Making the most of your drill periods, AT, ADT, ADSW, etc.

After achieving moderate success in my civilian career, I enlisted in the Navy. I had no idea of the who, what, and where of navigating the Navy and making the most of my Navy career. At least I knew the why. Glamour and Intrigue? No. Service.

For awhile I waited for someone to tell me what to do. After some spinning in place and a lukewarm Eval, I figured something out. Two words. Stop waiting. Two more words. Get engaged. In essence, few care to help those who cannot or will not take the steps to figure out how to help themselves. Move and others will move with you, guide you and fuel the fire pretty much in any direction you wish to travel.

Aside from mobilization, recall, or ADSW orders, all of which are terrific ways to build your Navy resume, below are a few short suggestions for making the most of time spent working for the Navy.

1. Ask to attend schools-all schools, any schools, schools you are not required to attend as well as training that is mandatory. If an application is required, apply early and apply often. School = money and School = points. Points = retirement. Apply, apply, apply. Attend, attend, attend.

As a Reservist, you will not necessarily be required to attend some schools. Ask for them anyway. Navy Training for the job you have been selected to perform is essential, but that training will not always be assigned to you or just fall in your lap. Advanced training is a bonus. Run a request chit through the proper channels. If you are turned down, wait awhile and ask again. Ask until either someone tells you to stop asking, or your request is approved. The Navy has money, and they will spend it if the time is right. They might as well spend it on you.

2. If possible, try not to do any Navy “work” without gaining either points (pay or non-pay), or money. Non-pay drill points are a fabulous way to boost your point tally when you have to spend a half day here or there doing admin or busy work for the Navy. You volunteered to be in the Navy, but the Navy is not volunteer work. It is a mutually beneficial relationship formed in the name of service to country.

You will most likely not be offered non-pay drill points. You must ask for or schedule them. Do this early and often. If scheduling one at the last minute, walk into your handy NOSC admin office and ask if they would schedule one for you that very day. Get a paper copy of your non-pay drill as proof and keep it. Forever.

Which brings me to the third point…

3. If you wish to receive credit for whatever it is you have accomplished-KEEP A COPY. You will most likely annoy those around you by asking for copies of everything but DO NOT BE DETERRED. Find a copier and make it happen. You are the master of your own destiny. At the end of your career it’s just you, your record, and one bad year standing between you and your retirement.

Don’t be that guy.

Sailor 2025

Welcome to the New Year!  For those of you that have been paying attention, the CNO has released his strategic guidance, “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority”.  What is very evident in this document is the lack of rhetoric related to “winning the war of terrorism”, defeating Communism or any other such bellicose statements.  Rather, it is a document that appears to take one step back, review the global landscape and assess the Navy’s role in shaping it.  
In a Globalized world where individuals are connected via various elements of the Global Information system, news travels fast and an idea can catch fire in an instant.  In this document, Admiral Richardson, recognizes that his Sailors and Officers are part of this global network.  The “new” generation of Sailors and Officers has instant access to information and global social networks.  This is both a curse and a blessing.  Sailors and Officers can be more informed about issues, potentially.  On the negative side, these same individuals can transmit information or ideas that may be counter to wearing the Uniform.  Social media and the military is an interesting topic and it deserves its own discussion.

Back to the CNO’s guidance and one of the many important topics mentioned within this document.  Sailor 2025, or the Navy’s Talent Management initiatives covers a wide range of separate lines of effort that are all designed to improve the Navy’s ability to recruit, develop and retain the best talent for the future.  In particular, these Talent Management initiatives recognize that even with the best tools in the world, if we don’t have the “right” people working with them, it will make very little difference.  

To recruit, develop and retain the right people, the Navy has embarked on its most ambitious series of personnel changes in decades.  These efforts, for organizational purposes, are separated into the 3 broad headings, each of which is chaired by an Admiral.  The three pillars are Personnel Systems Modernization, Ready Relevant Learning and Enriched Culture.  

Of particular note is the Personnel Systems Modernization Pillar as it covers a number of related initiatives designed to broaden opportunity, update antiquated personnel systems and provide greater career flexibility.  Among the early roll-outs are the Secretary of the Navy’s Tours with Industry, Fleet Scholars Education Program and CIP (Career Intermission Program).  Tours with Industry places top performing Enlisted personnel and Officers with a sponsoring organization for 11 months, during which they will immerse themselves in the sponsoring corporations culture.  Currently, the Navy has 5 Officers with the program, 3 with Amazon and 2 with FedEx.  Next year, they program is expanding to 34 Officers and Enlisted.  Fleet Scholars will place up to 30 Officers with a top University of their choice to earn a graduate degree.  Currently, 3 are involved with the program.  The Career Intermission Program allows Sailors to take time away from their Navy career to pursue and individual goal or to facilitate family planning.  The Navy will be expanding this program with the hopes that more will be able to take advantage of this great opportunity.
For the first time in many decades, money, technology and leadership are aligning to make significant improvements to the Navy’s talent management efforts.  Understanding that people are the Navy’s greatest asset has facilitated a true effort at making wholesale changes in hopes of becoming an employer of choice for generations to come.  These are exciting times and the Navy that our children will enjoy will most likely be very different than our Navy.

