The Silver Dolphin Issue
Point of View No. 021
Michael Rankin Responds To Vice Admiral Mies' Letter
Sun Feb 22 14:10:26 1998 
The instruction and notice does not concern me so much as the letter from Admiral Mies. You'll notice the letter has an expiration date. And that date has already passed.
The new Supt of USNA will determine what policy his mids are to follow. He'll probably follow suit as it is much easier to follow old instructions than to issue new ones. That would require thought and countering previous Flag Officers. Only time will tell if this new Supt is a risk taker and breaker of new ground. Actually, the giving of ENLISTED SILVER DOLPHINS to midshipmen and other non enlisted, non crew member personnel is newer than the practice of NOT giving them.
The problem here is that the Type Commanders establish the policy and procedure for their boats. And below them, the CO's themselves. I still think this problem will have to be corrected at CNO and boat senior enlisted levels. Not the Type Commander level, not the MCPON level, not the squadron level, not the boat CO level. The CNO will have to promulgate a policy prohibiting the practice and the boat senior enlisted will have to stop recommending non enlisted, non crew member people to receive the ENLISTED SILVER DOLPHINS for hard work and even working through the enlisted submarine qualification card on a summer cruise.
A few things in the letter to the Honorable Dan Burton by Admiral Mies troubles me greatly. Namely:
From paragraph 1:
"I can assure you that the policy of allowing selected midshipmen to attempt to complete enlisted submarine qualification has been carefully reviewed and approved at the highest levels of Submarine Force leadership including our senior enlisted leadership."
The phrase "senior enlisted leadership" sticks in my crop. If this is fact, and I have reason, by virtue of postings on Ron's BBS that it is fact, it really causes me concern. I know a few senior enlisted people on boats have disregard for naval tradition and are merely "super-techs" along for the ride. I know this from talking to some of them. More than a few have told me that a modern submarine is nothing more than a submersible version of any other ship. My reply to this was, "why bother giving you sub pay if that is so."
Actually, that concept of submarines was more true of the diesel powered, air dependent submarines we old timers know and respect. We all know, or so the senior most Flags and builders have told us, that the nuclear powered submarine reversed that role. Nuclear submarines are more a surface-able ship than a submersible ship. The limitations of man being the primary cause of making it surface-able. The statements by these "senior enlisted personnel" also causes me to doubt the depth and breadth and validity of their own qualifications. Did they, like midshipmen, simply work through a qualification card with minimal assignments to ship's duties and activities and watch bills? I know they have told me in person, and on the BBS, that qualifications on watch stations customary to their rating/classification is all that is needed for boat qualifications as the boats today are too complicated for a person to master. This all causes me serious concern, beyond the issue of awarding ENLISTED SILVER DOLPHINS to people who are not qualified by virtue of rate/rank and crewmember status. 
Paragraph 2:
"The objective of this training program is to further the professional development of midshipmen, by introducing them to the operational Navy, reinforcing their academic year programs, instilling a sense of pride in their identification with the Navy, and inclining them toward careers in the naval service." 
Notice the conspicuous absence of the reference to SUBMARINE SERVICE which we have been give so often to this point. But be that as it may, if they were not motivated to naval, or even submarine, service...why are they midshipmen to begin with? Midshipmen are people selected to be midshipmen because of their high degree of motivation in naval service. 
Also paragraph 2:
"Utilizing guidance from the Chief of Naval Education and Training, the United States Naval Academy, and the submarine type commanders, each submarine is responsible for developing a program that meets the above objectives."
Another conspicuous absence: 
Where in the objectives does it say that the objective is to award ENLISTED SILVER DOLPHINS, or any other warfare specialty insignia to midshipmen? It does not. It is OK to surpass objectives you say? What if "Stormin' Norman" had surpassed his given objectives and gone on into Baghdad and killed Saddam? He'd be a war criminal. So is ignoring a stopping point, or surpassing objectives by unofficially setting new ones, a proper way to train our future officers. As long as this country's military answers to civilian authority, they are to obey LAWFUL orders and obtain stated objectives given by higher authority. Midshipmen are being trained to ignore strategic objectives by example. 

