Command Early and Command Often in Bahrain

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Samantha P. Montenegro | January 06, 2019

NSA BAHRAIN -- Surely every junior Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) has heard the phrase “command early and command often,” heavily sprinkled among the advice given to them from senior SWOs. The opportunity to command a ship at sea is said to be at the heart of what being a SWO is about, and commanding a ship and its crew early would only fulfill that intrinsic duty sooner.

Lt. Cmdr. Billy Green, Lt. Cmdr. Rob Toohig, Lt. Cmdr. Dale Tourtellotte, and Lt. Cmdr. Yilei Liu, all commanding officers on Naval Support Activity Bahrain’s waterfront, just learned of another reward that could come from the many responsibilities that come from early command at sea; they were selected for commander command at sea.

Capt. Christopher Gilbertson, commodore of Naval Surface Squadron (CNSS) 5, has administrative control of coastal patrol (PC) and mine countermeasures (MCM) ships operating out of Bahrain. Gilbertson expressed deep pride and appreciation for his junior officers and the work that they do.

“These ship captains are doing a superb job,” said Gilbertson. “They are extremely deserving of their selection for command at the next level. They’re doing what SWOs are intended to do; leading Sailors and ships at sea, and command of a warship is the penultimate tour they could have.”

Capt. Adan Cruz, commodore of Task Force 55, oversees the operational movements of the MCMs and PCs out of Bahrain. Cruz said he felt that these ships were the heart and soul of the Navy’s U.S. 5th Fleet and voiced his praise for their leadership and their accomplishments.

“These Junior commanding officers are really the best the Navy has to offer,” said Cruz. “I’m amazed at how they go about their business. They lead like more senior officers do, they’re accountable for their ship and crew like more senior officers are, and they never let us down. I am proud to call myself their commodore.”

When speaking to the ship commanding officers, it becomes abundantly clear that their success is rooted in their desire to lead. They are in positions that fully embody the true nature of a SWO and it is evident that their success has been forged by their willingness to take on responsibility and lead.

“Being able to take a ship underway as a lieutenant commander with my Sailors has been, by far, the most rewarding thing I have done in my career,” said Green, commanding officer of Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Devastator (MCM 6). “On the Devastator, my wins are my crews wins, and their wins are mine, too. My selection for commander command reflects just as much on them and their hard work, as it does on me and my career.”

Another newly selected commanding officer from Bahrain’s waterfront described how his role will help him in the future.

“This position has given me the opportunity to experience the dynamic of being in command,” said Tourtellotte, commanding officer of Cyclone-class coastal patrol ship USS Hurricane (PC 3). “Now, when I go on to my next sea tour, I will be better suited to take on a larger role on a larger platform. You have a chance to prove yourself in early command, and it gives you the opportunity to take on greater roles of responsibility in the future.”

Adm. James Stavridis, ret., a Surface Warfare Officer and author, wrote of the role of a ship’s captain in the 6th edition of “Command at Sea.”

“Though the size of a ship may be important as a measure of her capability or durability, the smallest minesweeper is equal to the largest aircraft carrier in terms of responsibility or reward,” said Stavridis in his book.

As Staviridis described, all of these commanding officers, though in command of smaller naval vessels, were able to experience firsthand the challenges and triumphs of being a commanding officer of their own vessel. They each felt the weight of the burden, and the joy of the reward, as SWOs do.