Paris and the Days that Will Follow

In the wake of the overwhelmingly tragic events in Paris tonight, there’s one question that comes to mind.
So now what?
How will the world be different in the aftermath of a violent assault on the Western way of life?
Here are the first thoughts that come to mind:
The world is about to get a lot more Nationalistic and much less hospitable to those that “aint from around here.”  In its extreme format, this is called Jingoism which effectively is shutting out all foreigners and posturing on a war footing to anyone that comes to call.  
Jingoistic policies have their own risk as they damage trade, foreign relations as well as the  expatriate populations living in a now unfriendly host country. 
Clearly the current feeling is that terrorist operatives are hiding within the ranks of the refugees that are streaming into countries like France.  Europe is about the get much less friendly to refugees than it was on 12 November 2015.

Since authorities cant tell the bad guys and good guys apart, this will likely get messy from a social media standpoint.  There will be efforts to control “suspect” populations in western countries that are viewed as infringing the rights of those populations.  To some degree it is hard to fault the logic, if the recent great terror incidents were perpetrated by people who looked and acted Amish. We’d all get wary around the next horse and buggy we saw. 

Still, there will be civil rights infringements against innocent people who are Muslim which will feed the social media escalation and extremist Islamic groups public agendas in their home and expatriate populations.

This will stoke tension and political strife.  There will be a modern version of the Japanese internment camps during WWII in the States.  It may be an actual refugee village, or it may be a digital variety.  Time will tell. 
Mob justice will rise. If the governments do not act, then the citizens will.  We will probably see more racially and religiously motivated crimes against people and families that look Muslim. Calais just reported a refugee camp being burned.  Things will escalate from here.  

This challenge echoes of Hercules’ Hydra which sprouted more heads each time he cut one off. This asymmetric advantage is founded in social media and the instantaneous speed of tactical, operational and strategic communication and the devastation that can be wrought by modern weaponry. These coupled with an extremist bent and fearlessness of death gift an unbalanced advantage to the small group wielding it well. This is magnified especially when exported into a culture where the rule of law governs vice the rule of might (where you expect to defend yourself daily). 
How do you approach this? More on that in the days ahead.

Apply Board Primer for JO’s

Its APPLY Board Season again.  Get your package in by early August to participate.  What does this mean for you?  If you’re a newly minted JO reservist and looking to move up in the world, this is the place to start.  The old adage holds true that the most important thing to advancing as an officer is sustained superior performance in an Officer-In-Charge or Commanding Officer position.  Here’s an important thing to know though.  As a JO (O-4 and junior) the Navy is required to either pay for your travel to drill or allow you to be cross assigned from a NOSC OSU.  However, as the holder of an OIC or CO billet, you forfeit such flexibility.  So, if you allow yourself to be selected for ANY AVAILABLE command billet.  You could be schlepping it across country to lead your unit.  You have the ability to control this somewhat by restricting the area or billets that you apply for on your dream sheet.

Here’s the disclaimer on the APPLY Site, read and heed:

“I understand declining billets specifically requested on my Dreamsheet will prevent returning to my previous assignment, and I will be subject to transfer to non-pay. I understand that transfer to a non-pay status affects eligibility for certain incentives and benefits including TRICARE Reserve Select and Post 9/11 GI Bill Transferability. Detailed information regarding the change in benefit eligibility is available through the local NRA personnel department and online on the private side of The Navy Reserve Homeport.”

  Tribal knowledge says that you should accept any billet you’re selected for that you’ve put on your dream sheet.  Let me rephrase that.  If its on your dream sheet, and you get picked, you should follow through with that process and take command.  Therefore choose your billets wisely and dont list filler items that you really can’t accomodate or aren’t willing to personally pay to travel for.  Turning the billet down will only do bad things for you unless its for reasons in extremis.  If you aren’t selected for a billet on your sheet, no harm no foul.  You get to choose from whats left on the board room floor or pick a staff billet at another reserve unit via the IAP process.

Citizen Sailor Tip:

Before you haul off and apply for a bunch of stuff in APPLY, have a serious conversation with your spouse about the realities of this job and what it will require of you.  This will go so much better if you’re both onboard.

