NEWPORT, R.I., Aug. 6 (UPI) -- The U.S. Naval War College on Tuesday will celebrate the accomplishments of its president from 1972-74, Adm. Stansfield Turner, by inaugurating an annual lecture in his honor. The distinguished speaker will be Army Gen. David Petraeus. While one was a sailor and the other a soldier, both had remarkable and in some ways parallel military careers.
General of the Army George C. Marshall's highest accolade was to describe someone as a "soldier, scholar and statesman." Turner and Petraeus richly deserve that description. As a sailor, after several years at Amherst College, Midshipman Stan Turner joined the Naval Academy with the Class of 1947, graduating in 1946 as part of the accelerated wartime program. Among his classmates were Jimmy Carter, a future president, and Bill Crowe, a future chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
Upon graduation, Ensign Turner went to sea in a variety of warships. During the Korean War, his destroyer participated in shore bombardment of the North. He later commanded a minesweeper, destroyer and a cruiser that took part in combat operations during the Vietnam War in the Tonkin Gulf. A cruiser-destroyer and carrier group commander, Adm. Turner went on to command the Second Fleet and in 1975 was promoted to full admiral after only 29 years of service, becoming Commander-in-Chief U.S.Naval Forces Europe and NATO's Southern command.
In early 1977, he was called back to Washington to interview with President-elect Carter, telling his staff that if he were asked to become the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he would message back "the major leagues." Instead, he sent back tersely, "It's the Bush league," meaning he had been chosen to replace George H.W. Bush at the CIA. His time at the agency was tumultuous.
The CIA had been the subject of the Pike and Church Committee hearings named for then-Reps. Otis Pike and Sen. Frank Church that uncovered serious misdoings. Carter directed sweeping reforms largely to control the clandestine services that some alleged were out of control and the press labeled as "rogue elephants." In retrospect, Turner acknowledged that he went too far in focusing on technical means of collection. But he also presided over Operation Cyclone that began the arming of the Afghan Mujahideen.
Stan was a Rhodes scholar studying at Exeter College, Oxford. He applied much of that learning as the director of naval systems analysis under then CNO Adm. Elmo "Bud" Zumwalt and as the second head of Zumwalt's Project 60 that, in 1970, profoundly reshaped the Navy from a largely World War II posture to a modern fleet. And then Stan was promoted to vice admiral and sent to Newport to re-vitalize the Naval War College.
Stan completely revamped the "country club-like" curriculum into three courses consisting of strategy, tactics and management. That structure persists. Further, Turner recruited a top flight faculty making the War College one of the premier academic institutions anywhere and a model for other schools. That, too, continues today. And Turner insisted on educating students to think, reason and analyze.
As a statesman in and out of uniform, Turner was intellectually honest and courageous. He vigorously opposed the second Iraq War. Yet during the Cold War called for more serious negotiations with the Soviets. He was active until his death in January at age 94.
Petraeus' career was remarkably similar. An accomplished soldier, he engaged in combat as a brigadier in the former Yugoslavia hunting war criminals; as a two-star commanding the famous 101st Division in Iraq; as a three-star leading training and equip in Iraq; and as a four-star leading the "surge" in Iraq and then commanding Central Command and then Afghanistan. Princeton, where he earned a PhD, substituted for Oxford. And like Stan, he became director of the CIA.
A young instructor at West Point's Social Sciences Department, later as a lieutenant general, he and fellow Marine three-star Jim Mattis co-authored the counter-insurgency manual, in some ways a 21st century version of Project 60.
This will be the first of many Turner lectures. However, it will not be easy finding speakers who so fully qualify for Marshall's praise as "sailor, soldier, scholar and statesman."
Harlan Ullman is a distinguished senior fellow and visiting professor at the U.S. Naval War College; has served on the Senior Advisory Group for Supreme Allied Commander Europe (2004-16) and is currently Senior Adviser at Washington D.C.'s Atlantic Council, chairman of two private companies and principal author of the doctrine of shock and awe. A former naval person, he commanded a destroyer in the Persian Gulf and led over 150 missions and operations in Vietnam as a Swift Boat skipper. His latest book is "Anatomy of Failure: Why America Has Lost Every War It Starts." Follow him @harlankullman.