Senior Chase Hammer wins Naval award

Chase Hummer

Naval Institute award winner Chase Hammer. Photo by Chase Hammer

On an afternoon in Wasilla, Alaska, Chase Hammer received a call from the United States Naval Institute informing him he would be receiving a grand prize.

“I was on the way to spend time with my fiancé’s family,” said Hammer, a midshipmen first class. “ That’s when I got a call from a number I had never seen before.”

What started as a way to free up time in his final semester as a senior management major resulted in a cash prize and publication of an essay Hammer, 22, wrote on ethics.

Hammer placed second out of 86 in an essay contest hosted by the United States Naval Institute, which resulted in him winning a year subscription to Proceedings, the oldest naval journal, a $2,500 prize, and having his essay be published in an upcoming issue of Proceedings.

“When I decided to write this essay, I didn’t want to just write for the sake of writing. So, I walked into Colonel Wolf’s office and I said, “‘Sir, where should I start?’ So we played with different ideas and I settled on ethics,” said Hammer, whose essay was 2,000 words long with 16 primary sources.

The title of the essay was “C2 and Ethics: Influencing Marines in an increasing Dispersed Combat Environment” and it was about how officers enforce a strict moral code. Especially, now that the military disperses its unit in such small groups that the commander can’t always see every person.

“Ethics is very important, not only in your daily interaction with everyone else,” said Col. Steve Wolf, professor of naval science, “but it’s also important in combat.” Ethics is always a troublesome subject when talking about the military, since it’s hard to define what is and isn’t ethical.

Even though defining what is and isn’t ethical is hard, Wolf was able to describe it in a few simple words. “Ethics is how do you know what the right thing to do is and then doing the right thing.” He mentioned that when it comes to an ethical decision he always goes back to the oath he took while swearing in: “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies.” Knowing that he represents the American people, and always thinking if there was a camera over his shoulder, he asks whether he would do an action in front of the world?

The following is from Hammer’s essay: “In conclusion, the evolution of warfare has caused a physical, mental and moral dispersion to take place across combat units. Physical dispersion in combat leads to a decrease in traditional C2. To maintain C2 in an increasingly dispersed environment, command structure must become progressively decentralized, which can lead to a lack of accountability in some units, potentially resulting in questionable and unethical acts.”

“Every officer deals with ethical dilemmas and whether you realize it or not,” said Wolf, being a leader is hard and Wolf ensures he leads by example by always choosing the right choice in any situation. “I don’t think our morality has lowered but we as leaders have a greater responsibility to train our Marines, airmen and soldiers on ethics in garrison,” said Hammer.

Ethics is something that you can’t plan for, said Hammer but it’s something you can hopefully teach or train someone in so that when the time comes you do the right thing. “You can’t plan for it because all experiences are different in the fleet, but I find the best way to teach it is to do ethical decision games in garrison, so we can squash any ethical problems before they start.”

In Hammer’s essay, he also stated: “The majority of the time a platoon commander or company commander will get qualitative face time with their subordinate Marines will be in the garrison environment. This is where ethical sustainment takes place.”

Wolf agreed with Hammer and even commented, “you can’t teach ethics by PowerPoint.” Hammer placed second but like all writers, he, of course, had problems coming to the final product that took him about eight or nine weeks to finish.

“The hardest part was ensuring I was factually accurate,” said Hammer. “It’s easy to formulate an opinion before finding data, especially with the state of modern media where you can find anything that can support (any) opinion.” Being factually accurate is important because when you have pre-conceived notions while writing, you’ll find data to support you, explained Hammer.

Everyone who knows Hammer knows how he puts his all in anything he does, whether it be with his S-2 job in the naval battalion or writing papers. Hammer explained how he loves to put fun facts and memes in his S-2 job, which is current events and weather in the naval battalion. He does this so others will pay attention to the information he distributes.

“I’m very charismatic and I try to put that charisma on paper,” said Hammer “I don’t want to write something that will put people to sleep.” Even though he didn’t want his paper to be boring, he didn’t sacrifice information and proofreading for entertainment. Hammer had soldiers from the United States Army ranger regiment, Marine Corps officers, and a plethora of his friends proofread his essay. His essay includes 16 primary sources to provide crucial information toward his topic.

In addition, to all of the external sources that helped Hammer, he counts himself an above-average writer whose writing skills haven’t changed since early high school. He has never really struggled in school.

Wolf, who has known Hammer for about a year and a half, agreed, noting “Hammer is a very smart young man and a good writer.”

Hammer actually thought he hadn’t won anything because in the November issue of Proceedings only the name of the first-place winner was printed.

It wasn’t until the first week of January that Hammer received a call telling him that he had won second place – which took him by surprise because he had forgotten about the competition.

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