Achieving Success in the Navy Supply Corps… Navigating Waters in the FTS SC Community

 The Supply Corps Office of Personnel has initiated a new series of interviews, focusing on Supply Corps (SC) career management and what it takes to achieve success in Supply Corps careers.  Second in this series is, “Navigating Waters in the Full Time Support (FTS) SC Community.”

Lt. Cmdr. Jay Ramsey, SC, USN, Supply Corps Career Counselor (SC CC), interviewed Capt. Joe Davis, SC, USN from the Logistics/N4 office for the United States Naval Forces Korea.  Capt. Davis shared his personal career path leading to his experience with the FTS SC community. 

SC CC:  Tell me about yourself (education, career, assignment history, etc.).

I enlisted in the Navy’s Nuclear Power Program in September 1985 and was later commissioned in 1992 via the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps program at Prairie View A & M University, where I received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting.  I later received a Master of Science in Information Technology Management from Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey.  I’ve also attended the Wharton Business School Executive Development Program; the Business Resources Management Program for Navy Acquisition Contracting at Darden Graduate School at the University of Virginia; and the Advanced Program in Logistics and Technology at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill.

Capt. Davis:  I am currently serving as Assistant Chief of Staff (Logistics/N4) for U.S. Naval Forces Korea.  My previous assignments include Commanding Officer (CO) and Executive Officer (XO) of Navy Cargo Handling Battalion ONE (NCHB 1), Williamsburg, Va.; Director of Training and Readiness at NAVELSG, Williamsburg, Va.; Supply Officer on USS Nebraska (SSBN 739) (BLUE); Disbursing and Food Service Officer on USS Yellowstone (AD 41); Director of Logistics, Navy Region Midwest, Reserve Component Command; Aviation Support Division at Naval Air Facility, Washington, D.C.; and Business Financial Management Internship at Program Executive Officer, Undersea Warfare at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).

 SC CC: As a Junior Officer (JO), what drove your detailing strategy?

 Capt. Davis:  I sought advice from those who had been successful, laid out my options, and made the best choice based on family and career.  Sometimes family takes a lower priority, but you need to work just as hard at home to make sure that your family knows that they are the most important; that’s difficult!

 My approach was that if something looked interesting, I wasn’t afraid to try it, especially after co-signed by mentors; thus my varied career path in surface, subs, aviation and expeditionary logistics.

 SC CC:  How did your detailing strategy change as you became a more senior officer?

 Capt. Davis:  I found that after I had a record of sustained performance and a good reputation, senior officers requested me through the detailer.  However, I still sought the counsel of my spouse, senior leaders and peers.

 SC CC:  Please detail your transition to the SC FTS community (describe any challenges unique to 3107 Officers)

 Capt. Davis:  I applied and was selected for transition to the FTS community after my Department Head (DH) at sea tour.  At that point in my life, I loved my job, wanted to stay in the Navy, but needed a little more stability at home and redesignating to 3107 gave me that opportunity.  The biggest challenge has been staying connected to the SC community.  By the nature of the location of some FTS jobs, it’s possible to disappear and become disconnected from the community.  As a FTS SC Officer, we have to make an extra effort to maintain contact with our peers and go the extra mile (sometimes literally) to take part in SC social functions.  During my CO and XO tours, I sometimes made it mandatory fun for my entire wardroom to make the 100-mile roundtrip to participate in SC functions and attend detailing roadshows.  They appreciated it later … I think.

 SC CC:  Describe your most challenging assignment. What takeaways would you like to share from that experience?

Capt. Davis:  My most challenging and rewarding assignment was my command tour.  “The responsibility of the commanding officer for his command is absolute,” meaning the buck starts and stops with you.  To have had the honor to have command of an operational command as a supply officer was an awesome and rewarding experience.  To provide a vision and expectations is one thing, but if you are not living and breathing it, people will see right through you, and you and the command will fail.  My biggest takeaway is that our enlisted Sailors are second to none in the world, and if you give them the resources and mechanisms to thrive, they will exceed your expectations every time.

 SC CC:  Tour quality is a common theme that we hear about in the SC. Can tour quality be achieved in the SC FTS community given limited billet/geographical diversity?

 Capt. Davis:  Tour quality is an interesting term, and there are certainly jobs that are more challenging than others.  That being said, they all have to be filled and I firmly believe that you can MAKE a tour, a quality tour.  When it comes down to it, officers lead, and all of the Supply Officer billets are important because if they were not, they wouldn’t exist.  Attitude and performance can turn any assignment into a “quality tour.”