Leadership Above and Beyond

 As Citizen Sailors, we tread a unique path between military and civilian life. We have positions and interact daily with our local communities, but, one weekend a month or more we don the uniform of a US Navy Sailor. This means we are both part of the many, our civilian brothers and sisters, and we are part of the very few, our fellow Sailors.

 As our civilian brothers and sisters wrestle with the many “ism’s” that plague our society, we have come to learn that regardless of race, religion, gender, orientation or socio-economic status, we are all Sailors unified by the oath “To support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.” Consequently, our nation is calling upon us to lead them in ways in which we are already very familiar.

America wants to know if all people, regardless of how they identify themselves, have a shot at success. In the Navy we have been led by all types in arguably the most demanding circumstances anyone can find and we have succeeded where others may have failed. We have demonstrated to our civilian brothers and sisters that our diversity is what makes us strong, especially when unified towards a common goal.

This does not mean that we don’t have different opinions, argue or even yell at one another. Quite the opposite. The Navy has always celebrated the independent mind as it is part of the very fabric of our culture. Think of the Commanding Officer on an independently steaming vessel and the decisions he or she needs to make regarding the ship, the mission and lives of those who are entrusted to him or her. Despite different opinions, despite the noise or “fog of war”, the CO has always been asked to make the right decision for all concerned. As leaders in our military or civilian lives, our Nation is asking us to do the same.

Our Country is asking for all of us to rise above the noise, the vitriol, the divisive speech and lead them forward. The Nation needs to know that diversity is OK. In the Navy, we know we are the world’s “melting pot” and that we are better off for it. We demonstrate this daily in all of our missions around the world. Although we haven’t always been the best at respecting one another, we have learned from our mistakes and we continue to grow and challenge old assumptions.

As Citizen Sailors, let’s share the lessons we have learned. Let’s show America that it is ok to have a different point of view, but, at the end of the day, we are all bound by the same mission. What is the mission? Well, it’s the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, of course.

Over this Fourth of July weekend as we are celebrating with family and friends. Let us not forget that the United States still represents the World’s greatest experiment. Unlike other Nations, our Military takes and oath to support and defend an Ideal, not a person or party. Unlike other Nations, we are not bound together by a single religion, race, or particular ideology.

We are bound together by the rule of law and the concept that all people are equal in the eyes of that law. Let us also not forget that we have taken an oath to support and defend these ideals and when we confront those who wish to destroy them, we do so with the strength of our brothers and sisters behind us.

A Fabian Career Strategy – The Long Way Around

During the Second Punic War, the Romans, under the leadership of Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, were pitted against the great general, Hannibal, and his Carthaginian army.  Rather than risk his army in a direct frontal assault against the legendary skill of Hannibal, Fabius, decided to wage a war of attrition.  Fabius understood that as long as Hannibal’s army was in the field, he had the advantage of time and access to resources.  Hannibal was not so fortunate.  Fabius would go on to be victorious and the rest, they say, is history.  
As an O4, I could at least make 20.  In that sense, I had time, but not much.  Like all strategy, it’s a balance between risk and reward.  For myself, I did my best to balance work, family and the Reserves.  Not everyone is so fortunate.  Although I joke that I outlasted the promotion board, there was solid performance in good billets behind it. (Even Fabius made the calculated offensive strike).   I did take longer to promote because I was a SWO in many HR type billets.  My ride towards O5 was anything, but conventional.  So, for those who feel they are up against a glass ceiling, take heart as your time may well come.
  What have I learned?  Well, as a warfare qualified officer, warfare qualified billets are best to propel your career.  If they are non-warfare type billets, do your best to ensure they are either CO/XO or OIC type-billets.  Demonstrate leadership in challenging positions when possible and be sure to highlight your leadership experiences on a letter to the board.  Yes, write a letter to the board.    
For most of us, the board will be made up of a bunch of fellow officers that do not know us and we don’t know them.  One of them will be handed your electronic record and asked, in 30 seconds or less, to explain why you deserve the next highest rank.  Without a letter, they do not know you.  They do not have any reason to support your advancement other than what they see on paper.  For many of us, especially those outside of a fleet concentration area, there may not be a whole lot of sexy warfare qualified type jobs in which we can excel.  Consequently, you need to use your letter to highlight what you have done that can be considered valuable to the Navy, to the Reserves and your warfare community.  I did not write one for years and when I finally did, I had success.  
Finally, be involved in your local Reserve community.  Become valuable to your NOSC, to your unit and to your peers.  Understand that good work is hard to hide and that will certainly help your chances.  Additionally, as you become more involved, you will find that your time in the Reserves is more rewarding.  (I can always peruse the end of the internet on my own time!)  
I cannot guarantee that any of these things will cause you to promote, but, you will have a more interesting time in the Reserves.  Who knows, the stories built upon being actively involved may make all the time and effort worth it.  Remember, there were many active elements of Fabian’s strategy.

