Best Defense

A submarine skipper reflects on the impact of ‘Loss of Confidence’ reliefs

Tom’s run a lot of news lately about reliefs.



By Capt. John Byron, US Navy (Ret.)
Best Defense guest commentator

Tom’s run a lot of news lately about reliefs. Those items, combined with an excellent discussion on the website of “Proceedings,” provoke these thoughts:

The cost to the individual who gets fired from command is obvious. Less accounted for is the cost to the service —that is, the education and training wasted, and the potential future contribution denied.

Sometimes the individual is just in too deep on a job that’s too hard for that individual. The good aide isn’t perforce a good company commander.

But sadder and more common is the otherwise good officer who just plain screws up, a zipper problem or sloppy watch-keeping, or more ego than the job can stand. It afflicts all the services.

Capt. John Byron is qualified in surface warfare and in submarines. He served in five submarines, commanding the submarine Gudgeon. He is a plank-owner of the cruiser Fox.

Photo credit: HOWARD PYLE/Harper’s Magazine/Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at

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