View Full Version : Bill Buckner, Admiral Nimitz and mistakes

10-13-2014, 02:22 PM
Bill Buckner accumulated over 2,700 hits in his twenty-year career, won a batting title in 1980, and represented the Cubs at the All-Star Game the following season. His career batting average was .289, got 2,715 hits – 174 were home runs and had 1,208 RBI’s one hell of a career. However, fans will always remember the error Bill Buckner of the Boston Red Sox made in the sixth game of the 1986 World Series against New York Mets. In the military I have often heard this summed up as ‘one thousand atta-boys don’t make up for one “oh shit” moment.’ Sad but true in so many ways.

Who out there has never made a mistake? While not burdened with historical research, I am going to go out on a limb and say NO ONE. Militarily let’s take a quick look:

--Chester Nimitz ran the USS Decatur aground in 1907 and was convicted at court-martial of hazarding his vessel. He was later promoted to LT, and eventually to Fleet Admiral.

--John LeJeune was disciplined while at the Naval Academy for throwing dice (gambling.) He graduated, commissioned as a Marine Officer and eventually was the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

--Mike Mullen didn’t do too well at the Naval Academy, became a Surface Warfare Officer and struck a buoy. He went on to be an Admiral, the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I was the recipient of Non-Judicial Punishment not once but twice. Reduced in rank each time. Both times I completely deserved it; no arguments against it. I was and continue to be lucky that the leaders I had at after that third brush with Fraternal Order of the Lance Corporal did not give up on me especially since for a short period I gave up on myself. I moped around for a few weeks knowing that at the end of my current enlistment there was no way the Marine Corps would let me stay. My First Sergeant pulled me into his office and told me basically to “suck it up.” The Marine Corps may not let me stay, but there was no way they would if I just coasted through the next couple of years. I remember him saying “if you want to stay, stop licking your wounds and show someone WHY you should stay. Now get out of here.” It wasn’t easy actually, at first my reenlistment request was denied; my platoon sergeant and OIC made many phone calls and I was allowed to reenlist “For Further Observation” for 24 months – any disciplinary problems in that time and I would be shown the door. I meritoriously promoted back to Cpl, and Sgt, SSgt then GySgt. I was accepted for a commission in the Navy and while my promotion to LTjg and LT were pretty much automatic, I was promoted to LCDR early. So things have kind of worked out.

I tell people that story a lot, repeatedly … a lot. I tell junior people so they see that the system is not blindly going to force people out who have erred. I tell senior people to try to reinforce that no one is perfect; many are surprised to hear I was commissioned at all. Why? Should our system have a zero-defect mentality? I am no Nimitz or LeJeune but how would our history be different if Admiral Nimitz was drummed out as a LTjg, or if General LeJeune not allowed to graduate from the Naval Academy?

The news today, social media and internet forums are full of ‘mistakes.’ We focus on the negative and not the whole person. We focus on identifying and griping about the problem but offer little in the way of solutions. Yes, shortcomings need to be addressed and get the majority of our effort after all, that is where our processes or procedures are broken. Do those who have nothing but bad to say truly have nothing else or do they just not want to? If you met Bill Buckner in a bar, would you ask him about the end of the ’86 Series or something else; where is your focus? It may be cliché … but if you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem.