By Andrew Beeler
As the ship slowly lurched to the right, the tenor on the bridge changed from one of acute tension to one of nervous relief. The aggressive maneuver of the Chinese warship had caused a near collision, and it was only the quick reaction of myself and the bridge team – which I led onboard USS DECATUR (DDG 73) – that prevented what could have amounted to an international incident with two world powers. At that moment, I was not conscious of the effect that my upbringing had on my judgment. My humble upbringing in Port Huron, Michigan where I learned the value of hard work; my disciplined and altruistically motivated teachers who taught me how to learn; my military training at the US Naval Academy where I learned to lead under pressure; and my willingness to trust in God’s providence were all culminating in this moment in the South China Sea. All I had to do was react.
Growing up as a sailor on the blue waters of the St. Clair River and Lake Huron, I learned my love for the sea and my respect for mother nature. I also learned how leaders respond in moments of crisis. A leader’s mettle was tested not when the weather was fair and the seas flat; rather, they were proven when the chips were down, the lake seemed to consume the boat, and people’s lives became at risk. It wasn’t machismo or pomp and circumstance that made the leader, it was their response in the moment of crisis when everyone looked to them for a plan. The Blue Water Area and the unspoken morality of everyone who lives here is what instilled this idea of principled servant-leadership in me.
When my service to the nation as a member of the armed forces ended in 2019, I looked for my new calling. With nine years of experience as a servant-leader and being tested in high stress, high stakes environments, I knew I had more service to offer. The question was always in what way can I best continue to serve using these experiences. When the local political landscape shifted, I saw a chance to use the leadership experience that I gained in the Navy to help solve the policy problems facing my state and local community by pursuing elected office in the state House of Representatives. No longer would I use my creative-solution mindset to lead Sailors and Officers on a US warship. Instead, I would be using it to lead in the development of solutions to address the most pressing problems facing my state and community: repairing the roads, fixing our education system and defending our Constitutional rights.
Advertisements - Click the Speaker Icon for Audio
The principles of respect, hard work and staying true to your ethical foundation were imbued in me here, in the Blue Water Area; the nuance and challenge of leading people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds became ingrained in me through nine years in the military, and the gratitude for the beauty and uniqueness of my local community became more clear to me after several deployments across the globe. All of this has brought me back home, and now, I’m ready to continue serving. It is a similar calling to which I hope many more young people will respond. For the next generation of Americans, there can be no higher calling than this: to give back to the communities that raised us and to take on the most pressing challenges facing them today.