About Trevor Knight

Memphis Native. Navy Reservist. Architectural Millwork.

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 www.thecitizensailor.com. 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,


A Perspective on Managing Work Life Balance

I’m so glad I didn’t join the Army, we’d do this all the time.

Like many transitioning Navy-types, I had grand notions of having a successful civilian career in the inland rivers industry.  I also fancied maneuvering through the Naval ranks and progressing to the highest ideals of the Navy Reserve.  Enter kids, family, mortgage, 24/7 civilian job operations schedule, wife’s home business, church, etc.

Life takes on a life of its own, and you hold on with white knuckles and wait for a break.

As I floundered through my first years of reserve time, I thought “How the hell do people make this work with a private industry career that goes 24/7?”  I simply don’t have the time to make the commitments for longer terms of mobilization, ADT, ADSW, etc.

Fail. Fail. Fail. Fail.

There are only 24 hours in a day, and family and civilian careers are my primary focus, so how do I become successful in the reserves?  My civilian career wont support my taking lots of extra time to go to schools, extended DWE’s, etc.  We’ve got a business to run, and they need to be able to depend on me all the time.  They’re supportive of me being in the reserves, but they’ve hired me to work at their business, not use their business as a lilly pad between Navy jaunts.
Well, crap.  Everyone’s going to look at my record and see a skater who is just doing the minimum to get a retirement.  Why am I bothering with this reserve stuff anyway if I cant be dedicated, make a difference and do stuff that matters?

Fail again.

Why does this look like a Che Guevara T-Shirt? Sailors for the Revolution?

First, lets look at three approaches to the Navy Reserve.  There are basically three levels of reserve commitment. The Professional, the Seasonal and the Minimal.  These are directly related to your civilian job and the aspirations you have in both your civilian and military careers.  

The Professional: There are people out there that I call “Professional Reservists.”  This is a great way to approach a reserve career almost like a government contractor.  If you work for a large defense company such as BAE, BOOZ, L3, Lockheed, etc.  You can park your civilian career here, and then mobilize or do ADSW essentially as many times as you want.  These huge organizations have enough people to continue operations while you go off and play Navy.  Consequently, you also can more intensely focus on hitting the specialized wickets in your Naval career such as command,  schools, etc.  You open yourself up to the best probability of advancement by doing lots of Navy stuff as a reservist as long as you do it well.  You’ll be seen as a team player and a company guy.  

This however is not my situation.

The Seasonalist: These are the civilian occupations which have a natural ebb and flow to their work cycle.  Farmers have a large part of winter off after harvest.  Teachers and professors have a large chunk of time for summer.  Paving construction crews and landscapers have a slow season in the winter, etc.  These types of professions have a giant blank space where people can take a 90 day set of orders and not miss too much.  You get more credit for doing more Navy stuff, but you cant dedicate ALL the time to it.

Again, not me

The Minimalist: As a minimalist, I love the Navy and being part of the military.  If we go to war, I want to play a part and do something important.  However, I’ve got a civilian career that I work 60-80hrs a week, every week.  People like me fall into the category of small business owners, family business owners, sales reps working on commission, real estate brokers, etc. We like being part of the team, but we can only dedicate the minimum requirement.  If all hell breaks loose, we want the call. We feel strongly about defending our country against threats to our way of life, but short of that we just don’t have a lot of extra time.

So, then what? Are the Minimalists just playing with a huge disadvantage?  

Lets call a spade a spade. Yes, we are.  But…

There are strategies that you can employ to improve your odds.

I had the privilege of supporting a senior officer promotion board, and I got to see how the sausage was made.  What does it take to promote to the senior ranks of the Navy as a reservist?The short answer is that it takes sustained superior performance and leadership. 

This applies both in the reserves and out .

 So easy, even HR can understand it.

Much to my surprise, I had a 1-v-1 mentoring session with the O-8 board president, who also happened to be the founder, CEO and Chairman of his own $100M private business. He gave me two pieces of advice.  

The first was to always apply for and take command billets whenever available. Sustained superior leadership trumps all. Even if you’re just a Minimalist, as the CO of a reserve unit you’re able demonstrate leadership in the space that you can dedicate to Navy work.

