I just received word of the passing of VADM Mike Kalleres in Jacksonville. This is a very sad day for me and for all who called him a friend and mentor. I served as Mike Kalleres' aide for a year, from September of 1992 to September of 1993, and it was a memorable year for a very young man.
What a wonderful year it was. I got to watch a true master communicator at work every single day. I watched a man driven by a desire to succeed balance it with a never-ending devotion to his wife Cookie, daughter Deme and son Pete. I spent a few days once with Kalleres and ADM Boorda, when the latter was CINCUSNAVEUR. Here they were, two old salts at the top of their games--and all they argued about was who the better Destroyer Captain was. It was a message ten years before I took command of a destroyer that I never forgot.
I would get to work at about 0615 each morning, and Mike would get there about an hour or so later. In that hour, I received no less than five phone calls each day with exactly one thought processed in each. Most times he'd be on an exercise bike while he talked. By the time he got to work, I'd already accomplished a great deal.
We traveled the world looking in on the Military Sealift Command's far flung interests. At the time, the office in the UK only wore uniforms once a week or so--maybe not even that much. Kalleres told me he wanted to meet with them in their uniforms, a desire I duly passed along to the CO. When we got there, we were ushered into a meeting room with the with the CO, and the command's Operations Officer--where OPS sat with her uniform rigged with all the stuff on the wrong side, a mirror image of what would have been correct. Kalleres said nothing, but he handed me a note during the conversation that said "Nice rig, huh? Be gentle". I loved that moment.
Like many flag officers, Mike had an inbox that his staff would re-arrange, putting the hot things on top. This makes sense, but it invariably means that there was a lot of stuff on the bottom of the box that languished. He and I did a lot of travel to NY during that tour, and I suggested once that we take the train--much more civilized way to travel. He agreed--and it became the time where we dove to the bottom of the inbox, or "mowing grass" as he used to call it. The COS and I sometimes sought out meetings in NY just so we could get to the bottom of the box.
Mike took great care of his aides, and he made us feel important--like we were much more than bag carriers and travel agents. In addition to RADM Dave Thomas, other Kalleres aides (we kept track of each other) include RADM Tony Kurta and CAPT Bill Parker (2009 Stockdale Award Winner). I was clearly the underachiever of the bunch. Mike and Cookie took each of us into their family and their hearts, and his loss diminishes us all. RIP, Lead Huskey.