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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Prayer For COWPENS & CAPT Graf

A great leadership tragedy has gripped the interest and attention of the Navy in general and the Surface community specifically in recent days. There is an enormous amount of stir on naval forums, blogs, and the media over the current relief of the COWPENS' Commanding Officer, CAPT Holly Graf, due to "cruelty and mistreatment" of her Officers and crew. Since this blog is mostly dedicated to (Christian) naval leadership I would be remiss to not add my comments. Clearly, CAPT Graf's conduct, attested to by many who have served/known her, is incompatible with the type of leadership expected and normally practiced in the Surface Navy. I believe this is why the outcry within the community has been so extensive and passionate.

So, my thoughts have been on what should be our response? We would do well to recognize that this type of behavior is rooted in a broken heart. Sin (fear, selfish ambition, pride, control, etc.) drives leaders to abuse their position of authority and consequently those that they have been called to lead/serve. Secondly, we must recognize that each of us have within us the capacity for such actions as well. I know that I am capable of far worse things than those that I have read about occurring under CAPT Graf's command. Realize for the regenerate it is the grace of God that restrains the sin that stems "cruelty and mistreatment" of other people. We too are often cruel toward others and mistreat people as we pursue our own agenda and fight to fulfill our own desires (James 4:1-2). Have you ever acted out in anger? Have you spoken cruelly to another person? Have you belittled those you know? Have you ever struggled to maintain control in the midst of fear and ambition-induced stress? I certainly have (and I am a Christian, supposedly sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit and governed by the principles of the Bible!). OK, maybe not as consistently or publicly as CAPT Graf, but the same source of darkness entrenched in her is resident in you and me. Surely, "but for the grace of God go I" is an appropriate response. Don't you see - Holly Graf is you, Holly Graf is me. We all are deserving of being "fired." What if we were to receive what we deserved? What if we were treated according to our actions, the unseen acts committed when no one is watching, and the secret motives of our hearts? You know what I'm talking about - those things that cause you sleepless nights as you ponder them in the still quiet darkness - laying restlessly in bed in the middle of the night - that you have done, which you wish could be undone. We should be so very thankful that God's grace restrains the effects of the Fall and our sinful flesh. We are not treated according to who we are and what we do.

So, CAPT Graf should serve as a momentary mirror giving pause for self-reflection. Our response should be to recognize that she is not beyond the redemption afforded by the Gospel. God uses times of brokenness to humble people and call them to repent and turn to a real and personal relationship with Him. Surely, CAPT Graf's world has came crashing down around her. Formerly, her identity was found in her career - it has been shattered. May she look to the Lord and be re-created anew as her identity becomes rooted in her relationship with the only Thing that is real and lasting. Finally (or, even better, firstly), let us pray. Pray for Holly Graf. Pray for her to be driven to godly repentance. Pray that this event in her life be the sharp needle that penetrates her hardened heart making way for the silken thread of the Gospel to enter. Pray that this temporary tragedy results in THE relationship that provides the experience of eternal life. Also, Pray for CAPT Marin as he assumes command of COWPENS (remember God has appointed him to this position at such a time as this, Rom. 13:1). He has a great challenge ahead of him and will need divine strength, wisdom, compassion, and discernment as he leads the battered Sailors of the Mighty Moo. Pray for the crew of the ship as they recover; that there would remain no bitterness and their faith and respect for the position of "Commanding Officer" and the Wardroom would be re-established and re-affirmed. Pray for those Surface Warfare Officers and Sailors that read about CAPT Graf that they would reflect on their own leadership style; considering how they can improve their own care for those they sail with. Pray that the culture of the surface community would change. That we would become more transparent and honest in how we lead and by what criteria we evaluate those with the potential for further service as leaders in this great Navy. We have case studies to examine groundings, poor INSURVs, safety mishaps, and tactical mistakes in combat. Yet, rarely do we talk specifically about the multitude of firings and causes for reliefs by senior leaders that inundate the cover of Navy Times. The details are kept secret and the perpetrators never give an account. They are simply and quietly sneaked into a cubicle in the basement of the Pentagon or stashed on a staff until eased into retirement. The next generation of leaders need to know what went wrong, why these CO's were removed, and what specifically made their behavior unacceptable. This kind of conversation must occur if we are ever going to change - to improve for our Sailor's sake. It is my prayer that we will become more transparent and in discussing how to lead and where leaders have failed - emerge as a more healthy community - established in leadership attributes that reflect a heart of service, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, joy, peace, faithfulness, self-control, and ultimately love for our followers.


  1. The command screening board should answer for this.

  2. 1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. ~Romans 13: 1-5

    Do you believe that the Lord works through the selection/screening board members? Is it possible that it was His will for CAPT Graf to be promoted? Why or why not? Would enjoy hearing from you.

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  4. Just... wow. You are kidding, right?

  5. I think some are missing your point. What Capt Graf did was wrong, but she's not the first to sin nor will she be the last. There are many others who have let power go to their heads...perfect example is King David with Bathsheba. We don't know what is in the Capt's mind or heart, and we can't control her thoughts but we can certainly control our responses to them. I served in the Corps 30 years ago when such things with officers and senior enlisted were not unusual...only back then you didn't talk because you'd be labeled as someone who was a "whiner" who couldn't hack it. It was prayer and forgiveness that got me through my enlistment in the Corps.