The second was how he accounted for all the empty space when stacked up against the Professionals and Seasonals at promotion boards.  He added his civilian experience to his FITREPs and letters to the board.  SPOILER ALERT: Nothing guarantees a promotion to flag rank.  However by telling the board about his executive experience, the board decided he was capable of being a Commander, and then a Captain in the Navy.  He gave them the ammo to vote in his favor.

He said there were years that he did not even do his Annual Training.  He simply didn’t have time.  He also said that no one was more surprised to select for flag than he was.  As an O-6 nearing 30 years, he figured he was done.  He began winding it down, and out of nowhere, he was selected.  He had just made sure the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed along the way.

Pure, Unbridled, SWOTIVATION. Your day is now complete.

Also, I had the benefit of doing my successive Annual Training back at BUPERS and saw lots of the senior officers whom I knew while on active duty. They are now retirees in their GS jobs sharing cubicles with young O-3’s and O-4’s.  

This provided a lot of perspective for me with regard to the Navy and my civilian career in general.

Its easy to get your identity tangled up in what your career is and what you do for a living, but it is so much more than that.  

No matter what, it all ends at some point.  Whether you do 30+ years in the Navy or 40 years as a towboater on the Western rivers, your career will end.  

The warning that I took was that while my career may end, my family and community would still be there around me.  Take care of your family first and your career second.  You never get back the time that you miss with young spouses before kids or your children while they’re young.  

While it is very important to perform well in your civilian and Naval careers, there’s a slippery slope into workaholism.  Don’t get your identity confused with what you do for a living. 

Remember, you only get to make one pass at this life.

SWO Reserve Component Community Issues: Accessions

The Issue:
In 2015, the Surface Reserve Component (SRC) leadership projects that we will have a looming gap in our O-4 to O-6 billets.  A PERS-3 model indicates that the SRC will be operating at 76% capacity at the LCDR level, 74% capacity at the CDR level and 59% at the CAPT level.  

Senior Officer Collar devices: AKA things that probably wont ever be on my uniform.
There is a 1998 Proceedings article titled “Listen to the JO’s: Why Retention is a Problem” that has received a surge in recirculation recently because it rings sadly true today.  Like it or not, the fate of the SRC is tied to the health and well being of the Surface AC.  These reasons of frustration and disillusionment highlight why many of our AC counterparts are leaving the military altogether and not giving the RC a shot.  
As most of us know, the AC SWO community does not talk about the RC because of a combination of honest ignorance and the fact that no CO Afloat wants to be known for encouraging his JO’s to “leave” the community.  There’s no professional incentive for them to pursue it.  There are too many other fires to put out. In short, these issues are part of the underlying current as to why the SRC is having issues filling its OPA.
Sidebar comment: 
I know what you’re thinking about the numbers discussed above.
 “If there’s fewer of us in the pool and the requirement stays the same, then I’m a shoo-in to promote!”  
Yes, statistically there is a higher probability of promotion, but just because the numbers work in your favor to promote doesn’t guarantee that it will be automatic.  There’s still room for you to fail gloriously if you don’t take it seriously.  How would you like to be the JO that couldn’t get promoted with these kind of statistics in your favor? Yeah, me neither.
So What:
A little preparation now can position you well to take advantage of the current conditions as well prepare you for a shift in future manning requirements or the civilian job market.  Be proactive. Comb through your record and make sure all your FITREPS, pictures, AQD’s, etc. are included and that any irregularities that are accounted for with letters of explanation.  
Take your records to a senior officer and ask them to review it.  See what could be improved or what needs some damage control.  Simple things like a master’s degree gotten while a civilian fall into the category of nice-to-have’s when your record is stacked against the rest.   Ultimately, you might be surprised what you find out about records management.  
This experience will also be invaluable as you help the new arrivals coming in behind you.  In the end, you want to leave yourself the maximum number of opportunities available to take advantage of. Market conditions change in the civilian world and what starts as a bright private sector career can turn around quickly.  
Don’t neglect simple disciplines as a reservist that can cause future obstacles.

The question remains for the group: How do we recruit more SWOs from the Active Component to the Surface Reserve Component? What are your thoughts?