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Tips From Times Of Isolation #2

In the spirit of, “Don’t read self-help books on leadership, instead read novels that depict leaders,” here’s an example. This is the commander of the submarine Dallas as written by Tom Clancy in The Hunt For Red October. Look at how short the sentences are. Clancy does that to create a feeling of raw competence and leadership composure. You can do it. I guarantee it!

The Hunt for Red October

Tom Clancy

Pg. 105 – The USS Dallas

Bart Mancuso had been on duty in the attack center for more than twenty hours. Only a few hours of sleep separated this stretch from the previous one. He had been eating sandwiches and drinking coffee, and two cups of soup has been thrown in by his cooks for variety’s sake. He examined his latest cup of freeze-dried without affection.

“Cap’n?” He turned. It was Roger Thompson, his sonar officer. “Yes, what is it?” Mancuso pulled himself away from the tactical display that had occupied his attention for several days. Thompson was standing at the rear of the compartment. Hones was standing beside him holding a clipboard and what looked like a tape machine.

“Sir, Jonesy has something I think you ought to look at.”

Mancuso didn’t want to be bothered – extended time on duty always taxed his patience. But Jones looked eager and excited. “Okay, come on over to the chart table.”

The Dallas’ chart table was a new gadget wired into the BC-10 and projected onto a TV-type glass screen four feet square. The display moved as the Dallas moved. This made paper charts obsolete, though they were kept anyway. Charts can’t break.

“Thanks, Skipper,” Jones said, more humbly than usual. “I know you’re kinda busy, but I think I got something here. That anomalous contact we had the other day’s been bothering me. I had to leave it after the ruckus the other Russkie subs kicked up, but I was able to come back to it three times to make sure it was still there. The fourth time it was gone, faded out. I want to show you what I worked up. Can you punch up our course track for back then on this baby, sir?”

The chart table was interfaced through the BC-10 into the ship’s inertial navigation system, SINS. Mancuso punched the command in himself. It was getting so that you couldn’t flush the head without a computer command…The Dallas’ course track showed up on a convoluted red line, with tick marks displayed at fifteen-minute intervals.

“Great!” Jones commented. “I’ve never seen it do that before. That’s all right. Okay.” Jones pulled a handful of pencils from his back pocket. “Now, I got the contact first at 0915 or so, and the bearing was about two-six-nine.” He set a pencil down, eraser at Dallas’ position, point directed west towards the target. “Then at 0930 it was bearing two-six-zero. At 0948, it was two-five-zero. There’s some errors built into these, Cap’n. It was a tough signal to lock in on, but the errors should average out. Right about then we got all this other activity, and I had to go after them, but I came back to it about 1000, and the bearing was two-four-two.” Jones set down another pencil on the due-east line trace with the Dallas had moved away from the Icelandic coast. “at 1015 it was two-three-four, and at 1030 it was two-two-seven. These last two are shaky, sir. The signal was real faint, and I didn’t have a very good lock on it.” Jones looked up. He appeared nervous.

“So far, so good. Relax, Jonesy. Light up if you want.”

“Thanks, Cap’n.” Jones fished out a cigarette and lit it with a butane lighter. He had never approached the captain quite this way. He knew Mancuso to be a tolerant, easygoing commander – if you had something to say. He was not a man who liked his time wasted, and it was sure as hell he wouldn’t want it wasted now. “Okay, sir, we gotta figure he couldn’t be too far away from us, right? I mean, he had to be between us and Iceland. So let’s say he was about halfway between. That gives him a course about like this.” Jones set down some more pencils.

“Hold it, Jonesy. Where does the course come from?”

“Oh, yeah.” Jones flipped open his clipboard. “Yesterday morning, night, whatever it was, after I got off watch, it started bothering me, so I used the move we made offshore as a baseline to do a little course track for him. I know how, Skipper. I read the manual. It’s easy, just like we used to do at Cal Tech to chart star motion. I took as astronomy course in my freshman year.”

Mancuso stifled a groan. It was the first time he had ever heard this called easy, but on looking at Jones’ figures and diagrams, it appeared that he had done it right. “Go on.”

Jones pulled a Hewlett Packard scientific calculator from his pocket and what looked like a National Geographic map liberally coated with pencil marks and scribblings. “You want to check my figures, sir?”

“We will, but I’ll trust you for now. What’s the map?”

“Skipper, I know it’s against the rules an’ all, but I keep this as a personal record of the tracks the bad guys use. It doesn’t leave the boat, sir, honest. I may be a little off, but all this translates to a course of about two-two-zero and a speed of ten knots. And that aims him right at the entrance of Route one. Okay?”

“Go on.” Mancuso had already figured that one. Jonesy was on to something.

“Well, I couldn’t sleep after that, so I skipped back to sonar and pulled the tape on the contact. I had to run it through the computer a few times to filter out all the crap – sea sounds, the other subs, you know – then I rerecorded it at ten times normal speed.” He set his cassette recorder on the chart table. “Listen to this, Skipper.”

The tape was scratchy, but every few seconds there a thrum. Two minutes of listening seemed to indicate a regular interval of about five seconds. Be this time Lieutenant Mannion was looking over Thompson’s should, listening, and nodding speculatively.

“Skipper, that’s gotta be a man-made sound. It’s just too regular for anything else. At normal speed it didn’t make much sense, but once I speeded it up, I had the sucker.”

“Okay, Jonesy, finished it.” Mancuso said.

“Captain, what you just heard was the acoustical signature of a Russian submarine. He was heading for Route One, taking the inshore track off the Icelandic coast. You can bet money on that, Skipper.”


“He sold me, Captain,” Thompson replied.

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