I had the honor of attending a retirement ceremony for a man I have always respected. We served together a quarter century ago, but many of the lessons he taught me have stayed with me ever since.
His name is Captain Ed Cataldo, a 1982 Naval Academy graduate who ended his career as the top ranking Oceanographer in the Naval Reserve.
At one time he was also my boss, and I had the privilege of watching him in action. He taught me many things.
He taught me how to lead. He knew his job, and knew the jobs of everyone else on the team. Heck, he knew my own better than I did. But he also knew the people who worked for him. He knew their names, knew about their families, and understood what made each of them tick. He combined technical brilliance with an understanding of the people who answered to him. I can think of many officers who were good in one skill or the other, but just a handful of examples when someone possessed the ability to do both. Ed could. As a result, his people were motivated and they performed. That’s what good leaders bring to the game.
He taught me how good humor and charisma can be effective tools. He could bark an order and a funny joke in the same breath. People did what they were told, but they performed their tasks with a smile on their faces.
As he grew into more senior positions within the Navy, he and I would chat. I never heard him snipe behind his bosses’ backs. To the contrary, he was supportive and mission oriented. In the two decades in which I served, I have never seen the small Oceanography community so cohesive and supportive. That is due in no small part to the leadership of Captain Cataldo.
There were times in his career that he showed the mettle to confront inappropriate behavior when he could have easily looked the other way. He risked friendships, popularity and even his own career to stand up for what was right. Most of us were too timid to get involved. Ed wasn’t, because he had character.
In the end, Captain Cataldo showed me what a leader looks like. He showed through example what Honor, Courage and Commitment really mean. He was one fine Naval officer.
Thanks for letting me be there, Ed, to see you walk through the bullets one last time. Congratulations on a great career, and fair winds and following seas.