One of the first things I learned in navy Officer Indoctrination School was “Ship – Shipmate – Self.”
Ship: Take care of the ship. It is the mission.
Shipmate: Take care of each other. Be vigilant to the needs and actions of your shipmates and watch out for one another.
Self: Take care of yourself. You cannot care for others if you are not caring for yourself.
The selflessness of this principle resonated with me. After all, I had joined the navy to serve.
Recently I was visiting my squadron in San Diego. The Providers of VRC-30 supply COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery), moving people and cargo between an aircraft carrier and the shore. Notwithstanding this service-oriented mission, their command philosophy is:
Self/Family: The men and women of VRC-30 are our most valuable resource.
Team: We succeed as a team. We fail as a team.
Mission: YOUR contribution as an individual is critical for our mission.
Both philosophies are sound and reasonable. And despite setting forth opposite views they’re both true. But how can this be? Should we look after ourselves first or make the ship/mission our top priority?
After pondering this conflict I think the answer lies in the circumstances.
During daily life you need to look after yourself and your family first so you don’t unduly burden your teammates and hinder meeting the mission.
But at critical points: a fire, a traumatic event in a friend's life, or defense against an enemy, the mission has to reign supreme. When the stakes approach all or nothing, the personal and familial resilience you built everyday now has to carry you through while you focus on driving the mission to safety in the face of catastrophe or victory.
How do you decide when to focus on yourself verses others? Please comment below.