The United States naval officer is like no other. Many begin their naval careers at Annapolis, where they will learn aviation, support, logistics, ship board operations, engineering, and of course, military leadership. The Navy officer is commissioned by the president of the United States, and most will leave Annapolis or other four-year colleges and then truly begin their Navy careers. They will be assigned to ships or aviation units or possibly (if they’re lucky) a shore duty station. Navy officers are highly motivated, truly dedicated leaders. They report to their first duty stations prepared and ready to take on their duties and to successfully accomplish any mission.
The Navy Officer Difference
In my own opinion (having been in the Navy), there is a considerable difference between the Navy officer that comes right from Annapolis and the one who was previously enlisted. This is also true for the Army. Since I’ve been in the Army now for 10 years, I have had the opportunity to serve in both the Army and Navy, and there is a considerable difference by far between each officer. The Navy officer who served previously is of course more knowledgeable than other enlisted military ranks and non-commissioned officers. The officer coming from Annapolis or OCS will normally report with an “I am an officer. Hear me roar.” Attitude, ready to take on the world and change everything without input from the petty officer. I must say that it is difficult for a Navy officer when they first report because of the amount of responsibility laid upon them on a ship or with an aviation unit. It is somewhat different, however, for officers who report to a Navy combat unit or EOD. Their tighter units and smaller size means they must work closer with their sailors day to day.
The Shipboard Officer
In my time in the Navy, I spent several months at sea. My longest tour was during Desert Shield and Desert Storm (yes, I am that old). I served on the USS Wisconsin and USS Samuel Gompers. The Wisconsin as we all know was a battleship at the time, and no offense intended, but there were no females on the Wisconsin. I watched the male officers there perform and lead sailors in long work hours. I’m talking about 16- to 18-hour days. I believe the hardest duty for any officer in the Navy is that of a Navy engineering officer. You want to talk about responsibility and hard work? The sailors in engineering work the longest hours and in some of the most hazardous conditions in the military. Then you have the weapons officer (known as “weaps”) who is responsible for everything in a ship’s arsenal. You can only imagine if you haven’t been there the sound of a battleship’s guns when they began to rain down on Iraq. A weapons officer is responsible and accountable for an incredible amount of ordnance and for firing correctly. The life of a Navy officer while at sea is full of hard work, learning every aspect of the ship from top to bottom and leading sailors at sea. These are not easy tasks when you’re dealing with just a few to hundreds of sailors. They will also stand watch in a certain rotation the same as enlisted do.
It Can Be Glamorous
The life of a Navy officer can be somewhat glamorous. They have shiny white dress uniforms and are catered to in the officers’ mess, eating on fine china and telling sea stories. Most of us have seen Top Gun, and to a certain extent, it’s pretty dead on for how they portrayed Navy officers.
Honor, Courage, and Commitment
Navy officers are very courageous and committed to the success of their sailors and their mission. They will spend hours dedicated to planning a mission, down to each individual task, and will be accountable for its entirety. They will teach and train their sailors in every aspect of their assigned rate. They represent the United States Navy and the people of the United States with honor. They lead the sailors in the world’s finest navy. To them it is not just a job or an adventure; it is a way of life.
Thank You, Navy Officer
To the officers I had the distinct pleasure and honor of serving with in the United States Navy, especially to my first commander Captain Peter Labyak who passed in 2009: Sir it was my greatest pleasure in the military to serve under you. You’re what has always been the highest tradition in the Navy and the true meaning of Navy officer. Thank you again to all the Navy officers who represent the United States Navy. Your job will never be done. You lead sailors in combat at seas, on land, and shore. You truly represent some of the finest officers in the world.