Honoring, Remembering, Saluting the accomplishments & dedication of three specific US Navy Admirals.
Ernest J. King was Chief of Naval Operations during World War II and was promoted to the new rank of Fleet Admiral in December 1944.
Admiral King led the Navy to victory over the Axis navies in World War II. The strong-willed leader oversaw the enormous expansion of the U.S. fleet and its successful employment against America’s enemies in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Mediterranean.
Born in Lorain, Ohio, Ernest J. King graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1901. In World War I, he was an assistant to the chief of staff of Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet. After the war, he gained experience in submarine operations. Shifting to naval aviation, he eventually rose to Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics. In 1941, as Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, King directed undeclared warfare against German U-boats that preyed on American shipping.
When the United States entered World War II, he was appointed Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet. Three months later, President Roosevelt named King Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations. He served in both positions for the remainder of the war. Congress promoted him to Fleet Admiral in December 1944. King was a strong advocate for the U.S. Navy in his dealings with the other U.S. armed forces and with America’s allies.
King was instrumental in building a powerful battle fleet that defeated the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific and helped destroy the German U-boat menace in the Atlantic. USS King (DLG-10, later DDG-41) was commissioned in his honor.
Honoring and remembering Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely, Jr., who became the first African-American to achieve flag rank in the US Navy. Gravely set the course for others to navigate by such as Adm. Michelle Howard who put on her fourth star just this morning.
Vice Admiral Samuel Lee Gravely, Jr. had a distinguished naval career as a surface warfare officer and manager. All leaders, civilian and military, officer or enlisted, government service grade or Senior Executive Service could learn the characteristics of effective leadership from Gravely’s thirty-eight years in the Navy. There are several notable achievements to his credit including being the first African-American to command a combatant ship, to be promoted to flag rank, and to command a naval fleet. Gravely’s life and naval career, spanning from 1944 to 1982, also reflect the improved status of African-Americans in the Navy and in American Society. As a distinguished veteran of World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars, his military service suggests several qualities that a successful leader should possess.
The first attribute is simply “to be ready.” Gravely could not always determine when an opportunity would arise but he made sure that he had prepared himself to be able to respond to it. Obstacles must be turned into opportunities. For example, when the officers club prevented Gravely from entering, he used the time to complete Navy correspondence courses. The additional education and training helped him become a better officer. Like any other sailor, Gravely did not like every job the Navy gave him but he did his best in each of them. In that sense, Gravely believed that all jobs were good jobs because they were chances to excel. Regardless of the size of one’s command, lead with integrity, professionalism, and care.
Gravely was a strategist as he faced more than a few challenges. Instead of being overwhelmed by them or focusing on them, he found creative ways to circumvent them or to accept them and he always strove to learn from his experiences. Gravely never sat on his laurels. He continued to learn and to expand his horizons. His career also suggests that leaders must be realistic and optimistic. While Gravely understood the naval policies designed to limit African-Americans in the Navy, he did not let them limit or discourage him. Another important characteristic is having the right attitude, as well as the appropriate credentials. He believed that success and respect were not given to anyone; they had to be earned. Another attribute of leadership is perseverance. An effective leader has to be committed enough to the cause to focus on the goal.
Despite the difficulties, Gravely enjoyed his naval service. This reminds leaders that it is important to know your job and to do it well but you should not forget to enjoy the work. An effective leader strives to make a positive difference for others and has a genuine concern for others. Good leaders are not born; they are developed and one measure of their success is that they have trained others to be effective leaders.
Finally, where one starts does not necessarily have to guarantee where he ends up. Instead of accepting the odds for failure, one can beat the odds by working and studying hard. Gravely began his career as a seaman apprentice at Great Lakes in 1942 and rose through the ranks to become a three star admiral.
Vice Admiral Howard is a 1978 graduate of Gateway High School in Aurora, Colorado. She graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1982 and from the Army’s Command and General Staff College in 1998, with a Masters in Military Arts and Sciences.
Howard’s initial sea tours were aboard USS Hunley (AS 31) and USS Lexington (AVT 16). While serving on board Lexington, she received the secretary of the Navy/Navy League Captain Winifred Collins award in May 1987. This award is given to one woman officer a year for outstanding leadership. She reported to USS Mount Hood (AE 29) as chief engineer in 1990 and served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She assumed duties as first lieutenant on board the USS Flint (AE 32) in July 1992. In January 1996, she became the executive officer of USS Tortuga (LSD 46) and deployed to the Adriatic in support of Operation Joint Endeavor, a peacekeeping effort in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Sixty days after returning from the Mediterranean deployment, Tortuga departed on a West African training cruise, where the ship’s Sailors, with embarked Marines and U.S. Coast Guard detachment, operated with the naval services of seven African nations.
She took command of USS Rushmore (LSD 47) on March 12, 1999, becoming the first African American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy. Howard was the commander of Amphibious Squadron Seven from May 2004 to September 2005. Deploying with Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 5, operations included tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia and maritime security operations in the North Arabian Gulf. She commanded Expeditionary Strike Group Two from April 2009 to July 2010. In 2009, she deployed to CENTCOM theater, where she commanded Task Force 151, Multi-national Counter-piracy effort, and Task Force 51, Expeditionary Forces. In 2010, she was the Maritime Task Force commander for BALTOPS, under 6th Fleet.
Her shore assignments include: J-3, Global Operations, Readiness and executive assistant to the Joint Staff director of Operations; deputy director N3 on the OPNAV staff; deputy director, Expeditionary Warfare Division, OPNAV staff; senior military assistant to the secretary of the Navy; Chief of Staff to the director for Strategic Plans and Policy, J-5, Joint Staff, deputy commander, US Fleet Forces Command, and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans & Strategy (N3/N5).
She assumes her new duties as the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations.