SSN 14 by Ryan Ramsey

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  • This is the story of Ramsey’s tour in command of the nuclear attack submarine HMS Turbulent 2008-2011, ultimately taking her via the coast of Libya to months of surveillance duty in the Indian Ocean and its associated waters. Still in service past her sell-by date because of the Government’s procrastination over the Astute programme, the greatest enemy was the defect-plagued boat herself, culminating in a disastrous day, far from any sort of help, as one system after another failed and many of her complement were prostrate, one nearly terminally, with heat exhaustion. The narrative of what happened is exciting enough in itself – although the author is necessarily vague about exactly where he was and what the boat was actually doing. The real subject of the book, however, is how he dealt with all Turbulent’s technical and personnel problems as commanding officer.

    What we actually have is a treatise on leadership, a subject Ramsey now teaches in the wider world having clearly forgone the opportunity to rise much higher in the RN. Leadership is a personal thing, one-size does not fit all. Ramsey has clearly profited from learning how not to lead from bad leaders as much as learning how one should do it from good ones. There must be have been far more than nine and sixty ways of being a leader preached over the years but Ramsey is worth reading because of his personal experience and then analysis of how to get results under conditions of immense stress. Ramsey comes across as a right-brained people person rather than a left-brained technologist but the structure he uses to get the right answer does have general relevance. However I do wonder how this carries across into civilian life where managers’ loyalty to their juniors is often conspicuous by its absence and everyone is grafting for number one.

    As a book, I found it quite fascinating and as far as modern submarines go, very informative.

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