Midshipmen are being sent the signal that ignoring a superior's direction in situations that "don't matter" is permissible. Giving an insignia to a rank "above a W-4 (a commissioned Warrant Officer)" for a warfare specialty that is designated for enlisted, lower ranked personnel is not a significant act to Flag officers and Type Commanders. But it is to MANY of those who are expected to follow their orders. Let's face it...the act, in and of itself, of a midshipman wearing a set of ENLISTED SILVER DOLPHINS is not going to affect the outcome of any scenario outside of a bar room drinking fest or brawl, and probably not then. But the mindset it stimulates in future junior officer who hope to become senior and Flag officer is affected. The wrong signals are sent and soon we have junior and senior officers in situations of fraternization with enlisted people. We read about academy graduate B-52 pilots engaged in adultery with their enlisted crew chiefs. We read about department heads on ships giving preferential treatment to certain enlisted people for sexual and other "favors." 
By awarding any enlisted insignia to non enlisted personnel a bridge of familiarity between officer and enlisted is established. Then we see evidence to support the adage "familiarization breeds contempt." We see a breakdown in the chain of command. It has been known since before the Navy was, that to function as it needs to function, the chain of command must be observed by both ends. Any bridges should be formal and not frivolous. And the awarding of any enlisted designated warfare insignia to non enlisted personnel is frivolous.

Paragraph 3:
"The issue of allowing midshipmen the opportunity to earn enlisted dolphins during their summer cruise is specifically addressed in the guidance provided by the submarine type commanders, and is not a new policy."
He forgot to mention that it is interpreted in the exact opposite of its intention in the case of awarding the ENLISTED MAN'S SILVER DOLPHINS to midshipmen. I have expressed before that this was intended as guidance to ship's commanding officers to EXTEND the qualification time of enlisted personnel beyond the time recommended and to be used when extenuating circumstances existed...such as yard or dry-dock periods preventing normal ship's operations. 
From paragraph 3:
"In fact, midshipmen have been given this opportunity as far back as my staff and I can remember."
Their short memory or short service, or service in which this practice has been allowed, does not make it right. It is a flawed policy and practice. It needs to be corrected. Not solely for the morale of a bunch of us old submarine veterans, but for the future strength of a Navy decaying in size, morale, and leadership....a Navy whose potential for effectiveness in battle is surely decaying. 
From paragraph 3:
"The governing instructions are provided as enclosures for your information. The allegation that enlisted dolphins are 'handed out to four week students like sticks of candy to grade school children' is not true. As stated above, they must meet all requirements of other enlisted personnel with the exception of the minimum time on board requirement of six months. ...."
Now who says they work just as hard as the enlisted men? Who says they are given no dispensations? Here is only one exception...right form "the horse's mouth." 
From paragraph 3:
"The midshipmen who earn their enlisted dolphins do so only with the support of the entire crew, both officer and enlisted."
I reiterate my above concern regarding enlisted support. But we have heard both ways on this support, haven't we? We've heard that it was done out of coercion and intimidation. But sadly, we have heard that it was done cheerfully and sometimes initiated by enlisted personnel. 
From paragraph 3:
"Many 'checkouts' that the midshipmen must receive are obtained from enlisted crew members, and are only given after the midshipmen demonstrate the requisite level of knowledge. Additionally, a final oral examination board is required for each midshipman to earn enlisted dolphins. This board is made up of enlisted members of the crew, as well as an officer, and ensures the midshipman displays the required level of knowledge. This process ensures that enlisted crew members are heavily involved in the qualification of the midshipmen, and should lend credibility to other enlisted submariners who doubt the process is fair."
Notice the quoted and implied support from the enlisted side of the house. Did we really expect this guy to give the ward room and Type Commanders full responsibility? After all, were they not simply doing what the enlist guys wanted? 
And that last sentence really makes me want to vomit. Giving ENLISTED SILVER DOLPHINS to midshipmen on summer cruise is going to improve morale among the enlisted by showing them how fair the process is? Give me a break! This is double-speak!
And lastly, his closing:
"If I can provide further assistance in this matter or answer any more questions concerning this program, please do not hesitate to inquire."
Assistance? What did he do except say that they were guilty and that guilty is the right and moral way? To me he admitted to failure to lead in this area. 

To summarize Admiral Mies' letter - he laid the blame on the enlisted men and said that the practice would continue because it boosted their morale by showing the process was fair while using non enlisted, non crew members as a tool and barometer. Notice that nowhere in his letter did he state that midshipmen were considered enlisted men. Nowhere did he say that the practice was an effective enticement for men to serve in submarines. (That would not make it correct.) I can only deduce from this letter that Admiral Mies is so politically motivated that he has forgotten his original oath of office. He must be an enemy of fear and not willing to face it head-on by admitting a mistake has been made. To me he lacks the courage to correct this wrong that has been conducted " as far back as my staff and I can remember." Courage, honor, integrity...key elements of leadership. Doing something because "that's the way it has always been done" a leader does not make. 

Mike Rankin