Thursday, March 19, 2009
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has nominated ADM Jim Stavridis--currently serving as Commander of the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)--to be the next Supreme Allied Commmander, Europe (SACEUR). Jim will be the first Navy officer to serve in this role, and it is an inspired choice. I realize this will set my friends of the other services fires ablaze, but having Navy Officers as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, SACEUR, PACOM, and Special Operations Command is a particularly good thing for the United States of America....
I've known Jim Stavridis for sixteen years and consider him a good friend. We met while he was a Commander working in the Pentagon and I was working as a Flag Lieutenant to a Three-star Admiral. A prolific writer, Stavridis had by that time been published in the PROCEEDINGS of the US Naval Institute several times, and his name was pretty well known to surface warriors. I stopped by his office one day as I passed by---just dropped in--and introduced myself. That one meeting was enough to solidify a friendship that has been of great personal and professional benefit to me.
What I haven't told you though, is that there are probably a thousand guys just like me--people who Jim Stavridis has taken the time know and collect. There simply is no more accessible flag officer, no one who takes the personal and professional development of the people he mentors more seriously or who does it better. In sixteen years, I have never heard him utter an ungracious word about another human being; nor have I heard one uttered about him.
Shortly after meeting him, Jim headed off to his first command--the USS BARRY (DDG 52). While there, the ship earned the Battenburg Cup--the award for the best unit (ship or squadron) in the Navy. The diary he kept there has recently been turned into a book that serves as a wonderful view inside the mind of a great captain. I kept a diary of my command also, thinking someday I might do the same thing...but it would almost certainly fall short of this wonderful effort of Jim's.
When he was serving on the staff of the Secretary of the Navy, the CNO was looking for a speechwriter. He had apparently interviewed a bunch of people, and hadn't been too impressed---so he asked Stavridis who it should be---and Stavridis tossed him my name. I got the job. Ten years later, when the CNO and the Navy's Deputy CNO for Strategy decided that they wanted to write a 21st Century Maritime Strategy--they asked Stavridis who should lead the effort and write it--Stavridis gave them my name, I got the job.
No matter how busy he was or who he was working for, Jim always had the time to sit down and have a cup of coffee. I was astounded at his memory and his capacity. My own family was unable to keep up with my dating life yet he always seemed to remember who it was I was dating--or who I recently had been dating. The true test of his capacity came when he was a three-star and he was selected as Secretary Rumsfeld's military assistant. I can honestly say that I'd never seen Jim so tired and run-down as I did while he was in that job--I always assumed that it was just the grind of working for Rumsfeld. Little did I know that it was more likely the fact that he was writing another book and learning Spanish in preparation for his appointment to SOUTHCOM. The last time I saw him was a year and a half ago during a Strategy Conference in Miami--hosted by him and his staff. He looked years younger, energized by his command role, the relationships he was making in Latin America, and the ties he was re-establishing in his home state of Florida.
Jim Stavridis is a national treasure, a true warrior-philosopher, statesman-poet. The United States could not ask for a better man at the helm of NATO's military operations, and Europe could not ask for a better American to represent our country.
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 3/19/2009