Leadership Development: Newport Team Sends Students to the Fleet as Leaders, “Ready For Sea”

BY LT.J.G. RYAN MATLOCK, SC, USN NAVY SUPPLY CORPS SCHOOL

The Navy Supply Corps’ education and training team, comprised of the Center for Service Support (CSS) and the Navy Supply Corps School (NSCS) in Newport, Rhode Island, educates and develops future Supply Corps officers to succeed in the Fleet. The Supply Corps’ bedrock curriculum, the six-month Basic Qualification Course (BQC), provides students with the personal and professional foundations that newly commissioned officers need in order to be successful in a demanding and dynamic Fleet environment. NSCS develops these new Supply Corps officers through the experienced leadership of its staff, who provide the requisite skills, knowledge, and education to our future Corps leaders. Through leadership-specific curricula and real-world, experiential learning, BQC students receive the fundamental leadership lessons that are designed to help them succeed.

Mr. Manny Trevino and Ensign Kanonu River interacting in an officer development scenario.

Mr. Manny Trevino and Ensign Kanonu River interacting in an officer development scenario.

An advantage NSCS has in providing optimal training to students preparing for the Fleet is the schoolhouse’s proximity and partnerships with Naval Station Newport tenant commands. As the schoolhouse’s immediate superior in command and the curriculum developer for the BQC (along with all the other courses taught at NSCS), CSS plays a leading role – ensuring instructors have the resources and tools necessary to mold our community’s newest officers. In addition, neighboring commands such as the Naval War College, Surface Warfare Officer School, Naval Justice School, Senior Enlisted Academy, and Naval Leadership and Ethics Center enable NSCS to leverage other curricula and skill sets in developing Fleet leaders.

When a Supply Corps officer reminisces about their time in the BQC classroom, certain core courses quickly come to mind: Supply Management, Food Service, Retail Operations and Disbursing Management. NSCS has been providing students with the technical and managerial level of knowledge in these functional supply areas for decades. During the BQC students’ six–month tenure at NSCS, they are challenged with an intense curricula set derived straight from Fleet requirements. Aware that technical knowledge of the publications and the As and Bs of supply are not the only challenges these officers will face during their first afloat experience, CSS and NSCS have modernized curriculum with the goal of developing the students as leaders.

CPO Brian Mitchell and Ensign Veronica Grimes interacting in an officer development scenario.

CPO Brian Mitchell and Ensign Veronica Grimes interacting in an officer development scenario.

The Leadership Management (LM) course exposes students to the unique challenges of leading a division or department. This rigorous curriculum dives into a wide range of topics covering both Navy-specific knowledge and basic leadership skills. Some of the Navy-centric topics students learn are the Navy’s organizational structure, directives, awards recognition, evaluation and fitness reports, manning, and the career progression of Supply Corps officers and junior personnel. For basic leadership, also known as “soft” skills, LM focuses on effectively communicating with Sailors and how to optimize Sailor performance. For example, while it’s important to know when to properly counsel a Sailor and which form to use, it’s perhaps more important to understand how to deliver the counseling. Ethics is the cornerstone of this curriculum – as instructors emphasize to students the importance of ethics and how it relates to the everyday life and professionalism of a Supply Corps officer. Moreover, BQC students are provided a first–hand brief on ethics from the commanding officer, as well as an ethics discussion with the United States Naval Academy’s Distinguished Professor of Ethics, retired Capt. Rick Rubel.

As a capstone to complete the BQC, the LM course culminates with a week-long Division Officer Leadership Course (DIVOLC). This is a five-day class designed to facilitate and indoctrinate all junior officers who will be relieving afloat in a division officer capacity. Through interactive videos, role-playing and group discussions, students are exposed to various leadership and ethical dilemmas and engage in real-time discussions about potential courses of action. The students discuss real life scenarios and are encouraged to offer alternate approaches, where applicable, toward resolving the dilemma. Arguably the most impactful part of the BQC students’ leadership development is the “Pressure Cooker.” This DIVOLC pinnacle event places students in real–life scenarios where they must handle a leadership dilemma with role players, expertly performed by NSCS and other Naval Station Newport staff. The students face scenarios dealing with ethics, fraternization, husbanding agents, and command climate matters. As each scenario unfolds, students must make decisions based on the information provided. After each scenario plays out, the class engages in group discussions to provide the students with feedback, both positive and negative, about their responses to the stressful environment and help them better understand proper courses of action. Ultimately, the intent of the Pressure Cooker is to put the students in the “hot seat” and walk through tough situations they may experience in the Fleet. NSCS Commanding Officer Capt. Doug Noble asserts that “the staff has done a fantastic job coming up with very realistic scenarios for the students to experience and discuss. Experiencing one of these difficult situations in a safe, controlled, classroom environment gives the students an invaluable opportunity to put their leadership skills to the test. The real life scenarios of the pressure cooker give the students a great learning event that they will not quickly forget, and will equip them well, should they encounter similar scenarios in the Fleet.”

NSCS strives to send new Supply Officers to the Fleet with not only the technical proficiency and basic supply knowledge to be successful, but also with the leadership foundation needed to be effective division officers. Through modern leadership curricula, the support and teamwork of partnering tenant base commands, and real–life scenarios, NSCS ensures an all-compassing Supply Corps officer is ‘Ready for Sea!’

November/December 2016