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Why We Need a Command Master Chief

By October 9, 2023Blog, Team Management

Thanks to a recent speaking engagement and book signing for my new book, Hospitality in Healthcare, at 2023 AAHA Con in San Diego, I got a chance to visit the USS Midway. The Midway is an aircraft carrier built in 1945 and utilized in the war in Vietnam and many other missions with Desert Storm as her final foray into battle. She held about 45 planes and helicopters and housed over 4000 members of the US Navy as her crew.

The ship was a small city, holding its own commercial kitchen, laundry, dining halls and even a post office. She was often at sea for more than a year at a time. I even learned that sailors responsible for the engines would frequently not come up to the deck to see the sun for more than 2 weeks straight. They only knew if it was morning or evening by the color of the lights on in the ship. Red was night and white was day. On top of that, the engine room temperature was usually more than 120 degrees and depending on where in the world the ship was deployed the temperatures experienced could be even higher on the deck.

We learned the very specifically timed process for catapulting a jet off the end of the ship’s runway. Think Top Gun. It was an amazing lesson in teamwork and training. You see it took only 10 seconds for the ground crew members to hook the planes to a steam driven catapult, check that everyone was safely out of the jet wash, the pilot was sitting properly with his head back against the seat (the G force would have knocked him silly if not) and that the missiles were armed and ready. The planes went from 0 to 170 MPH in 3 seconds! It took 15 minutes for our guild to explain all the positions and tasks but these flight ground crew members were so well trained that it could happen in 10 seconds and the next aircraft be readied and launched just as fast. The reverse was true when they landed as one touched down every 45 seconds when returning from a mission. Another cool fact. Each position on the crew wore a specific color shirt to signify their job in the work flow. I do love a smart dress code.

All this organization of tasks and coordination of teams was right up my ally. But a couple of things really stood out.

First of all, the average age of the enlisted crew on this ship was 19. The officers ranged from 30 to 45 with the Captain aging out at about 50. It was astonishing how, with proper leadership and training, these teenagers managed to keep a ship in top condition that was 1001 ft long and weighed 64,000 TONS! She burned 900 gallons of gas per mile at 34 mph and she sailed from Norfolk, VA around the Horn of South Africa to join the Pacific fleet because she was too large to go though the Panama Canal. Teamwork makes the dream work!

The second was a sign I saw on a cabin where the Command Master Chief resided.

The job of the Command Master Chief was unique from all the other officers. Their job was to assist the Captain in monitoring the morale and job satisfaction of the enlisted crew. They served as a sounding board for improving the quality of life on board the ship. They roamed the ship and talked with the crew about their STATE OF MIND. Wow!

This sign really got me thinking. Should all businesses have a Command Master Chief? In some companies I suppose this is the job of Human Resources, however, that position seems to have become more about covering the company against legal liability than the state of mind and quality of life of the employees. As the Chief Operating Officer for my last practice, I did spend a lot of time walking the floor and talking with the team but I also had “math” and “marketing” duties to manage. Could we create this position to assist our owners and managers? After all, looking after the team’s state of mind and quality of life would seem a wise investment. It certainly seemed so for the Navy! If we think caring for animals is difficult I can’t imagine how we would manage as a crew member on this ship where we were away from our family months on end while crowded into quarters just large enough to stand in or lie down on our berth. Eating the food presented to us and working in sweltering heat or blistering cold while waiting for the enemy to attack sounds miserable yet our fellow Americans bravely took on this duty.

My admiration for those who served and currently serve has grown exponentially after visiting the Midway. She not only won numerous military honors for her service but she also won the award for having the best food in the Navy. They really took care of their crew.
Something else struck me. In the officers’ mess (dining area) there sits a table fully decked out with fine linens, one place setting of china and silver with a rose in a crystal vase and one empty chair. This seat is set and saved by the crew for all their comrades lost in battle to honor their memory and so those who visit the Midway will never forget the price so many paid for our freedom.

To those who take on the tasks that keep us safe at home and abroad you have my greatest respect.

Thank you for your service.



Debbie Boone’s New Book:

“Hospitality in Healthcare”

Today’s healthcare consumer demands more than just an appointment. They want healing and human connection. Providing an exceptional experience at every step of the patient journey requires active participation and collaboration from the entire medical office team.

Read More!