Morrisville, PA, USA
CPO, DDG 67 USS Cole
10/12/2000, Aden, Yemen
In a speech by Richard’s wife Sharla after his death in a Chief Petty Officer commissioning ceremony for CPO Robert Graham:
“I am standing here today because I was once married to a man who knew what the words Honor, Courage and Commitment meant. My husband, Chief Petty Officer Richard Costelow believed in commitment, and he strived to do only his best at all times. In September of last year, he received the greatest honor that he had hoped to achieve. He became Chief Petty Officer Richard Costelow. To Rich this meant much more than just becoming “the Chief.”
I am now going to share with you some of what Rich wrote in a paper that was assigned to him during his Chief’s initiation process. Sometime last September Rich wrote a paper titled Why I Want To Be A Chief Petty Officer and What it Means to Me. In this paper he wrote…
A good Chief should never say “now that I have made Chief, I can relax and take it easy.” In a way, my work has just begun. He spoke of the khaki uniform and how it is not the uniform that makes a leader. He spoke of making mistakes and he said that he hoped… by the Grace of God, that he would learn from them.
He spoke of “taking care of the Navy” that had taken care of him. He wrote…”My job will be taking care of the Navy, and our Navy is filled with Junior Sailors that need direction, training and to be a part of a team. Every person in the Navy today was or is inexperienced and green. I will strive to keep the circle unbroken.”
He went on to write…
“Gone are the management and leadership styles that once made this the greatest Navy and Military Power of the world. People have changed. The Navy has changed. Like it or not, the Chief must change. To instill excellence in today’s generation is a tough job. A Chief must be ready for the challenges that this job creates. I will be ready. I have to be. The future of the Navy depends on it. I will not sit back and take it easy. I will strive for excellence in all that I do. I will hold my troops to that excellence. No matter what the job. I will assign them. No matter what job I am assigned, it has to be done to a high level of excellence… nothing less. There is too much at stake.”
Excellence is what Rich always strived for. There was something in him that led him to live that way on a daily basis. Excellence is what the USS Cole DID achieve. Although unknown enemies… terrorist… tried to bring her down… she did not sink! She did not sink because she carried nothing but… excellence. Her sailors kept her from drowning, and it is that very kind of excellence that Rich was speaking of.
For every sailor… it is my prayer that you will always remember Rich’s words. But, to the Chiefs… you do Richard honor by remembering those words in all that you do. To every US Sailor, everywhere… do not let what Rich “gave back” to the Navy ever be forgotten. There was unfortunately nothing that the Navy could do as that bomb took his life… it was too late. So to our country…. it is my prayer that you remember what Rich wrote…. that what he was saying is that true excellence is achieved by learning from your mistakes. “There is too much at stake” not to.
In the last paragraph of Rich’s paper he writes…
“The process does not make Chiefs by accident, though some people may think that. There must be a reason why I have been chosen to lead. I must have the tools to lead. I DO have the tools to lead. I will use these tools to be successful in my new work, in order to train and shape the future of the Navy. I will do this with Honor, Courage and Commitment.”
Rich didn’t have the opportunity to spend much time as a Chief. He was only initiated a little over a month before his life was taken away. But we can all see what was in his heart. He wanted to become the best Chief that he could possibly be. And although it was a short term, I believe he already WAS the best Chief he could possibly be… because the desire to achieve excellence was already there. Since his death… I have discovered why he was so happy to become a Chief. This bond between all Navy Chiefs everywhere.. it has now become a part of my life… I now understand. I understand this bond, and I am thankful to have known this.
The very last two sentences of his paper seemed almost unbelievable to read. In it, he wrote “and if by some means that I can’t do this any longer, it will be time for a new Chief to take my place. Who knows, maybe one that was in my charge.”
Chief Petty Officer Robert Graham, I believe that Chief is you. He told you that he would help you make Chief… and somehow… someway… perhaps he has. I would like to present this plaque to you from The Costelow Family to honor both Richard, for all that his heart and soul gave, and you, for following in his footsteps by striving for nothing less than excellence. May God bless you and guide you along the path that you have left to walk upon this earth. And may you continue to honor Richard by passing on this desire for excellence to those whom you will train in your future.”
Richard enlisted in the Navy on April 11, 1988 in Philadelphia, Pa. He attended Recruit Training Command in San Diego, followed by schools in Great Lakes where he was trained as an electronic technician. His first tour of duty was in Sigonella, Sicily from November 1989 to December 1991. He was chosen to serve with White House Communications Agency in Washington D.C. where he remained from January 1992 to October 1997. In January of 1998 he reported to the USS Cole (DDG 67). Chief Petty Officer Costelow rapidly worked his way up the enlisted ranks and was promoted to Chief shortly before the attack on the Cole.
His military awards include the Meritorious Unit Commendations, the Joint Meritorious Unit Commendations (two awards), the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Presidential Service Badge, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal.”