e·thos [ee-thos, ee-thohs, eth-os, -ohs] -noun
1. Sociology. the fundamental character or spirit of a culture; the underlying sentiment that informs the beliefs, customs, or practices of a group or society; dominant assumptions of a people or period: In the Greek ethos the individual was highly valued.
2. the character or disposition of a community, group, person, etc.
3. the moral element in dramatic literature that determines a character’s action rather than his or her thought or emotion.
[Origin: 1850-55; < Gk: custom, habit, character]
s’okay Scribe – what has your dander up that you’re now quoting from the Dictionary?
Oh – that…well, you know, seems like these days younguns coming in to the Service just don’t have an appreciation or understanding of what they’re all about…
Rubbish – and one needn’t look further than the newest crop of NFO’s we had the pleasure of associating with Friday. Besides, ethos is acquired from living in an atmosphere that is permeated with a certain way of doing things, a culture if you will. Its acquired by doing not mouthing a laundry list of HR slogans. To wit:
With Bonhomme Richard burning and sinking, it seems that her ensign was shot away; when one of the officers, apparently believing his captain to be dead, shouted a surrender, the British commander asked, seriously this time, if they had struck their colors. Jones later remembered saying something like “I am determined to make you strike”, but the words allegedly heard by crew-members and reported in newspapers a few days later were more like: “I may sink, but I’ll be damned if I strike!“
“I intend to go in harm’s way…. I have a fighting ship and I will never retreat from an enemy force…”
Quote, CDR E.E. Evans, USN, October 27, 1943
at USS JOHNSTON’s commissioning
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. JOHNSTON in action against major units of the enemy Japanese fleet during the Battle off Samar on 25 October 1944. The first to lay a smokescreen and to open fire as an enemy task force, vastly superior in number, firepower and armor, rapidly approached. Commander Evans gallantly diverted the powerful blasts of hostile guns from the lightly armed and armored carriers under his protection, launching the first torpedo attack when the JOHNSTON came under straddling Japanese shellfire. Undaunted by damage sustained under the terrific volume of fire, he unhesitatingly joined others of his group to provide fire support during subsequent torpedo attacks against the Japanese and, outshooting and outmaneuvering the enemy as he consistently interposed his vessel between the hostile fleet units and our carriers despite the crippling loss of engine power and communications with steering aft, shifted command to the fantail, shouted steering orders through an open hatch to men turning the rudder by hand and battled furiously until the JOHNSTON, burning and shuddering from a mortal blow, lay dead in the water after 3 hours of fierce combat. Seriously wounded early in the engagement, Commander Evans, by his indomitable courage and brilliant professional skill, aided materially in turning back the enemy during a critical phase of the action. His valiant fighting spirit throughout this historic battle will venture as an inspiration to all who served with him.”
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a pilot in Fighter Squadron 32, while attempting to rescue a squadron mate whose plane struck by antiaircraft fire and trailing smoke, was forced down behind enemy lines. Quickly maneuvering to circle the downed pilot and protect him from enemy troops infesting the area, Lt. (jg.) Hudner risked his life to save the injured flier who was trapped alive in the burning wreckage. Fully aware of the extreme danger in landing on the rough mountainous terrain, and the scant hope of escape or survival in subzero temperature, he put his plane down skillfully in a deliberate wheels up landing in the presence of enemy troops. With his bare hands, he packed the fuselage with snow to keep the flames away from the pilot and struggled to pull him free. Unsuccessful in this, he returned to his crashed aircraft and radioed other airborne planes, requesting that a helicopter be dispatched with an ax and fire extinguisher. He then remained on the spot despite the continuing danger from enemy action and, with the assistance of the rescue pilot, renewed a desperate but unavailing battle against time, cold, and flames. Lt. (jg.) Hudner’s exceptionally valiant action and selfless devotion to a shipmate sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. See also ENS Jesse LeRoy Brown. (ed. Seems like we’ve also found the definition of ‘shipmate’ here too… – SJS)
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Parche in a predawn attack on a Japanese convoy, 31 July 1944. Boldly penetrating the screen of a heavily escorted convoy, Comdr. Ramage launched a perilous surface attack by delivering a crippling stern shot into a freighter and quickly following up with a series of bow and stern torpedoes to sink the leading tanker and damage the second one. Exposed by the light of bursting flares and bravely defiant of terrific shellfire passing close overhead, he struck again, sinking a transport by two forward reloads. In the mounting fury of fire from the damaged and sinking tanker, he calmly ordered his men below, remaining on the bridge to fight it out with an enemy now disorganized and confused. Swift to act as a fast transport closed in to ram, Comdr. Ramage daringly swung the stern of the speeding Parche as she crossed the bow of the onrushing ship, clearing by less than 50 feet but placing his submarine in a deadly crossfire from escorts on all sides and with the transport dead ahead. Undaunted, he sent 3 smashing “down the throat” bow shots to stop the target, then scored a killing hit as a climax to 46 minutes of violent action with the Parche and her valiant fighting company retiring victorious and unscathed.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as automatic weapons gunner FOR NAVAL SPECIAL WARFARE TASK GROUP Arabian Peninsula, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom on 29 September 2006. As a member of a combined seal and Iraqi army sniper overwatch element, tasked with providing early warning and stand-off protection from a rooftop in an insurgent held sector of Ar Ramadi, Iraq, Petty Officer Monsoor distinguished himself by his exceptional bravery in the face of grave danger. In the early morning, insurgents prepared to execute a coordinated attack by reconnoitering the area around the element’s position. Element snipers thwarted the enemy’s initial attempt by eliminating two insurgents. The enemy continued to assault the element, engaging them with a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire. As enemy activity increased, Petty Officer Monsoor took position with his machine gun between two teammates on an outcropping of the roof. While the seals vigilantly watched for enemy activity, an insurgent threw a hand grenade from an unseen location, which bounced off Petty Officer Monsoor’s chest and landed in front of him. Although only he could have escaped the blast, Petty Officer Monsoor chose instead to protect his teammates. Instantly and without regard for his own safety, he threw himself onto the grenade to absorb the force of the explosion with his body, saving the lives of his two teammates. By his undaunted courage, fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of certain death, Petty Officer Monsoor gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
No buzzwords or hollow platitudes, nothing developed by focus group — these are but a sample of the “ethos” that is the Navy *we* always considered ourselves a part of. We don’t think there was much in the way of dithering about taking cultural temperatures or tossing political straws in the wind before taking the actions they did – it came naturally because they lived it, breathed it, and led from it on a daily basis. Not to put too fine a point on it – it formed the very fibre of their being.
So maybe it’s time we put the mice and PowerPoint slides away, chiseled ourselves from the pier and head back to sea to work on *that* ethos. Two-hundred plus years seems to us, at least, as a damn fine pedigree with examples abounding in yesteryear as well as today. You’ll find it at sea, under the sea, on the beaches, in the mountains, in the desert, over the sea and shore. It’s where our Sailors are engaged in the fight.