The Navy’s DEI efforts are a much needed course correction

To the editor:

A recent article titled “The United States Naval Academy is Adrift” by Mr. J. A. Cauthen, a fellow alumni and former history teacher, decried the “Wokeness” of recent Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts as “Marxist” and counterproductive to an institution charged with creating the next generation of Navy and Marine Corps leaders. As a 1984 graduate of the same institution, I could not possibly disagree more. In maritime terms, the Position of Intended Movement (PIM) line is laid out on a chart from the ship’s current position to its intended destination, along with a course and speed to get there. As the Naval Academy executes a slight course correction in terms of DEI initiatives, designed to counter the natural forces of bias and prejudice that have and will always exist in society (as a ship uses engines and rudders to maintain course against wind and current), it is not adrift, but firmly under command, and headed in the right direction: toward a more inclusive and effective warfighting force.

In reading Mr. Cauthen’s article I encourage the readers to follow the links and read the source documents. For example, the author seems to be referring to this paragraph from the DEI instruction as “Marxist” – without defining what that means – but it sounds to me like good leadership:

“The Program exists to create an inclusive environment that fosters dignity and respect throughout the Brigade by equipping midshipmen to lead across cultures in support of the mission of the Naval Academy.”

Responsibilities include:

(1) Conduct a minimum of two small group discussions within their company each semester. A session will consist of an open conversation about leading a diverse group of people, ensuring that everyone is treated with dignity and respect and feels a sense of belonging in the group.”

Having served twice in a shipboard command capacity, these are the types of discussions that I had on a frequent basis with my crew. As with any fighting force, in any military unit there are small teams, whether it be on the bridge of a ship, a fire fighting locker, or a duty section, each of which include members of very different backgrounds and experience. There is a common saying that “the soldier fights not for a grand cause, but for the person next to them in the foxhole”. If members of these teams feel that others see them as “less than“ or feel that their contributions are undervalued or even worse that they are not trusted, that is the opposite of inclusion, namely division, quickly undermines the fighting effectiveness of the team.

In the end, as the Leadership of the Naval Academy affirm by their signatures, the DEI initiative comports with an effective fighting force and the Sailors’ Creed that I proudly recited with 40 Midshipmen without consideration of race, gender, religion or sexual orientations, especially the final sentence:

“I am a United States Sailor.
I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.
I will obey the orders of those appointed over me.
I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy and those who have gone before me.
to defend freedom and democracy around the world.
I proudly serve my country’s Navy combat team with Honor, Courage and Commitment.
I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all”

John Cordle
Chesapeake, Virginia