Adm. John Richardson just showed he still doesn’t understand why he failed as Chief of Naval Operations

Analysis
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson delivers remarks at the McAleese Defense Programs Conference. Richardson spoke on budget, acquisition, manning and retention, resources, and the future of the Navy

Former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson just gave the weakest of weak-ass excuses for the litany of disasters that define his legacy.

"Your character is like a muscle," Richardson told Washington Post reporter Dan Lamothe in a recent interview. "It sort of gets stronger when you train it, and then it gets fatigued when you strain it and you use it a lot."

Richardson was speaking about scandals plaguing the Navy SEALs, but considering the other catastrophes during his tenure as CNO, Twitter users seized on Richardson's comment about character fatigue as ironic, incomplete, and totally clueless.


"Before he was CNO, Richardson was the CDA [Consolidated Disposition Authority] for the Navy's internal Fat Leonard probe," tweeted San Diego Union-Tribune military reporter Andrew Dyer. "He let a lot of high ranking officers retire anonymously despite not just taking gifts but also taking official actions to benefit Leonard's company, GDMA. Lots of character fatigue I guess."

Richardson touched on the issue of character in May when he ordered a review into how the Navy investigates and separates sailors for misconduct after former SEAL Eric Greitens was able to return to the service.

Greitens had resigned as Missouri governor in May 2018 after being accused of sexually assaulting a woman. Prosecutors decided not to charge him for the alleged sexual assault due to a lack of evidence and the statute of limitations.

"Top performance from our sailors can only be achieved through a deliberate enduring commitment to professional expertise and commitment to being a person of high moral character consistent with our core values of honor, courage, and commitment," Richardson wrote in a May 30 memo. "This is a high but necessary ethical standard and sets an expectation for personal behavior that far exceeds mere criminal standards."

But character was not the Navy's Achilles heel under Richardson. Competence was. Two separate ship collisions in 2017 involving the destroyers USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald revealed that sailors in the surface fleet were woefully undertrained and overworked.

The Navy's attempt to prosecute Cmdr. Bryce Benson, the former captain of the Fitzgerald, collapsed in part because Richardson kept blaming Benson for the disaster, running afoul of unlawful command influence.

And the prosecution of Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Eddie Gallagher failed so spectacularly that Richardson ordered a review into the Navy's Judge Advocate General Corps on Aug. 1.

Yet, others were always at fault during the Richardson years. Scandals that would have felled other CNOs left Richardson unscathed while subordinates saw their careers ruined.

As historians will debate how much Richardson is at fault for all that went wrong while he served as CNO, one question will be whether he had the right character for the job to begin with.

A UH-60 Black Hawk departs from The Rock while conducting Medevac 101 training with members of the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, Feb. 16, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.

At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.

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The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.

Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."

Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.

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The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.

Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.

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I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.

Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.

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An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps

"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.

At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.

Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.

"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."

She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."

It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.

The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.

But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.

The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.

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