Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Re-emergence of ADM Denny Blair

Sorry to go all Naval on you this morning, but maybe I'm feeling a little nostalgic. This article is interesting in and of itself, but it interested me more because it repeated something I've heard a bit lately, and that is ADM Denny Blair (former CINCPAC, back when they were called CINC's) is in line for a big job in the Obama Administration, possibly Director of National Intelligence. I'd be all for that--I'm a Denny Blair fan and the country would be well-served with him in that job (hopefully, his first act will be to have his job eliminated, as I think the DNI has really just put a layer of bureaucracy atop the intelligence establishment without really adding value).

I've got a good Denny Blair story. Got a call one day when I was XO of USS PRINCETON (CG 59--great, great ship) one day, from a guy who had been XO of PRINCETON twice removed. He was a staff officer on the Third Fleet staff, and he was calling to tell me that CINCPAC would be in town the next day, and that he would be visiting PRINCETON. I was thrilled, as I maintained a line with the crew that the reason we had all these VIP visits was because we were 1) a great ship and 2) a clean ship. Denny Blair was the highest ranking Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy, and he was rumored to be a good guy. The catch? The guy at Third Fleet told me the Admiral would not be able to arrive until 1600. He (the staff officer) apologized that we'd have to hold up liberty call (the end of the work day) while the admiral was visiting.

At this point the conversation turned a bit. "We won't hold up liberty call", I said. You see, we worked an incredibly fast-paced 0600-1300 work day--no meals, no breaks, no special liberty, no doctors appointments. Nada but training, maintenance and cleaning. I explained to the staffer that I was not going to hold 275 people on the ship for essentially four extra hours. The duty section plus a few volunteers who want to hang with a four-star can handle this. He was very unhappy, and he called my CO after our call to get him to overrule me. The CO didn't (he was a gem, by the way).

Well, Admiral Blair showed up had a great visit, and then we repaired to the Wardroom for some refreshment and conversation with a group of officers who stayed around to chat with him. What did Blair say? "Captain, I'm glad you didn't hold up liberty call on my account. I really just wanted to poke around a ship for a while." Game, set, match, McGrath.

But this wasn't even the best part of the visit. During the conversation, I asked the admiral a question about our policy of "strategic ambiguity" toward China and Taiwan--that is, giving neither of them full confidence that we would or would not intervene in a conflict. He then recounted a story of a discussion just two weeks earlier with what was essentially the Chinese SECDEF and CJCS combined. Conducted in native languages with interpreters, the Chinese official asked the standard (to those who engage in dialogues with senior Chinese defense officials) question about the defense of Taiwan. Blair then said, "I looked him directly in the eye and said, you know, I can't really say for sure if we'd intervene--but I can tell you one thing. If we did, we'd kick your ass." He said it was obvious that the Chinese official knew English, because he visibly recoiled at the statement....and his interpreter was very uncomfortable at passing that comment further...

Great day. The ship looked great, Blair was happy, and the sanctity of liberty call was upheld.


Ace said...

I'd like to divert attention from CW's desired point for just a tiny moment, and I do so for the benefit of those readers who perhaps haven't been in the military or who have but had only a modicum of field leadership experience. CW's recounting of this vignette in order to praise the Admiral and his potential contribution in the next administration is cool. But between the lines there is a nuance perceptible to perhaps only a few, and that is the basis of my comment. I think CW did not intend to weave this thread in his story's tapestry because he is so humble. But to those who know the military, especially those with any familiarity with the surface fleet portion of the Navy, will recognize the hallmarks of extraordinary leadership in the story, and a good portion of those hallmarks testify to the exceptional command leadership of some guy named McGrath.

I have also have corroborating evidence that supports this thesis, and I conclude and wish to point out that CW's readers have the benefit of association with one of the finest military leaders this young generation of Americans has produced. No shots were fired in this story, and no battles ensued on a ship underway, but that makes the leadership all the more conspicuous.

I yield the floor now to anyone who will support or dispute this claim! :) But all should know my opinion is as irrevocable as the cycle of the tide--McGrath is an exceptional leader, Sailor, and human being.

Great story, too, CW!

The Conservative Wahoo said...

Though "humble" is a word rarely associated with me, I appreciate your kind words Ace.

Anonymous said...

Great story and great comments from Ace.

Mudge said...

Ace - I thoroughly enjoy your writing. But please, feeding CW's ego is like putting another quart of oil in an already full crankcase. Keep doing that (adding oil and stroking ego) and they both end up blowing more and more smoke! Oh yeah, and there are few Naval Officers with whom I'd rather serve than CW. Stand by for smoke!

Smoothfur said...

I got to meet the CW when my son was a junior officer aboard Princeton.

He told my wife and me that my son was an outstanding young officer. From the glow that appeared in my wife's eyes I knew that I would never be allowed to say a discouraging word about the CW in her presence. This was reinforced when upon departing the ship my wife said in reference to CW "He is such a nice man". Inwardly I wondered what she would have said if the CW had disparaged her pride and joy. 

I am sure that his association with the CW has in no small part contributed to my son’s success thus far in his career in the Navy. Thank you Brian.

Ace said...

Oops, sorry, Mudge. I'll get the drip pan out and crack a window. I honestly had no idea, folks! :)

Thanks much, Mudge!

The Conservative Wahoo said...

Smoothfur, your son's success is a credit to his brilliance, his hard work, his gregarious nature, and his good breeding. All I did was put a foot in his ass.

Smoothfur said...

A judiciously placed foot placed in one's 6 o'clock has been known to perorm wonders. Again thank you for your efforts.

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