Leadership takes a thousand different forms, and one of those popped up on social media recently in the guise of a Navy ship commander who dresses up as a professional wrestler while presenting awards to his sailors.
Cmdr. David Hollon, skipper of the Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyer USS Chung-Hoon, has, at different times, traded in his Navy blue coveralls for a bright green pair of pajama pants, a purple bandana, a fake bushy beard, a blaring red cowboy hat, a cheetah print jacket and other extravagant duds that most commanding officers wouldn’t be caught dead wearing, let alone in front of their crew or on social media.
But Hollon clearly feels differently, at least while recognizing his sailors’ contribution to the team. About once every week since Jan. 17, the skipper has presented a sailor with a wrestling championship-style belt naming them as Sea Warrior of the Week, along with a certificate granting them two days of special liberty. Pictures of the events were posted to the destroyer’s Facebook page, and recently to the unofficial Navy subreddit, where Redditors praised Hollon’s style.
“I just want to give a shout-out to a truly great CO,” said a Reddit user who posted photos of Hollon in wrestling regalia. “This man, every week dressed up out of his own pocket to present weekly awards to junior sailors. He’s even had to go through meetings with [destroyer squadron command] in full getup because we won’t back down the tradition. CDR Hollon, you are the best!”
Other Reddit users also responded well in the comments.
“I wish there were more COs like him in the fleet,” wrote one Redditor.
“That’s a sailor’s sailor right there,” said another.
It looks like Hollon carried the over-the-top energy of World Wrestling Entertainment into his visits with sailors. “Sea Warrior of the Week” might sound like a dull award similar to “Employee of the Month,” but not when a big dude with wacky shades and a tattoo sleeve gives it to you (Though the two days of liberty is a nice touch.).
“Do you smelllllllllllllllll what the CHUNG-HOON is cooking!!!” wrote the ship’s social media team on Facebook when Hollon presented the belt to Boatswain’s Mate Seaman Lopez. “BMSN Lopez is this week’s Sea Warrior of the Week!!”
Judging from other Facebook posts, it looks like the tradition of using championship-style belts to recognize sailors goes back to at least April 2021 on the Chung-Hoon. The tradition also seems to have spread to another destroyer, the USS Sampson. However, Hollon appears to be the only skipper dressing up for the occasion. Though the public affairs office for Chung-Hoon did not respond in time for comment, we can only imagine that Hollon presents the belts in a low gravelly voice like the late pro wrestling legend Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Hollon appears to have taken some inspiration from Savage since he wore a “Macho Man” t-shirt in one post on Jan. 21.
Of course, dressing up as a wrestler isn’t the only way to get props from enlisted service members. Sometimes, all it takes is giving out smoked turkeys and Rockstar energy drinks when the local commissary runs out, like Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ian Eishen did for his airmen in 2020. Sometimes it’s openly sharing the fact that you have a mental health appointment, like Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan did last month to encourage his airmen to seek mental health help. And sometimes it means putting the health of your crew over your own career, as Navy Capt. Brett Crozier did when he put his ship, the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, in quarantine on Guam to protect his sailors from COVID-19 against the wishes of his command.
It’s leaders like them who, as Randy Savage put it, are “the cream of the crop.”