The crew of the USS Constitution faced her enemy head-on while on a full charge. I am sure some of the crew wondered why? Then in the eyes of many, if not most of the crew, the captain might have frozen with fear in delaying his order to fire her cannons? 

I am sure some of the crew thought they, along with the USS Constitution, were headed for certain death -- but her commander knew better. Nonetheless, her crew members followed Capt. Hull's orders and did exactly as he commanded. 

On that day, the USS Constitution established three things: First, she destroyed a ship with cannons that had a longer range that she had. Second, she gained her nickname of Old Ironsides. Finally, the crew of the USS Constitution followed the orders of their skipper to the "T" -- OK, that last accomplishment had already been established years before as in good order and discipline. 

Much has changed in our military since those days. Our ships, tanks and airplanes are bigger, faster and deadlier. Even our uniforms have changed, but one thing has not, OK two things: First, every squadron must adhere to good order and discipline and second, the Commander is the Commander. 

Thank you, Colonel Janice M. McKibban for your selfless service to this man's Air Force for the past 38 years. Though you have retired, your memory will linger at the squadron, group and wing level at the 452d for years to come.