Over the last two weeks, I had the pleasure of attending the Command Leadership School in Newport, RI. The purpose of the two weeks was to help those of us fortunate enough to be selected to be Commanding Officers think about and prepare for the responsibility that comes with the pinnacle of a Naval Officers's career. Though I got a great deal out of the experience, there were three primary take-aways (not necessarily new, but revalidated lessons):
1) Our Recruits are as Motivated as Ever - The highlight of the class was our field trip to Navy Training Command (RTC) in Great Lakes, IL. While there, it became very evident that our new recruits are passionate, capable and excited about being a part of our Navy. It is also clear that the Navy is committed to the development of our newest Sailors. The facilities are state of the art and the leadership (E-5 and above) is phenomenal! The culture at RTC Great Lakes serves as evidence of what we can do when we are truly committed to a cause. All too often our commitment wanes upon approval of PowerPoint slides, the release of a message or the signing of an instruction. Success in Great Lakes is all about follow through, while the challenge for the rest of us is building upon that momentum once these motivated Sailors hit the Fleet.
2) Command is an Elite Club - The Officers with whom I shared a classroom were extremely impressive. The discussion and personal interaction validated the Navy values open minded, level headed, collaborative leaders in the role of Commanding Officer regardless of community/designator. Though such traits are abundant across the Officer ranks, they seem to be the standard amongst this group (even and in many cases, especially, the Surface Warfare Officers).
3) Failure in Command is a Personal Choice - Though the Navy has relieved eight Commanding Officers this year to date, it is not because any of them were not fully prepared for command. It is because they chose to fail. They made bad decisions and most were in the area of personal misconduct. We joked about who in our class would grace the cover of Navy Times in disgrace, but just like those who went before us, we laughed it off. Odds are that one of us will choose to fail. We have been given the tools to succeed, and it was made very clear that personal misconduct is the prominent path to failure. I recognize such a bold statement could prove excellent ammunition if I am detached for cause, but I truly believe that failure in command is a conscious decision.
Two years ago, Commander Command was not something to which I aspired. I can honestly state that after screening, doing research and speaking more directly with mentors, I quickly evolved. Not only is there no other role I would rather assume, but there is no other Commander Command where I would like to assume it than at NIOC Pensacola. It is remarkable how sometimes in life others know what you truly want better than you do. I am looking forward to the opportunity and will ensure success remains our choice.