 SC CC:  Afloat DH tours are “highly valued” important assignments, how do these tours translate in the FTS SC community?

 Capt. Davis:  Whenever anyone seeks my advice regarding assignments, I advise them to take the DH afloat if they have the opportunity. I grew up in the “Ready for Sea” era.  There are some suitable substitutes, but there’s nothing like it.  It’s you, at sea, literally supporting the warfighter and failure is not an option.  The FTS SC community puts the same value on Afloat DH tours as our fellow 3100s.

 SC CC:  When you were a JO, did you have a mentor?  How should a JO approach a senior officer to seek career guidance/mentoring? How is this achieved within the FTS SC community?  As a mentor, what advice do you typically share with perspective mentees?

 Capt. Davis:  If you are a JO and without a mentor, be upfront and honest with a senior officer and just ask them to be your mentor.  Pick a luncheon, ball, wherever you have the opportunity to engage.  I don’t know any senior officer who wouldn’t enjoy the opportunity to mentor a junior officer.  Then if you find someone else that you’ll be more comfortable with, utilize them as your primary mentor.  I also suggest having more than one mentor; it’s important to have multiple perspectives.  Additionally, have an earnest relationship with your mentor.  Don’t just call when you need fitrep input, record reviews, or tour advice.

 Mentoring in the FTS SC community presents additional challenges due to the geographical dispersion of billet locations.  This often results in physical isolation from senior FTS SC officers.  Additionally, the challenges associated with hosting or attending professional conferences due to DON budgetary restrictions/reductions has degraded our ability to conduct face-to-face mentoring.

 My advice is to always know where you are within your career path.  You can certainly have variation in your path, but be aware that certain milestones need to be achieved to remain competitive with your peers.  Some of the best advice I ever received was to serve on a selection board in any capacity; you will learn years’ worth of career information in a single week.  My advice is to find something that you are interested in, do it well, and get your family’s buy-in, you’ll need their support.

 Lastly, recognize when a senior officer is offering to mentor you.  If they are taking time out to ask you to join him or her at/for … whatever, GO!  They are taking an interest in you.

 SC CC:  As a senior officer, what are your thoughts regarding emotional intelligence?  How do you balance connecting with people versus driving towards mission accomplishment/success?

 Capt. Davis:  Throughout my career, I have successfully been able to get people to do what I needed them to do without “flame-spraying” them.  No matter what background, age, or intelligence, everyone wants to be respected.  Your Sailors and civilians must not be afraid to tell you bad news.  We must establish an atmosphere that encourages information flow and an avenue for good ideas and innovation.  A leader needs all of the information, so he or she can make the best decision for the organization, and that can’t happen if your people are afraid to tell you the truth.

 The mission is the priority, but the people come first.  In my opinion, a lot of senior leaders who find themselves in trouble start believing their own hype and forget that it’s never about them, but always about the people.  All successful inspections, missions, battles and wars have one thing in common; it requires people to do them.

 SC CC:  Work/life balance is important to the success of any executive. What keeps you grounded? What work/life balance advice can you share?

 Capt. Davis:  Work life balance is absolutely critical to one’s total health.  I’ve been blessed to have religion, a wonderful wife and two kids who appreciate me, but have no problem keeping me grounded.  I don’t want to be one of those who have had a successful military career, but once it’s over be a stranger in my own home.

 Leaders who are able to master the balance of life are better able to understand issues and stresses of our young Sailors, and thus show understanding and compassion, while still holding them accountable to perform.

 SC CC:  From your perspective, what is the “secret sauce” to success?

 Capt. Davis:  Performance, reputation and relationships.  People like to work with those whom they can trust, and who will deliver on time, every time.  It takes a long time to build your reputation and a very short time to ruin it; guard it carefully.

 Sometimes opportunity is disguised as adversity.  Negative experiences often have more learning points than positive ones, because you typically never forget the negative ones.  And remember that our jobs are only orders if you don’t want them; they are opportunities if you embrace them.

 Finally, participate in the Navy and include your family in the “good stuff.”  By this, I mean be a part of the total Navy experience, not just the work.  There is always something going on for you and your family, i.e. balls, charity fundraisers, community relations, etc.

 *Special thanks to Capt. Davis for sharing his time, perspective, and experience.