Example Letter to the Board

Well board season is in full bloom. People are calling 1800-U-ASK-NPC with a myriad of questions about their package and the rules and regs governing the board. Beyond ensuring your record is up to date and accurate a letter to the board  is your most valuable tool. 

Here’s an example of a Letter to the Board that I wrote based on my review of packages during a previous selection board. Good letters are effective in communicating the “other stuff” to the briefer. Writing one of these can feel like you’re blowing your own horn, but its literally the only way you can fill the gaps in your record with narrative to give the briefer a sense of who you are and what you do.

Be careful though, if your language is too flowery or full of bullshido, it’ll get glazed over without a mention. This is a tactical document with a strategic goal, getting you selected. To quote Sherlock Holmes, give them straw with which to build bricks.  Or in Marine parlance, there is no fire support without ammo. 

Every senior officer wants to be a king-maker in “The Tank” and I watched more than 1 O-6,7,8 try to make a selectee from scratch. Do them a favor and give them overwhelming evidence why you should be selected. 

This won’t cover for glaring misses or poor performance for the past 5 years, but it gives you the chance to explain anomalies and have your story heard.

Where this ammo becomes invaluable is in the crunch. Two candidates side by side with the same record, the bid likely goes to the one with better advertising.

I’ve swapped out the PII details for more humorous items to keep the reading interesting, but the form and intent are clear. This is your last resort to tell the board how awesome you really are.

From: LT Quinton M. McHale, USN, SSN (123-45-678910-11-12)/ 1115


Ref: (a) SECNAVINST 1420.1 (series)

Encl: (1) Fitness Report for the period 14FEB01-15JAN31

Sir or Ma’am,

Thank you to the board for considering me for promotion to O-4. Being a Naval Officer is one of my proudest achievements, and I look forward to future opportunities to serve and lead in the Navy. Below I have provided some points for your consideration while briefing my record:

1. I had 1 PRT failure onboard the USS CHUNDERBUCKET during Cycle 1 2010, but I have since lost 40lbs and changed my lifestyle with regard to diet and exercise.

2. In my civilian job, I serve as the Assistant Vice President of Inland Harbors Incorporated in Bluff City, TN. We are a Western Rivers harbor and fleeting service for towboats and big-ass barges. We are a 24/7 marine port operations company as well as a full service barge and towboat repair shipyard.

My responsibilities for the company include the following:

A. Maintenance and repair for 24 towboats, 4 mobile dry docks, 4 cranes and a wharf facility made up of 8 barges and a floating office building.

B. Maintenance support for 6 outlying locations between Bourbon County, Kentucky and Moonshine, MS.

C. Port manager for operations in Mosquito Haven, Arkansas.

D. USCG, EPA and DOT Compliance manager.

E. Assistant contracting manager for USCG Buoy Tender yard periods (8 overhauls completed in 2014 including 3 vessels with complete engine repowers)

F. Boat operator of the M/V DIRT SQUIRREL – a 600hp truckable push-boat

G. Leadership, direction and influence over 150 people across the entirety of our operations.

H. Skilled labor recruiting for welders and mechanics. Advisory board member of local community colleges representing the needs of local industry.

3. As a reservist, I have been working to establish a SURGEMAIN Shipyard Support Unit at NOSC Hometown with sailors in the OPS Support Unit. There is a Sea Bee unit that is decommissioning and we are working hard to cross-rate those sailors into SURGEMAiN to improve their opportunities for advancement. Currently being established as a detachment under NOSC Somewhereelse, we have 20 sailors interested in joining the SURGEMAIN ranks. As the detachment grows, our goal is to establish a separate SURGEMAIN UIC under NOSC Hometown complete with APPLY selected leadership. Additionally, SURGEMAIN rates make a great hiring pool for the River industry. We have already succeeded in finding a civilian job for a First Class Machinist Mate on the river.

4. I have completed the Strategy and War segment of JPME.

5. I am also the Director of Finance of Mama’s Home Business LLC, an online boutique specializing in the production sales and custom embroidery of high quality baby and children’s clothing. I oversea purchasing from overseas suppliers, seamstress contracting, equipment maintenance and general book keeping.

6. As a personal project, I am the leading member of a small cohort of reserve Naval Officers from NOSC Hometown who manage a website called The mission of The Citizen Sailor is to be resource for new reservists who are transitioning from active duty to understand how to succeed in the reserve world. We are using our reserve mentors and experiences to write how-to articles on reserve career management, VA issues, etc.

7. Per reference (a), please include enclosure (1) in my official record for consideration by the FY16 RESERVE LINE O-4 SELECTION BOARD. Due to inclement weather and rescheduled drills, I have enclosed my most recent fitness report to ensure its inclusion in my package for the board.

Very Respectfully,