It is said that "Birds of a feather flock together" and we see evidence of great truth in that hypothesis each and every day. Likewise, coaches, mentors, parents and friends will tell us that if we want to be (insert goal) then we need to surround ourselves with people who are (insert goal derived descriptor). As a kid, I was extremely passionate about the sport of soccer and I wanted to be the best player I could. The only way to achieve that goal was to join teams that were made up of only the best players in the area, thereby elevating my game. At the Naval Academy I had my share of academic challenges and the only way to help improve my grades was to spend study hour with classmates who were strong in the particular field of study in which I was having challenges at any given time. I think that lesson is learned early in life and is easy to grasp. It wasn't until my first assignment as an Officer that I was able to connect the dots to the corollary.
As an Ensign, my first set of orders as a Cryptologic Officer was to NSGA Adak, Alaska. Being a single 22 year old, Adak was the last place I wanted to go. I still remember the Doctor at my overseas screening telling me that there was a "pretty girl behind every tree." The joke was lost on me since I had no idea at that time that there were no trees (that said, I guess the joke is on him since I met my now wife there). It wasn't until six months later that I learned the most significant lesson of my tour. The command was slated to close, dependents were soon to be sent home and all new arrivals would be unaccompanied. Despite that fact, top notch Sailors continued to arrive on this remote island eager to contribute, but why? It wasn't the mission (the Soviet Union was no longer), it wasn't the beaches, and it sure wasn't the weather. It had everything to do with the leadership and one man in particular. My first Commanding Officer was Captain Dave Henry, who unfortunately passed away a year ago this week. I had no idea how lucky I was at the time, but every CT that checked in clearly did. These top notch Sailors were flocking to come work for a great leader. Their pride in being a part of the team he was leading did not wane, as I clearly remember his departure just over a year after I arrived. As he drove his trademark "Beater" jeep towards the air terminal where he would board the plane that would take him away from us, the street was lined with almost every Sailor not on watch. We were proudly saluting him as a means of expressing our gratitude. Needless to say, there were many "leaky" eyes.
Even then, I clearly understood that if I wanted to be great, I should surround myself with greatness. Though it was Captain Henry who personally demonstrated to me that if one was great, greatness would follow him (her). His example is one of many I continually attempt to emulate. As I continue to seek out great people with whom to surround myself, I hope that someday I will be worthy of great people seeking out me.