The Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale Award for Inspirational Leadership

Vice Admiral (VADM) James Bond Stockdale was a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, a fighter pilot and one of the most highly decorated officers of the Navy.  In September 1965, he ejected out of his A-4E Skyhawk over North Vietnam.  For eight years, Admiral Stockdale was held prisoner and was frequently tortured.  He organized the American’s resistance against the North Vietnamese.  VADM Stockdale was awarded 26 personal combat decorations and four Silver Stars.  In 1976, he received the Medal of Honor.  From October 1977 until August 1979, he served as president of the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.  Admiral Stockdale died in 2005 and is buried at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Admiral Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), presented the Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale Leadership Award to two commanders at the Pentagon in the Hall of Heroes on January 5th.  The Navy established the award more than three decades ago, in part to recognize VADM Stockdale’s distinguished naval career that symbolizes the highest standards of excellence in both personal character, example and leadership.  The annual honor recognizes two active-duty commanding officers, one from each coast, below the rank of captain, who are in command of a single ship, submarine, aviation squadron, or operational warfare unit, whose service shows personal character and excellent leadership.  These commanders are nominated by their peers, and recommended by their fleet commanders, for consideration by a panel of senior officers.

Commander (CDR) Robert B. Chadwick II, representing the Atlantic fleet, former commanding officer (CO) of the USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), based in Mayport, Florida, and CDR Gerald N. Miranda Jr., representing the Pacific Fleet, former CO of the San Diego-based submarine USS Asheville (SSN 758), both received this year’s award.  They were given the award due to their leadership, personal initiative, exemplary performance and contribution to the overall success of the operational units they commanded.  By receiving this award, they are considered to be the best in the fleet, according to their peers.

CDR Chadwick credited his success to his crew on the Roosevelt.  “Although this award is being presented to me I honestly feel as though it is a unit award,” said Chadwick. “This award is for inspirational leadership and if that is true inspiration flowed both ways because I was inspired every day by the Sailors of Roosevelt. I won’t presume that I fully earned it the highest compliment I could receive would be that I was a commanding officer that Roosevelt’s remarkable crew deserved and I accept this award on their behalf.”

Chadwick said, “I was inspired every day by the sailors of Roosevelt” and “Whenever you are in a leadership position, your mindset needs to be, I am here for them…I think where leaders can get in trouble is if they ever take the approach, ‘They are here for me’. If you take that service approach, ‘I can only be successful if they are successful’, then I think you can’t go wrong.”

Chadwick said part of his leadership style is to build the confidence of sailors and give them the opportunities they need to succeed. That worked well on the Roosevelt, he said.

CDR Miranda said that, to him, the Stockdale award means being a role model for crew members and commanding officers both at work and at home.  “Although my name is on the plaque, it’s really a crew award. Without my courageous and dedicated crew this recognition would not be possible. Each and every Sailor onboard shares in this award’s prestige; they are a group of ordinary men doing extraordinary things,” said Miranda.  “Being a commanding officer is a 24/7, 365-days-a-year job that requires constant and unrelenting standards,” Miranda said. “It means doing the right thing all the time regardless of the obstacles and pressures to do otherwise, as well as being the example for others to follow.”

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Command Leadership is a challenging undertaking, even under the best of circumstances.  Being in command of these ships and squadrons is not all about winning awards and accolades.  It’s about leading Sailors through some of the toughest personal and professional challenges imaginable.[i]

The Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale award embodies all of what the core values and leadership principles represent.  The recipients of this award have demonstrated their ability to gain the trust of their respective crews, have gained their loyalty, and have ultimately succeeded at inspiring and influencing them to accomplish the mission of the ship.  These two Naval officers were proud, yet unselfish in their acceptance of this award; giving all of the credit to their respective crews.  In the military, officers don’t spend a lot of time bragging about what they’ve accomplished.  They focus on how they can help their team.  They instill a sense of belief in their people, and, in turn, their people are confident that they can accomplish their goals and objectives.  Officers in the military should not focus on advancing their careers, as much as they should work to advance the knowledge and experience of their subordinates.

Commander Chadwick and Commander Miranda have demonstrated their ability to influence others through emotionally intelligent interaction, ability to demonstrate a strong team approach, and ability to understand the personal and professional motivators of their crew that provided the impetus for organizational progress.  Congratulations to both of these fine officers and gentlemen.

Copyright © Dale R. Wilson


Sources –

“Sub CO, former skipper earn top Navy honor” – By Jill Laster (staff writer) – Posted Tuesday, September 6, 2011 – http://www.navytimes.com/news/2011/09/navy-sub-co-former-skipper-earn-top-navy-honor-090611/ – Accessed 17 January 2012 – http://www.navytimes.com

“31st Annual Stockdale Leadership Awards Presented by CNO” – By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shannon Burns, Defense Media Activity – Navy – Release Date: January 5, 2012 – http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=64644 – Accessed 17 January 2012 – http://www.navy.mil

“ ‘Aye-Aye Skipper!’ There Should Be More Stories Like This… ” – By Darlene Iskra – Posted January 17, 2012 – Battleland Blog (where military intelligence is not a contradiction in terms) – http://battleland.blogs.time.com/2012/01/17/aye-aye-skipper-there-should-be-more-stories-like-this/ – Accessed 17 January 2012 – http://www.time.com


Footnote – 

[i] Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale Leadership Award Winners: A League of Extraordinary Officers and Gentlemen – By Captain Mike Lambert – The Real Navyhttp://therealnavy.com/default.aspx, accessed 17 January 2012

Photo Credits –

Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Shannon Burns, Defense Media Activity – Navy – Accessed 17 January 2012 – http://www.navytimes.com
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