Being a Part of the Navy Team

Class Dinner, 82nd Company, Newport, R.I.  (Photo courtesy of Lt. j.g. Asli Wright)

Class Dinner, 82nd Company, Newport, R.I. (Photo courtesy of Lt. j.g. Asli Wright)

For a newly commissioned Navy Reserve Supply officer, there is an incredible amount of excitement and anticipation of being part of the Navy team.

 There is what can seem like an incredibly long pause between when they are selected for commissions and when finally their documents and dates are released.  They get the call from the Officer Programs Detailer informing them they should head to their nearest uniform shop and purchase their uniforms as the day they would become Navy officers was finally here.  With their family and loved ones present, they appear in their Service Dress Blues, and with their hand raised and clear of mind they cite the oath of office and are all at once transformed and have assumed the new nifty title, “Ensign.”

 There are the pictures and the congratulations and at that moment it is felt by the member and only seen by those that know he or she best, but they are standing a touch taller, their shoulders back, and have adapted almost out of nowhere a steely and determined look and a grin to match.  They are now part of the Navy team.

 So, now what?  They are wearing the uniform, they have the ID card, where do they go from here?

 Each officer makes a commitment when they accept their commission.  They enter into a contract and an agreement that they will complete within 36 months of their commissioning date, the two-week Direct Commission Officer Indoctrination Course (DCOIC) and the 15-month Basic Qualification Course, Navy Reserve (BQC-NR).  The Officer Training Command, Newport, R.I., manages the DCOIC course, and it is one of five officer accession programs under the Naval Service Training Command.  The course is comprehensive and intense, and is designed to indoctrinate the members to their responsibilities as a Navy officer. 

 The course introduces them to the military structure of U.S. Navy, the rich history of our traditions and customs, our legal system, and military etiquette to quote their website welcome page.  Upon completion, each member is required to work within their assigned chain of command at their unit level in conjunction with their NOSC to obtain a quota control number for an upcoming BQC-NR class.  There are three classes held each fiscal year at the Navy Supply Corps School in Newport.  Each class can hold up to 35 students.  The BQC-NR course is broken down over three two-week phases of resident training at the schoolhouse.  After the completion of each phase, the students return to their homes of record and complete the assigned distance learning modules as well as the tests and quizzes associated with each module.

 The first two-week phase concentrates on Supply Management and Food Service.  The resident phases are an intense period of instruction where the students are expected to endure four to five lesson plans a day per curriculum, and are expected to pass with a minimum score of 80 percent.

 When the students return for Phase II, they wrap up the Supply Management and Food Service Curriculum and move into Disbursing, and Retail Operations.  They endure a six-hour training block on Expeditionary Logistics, and Junior Office Apply (JOAPPLY) and career briefs complete Phase II.  After completing their phase II distance learning requirements, they return six to seven months later (depending on what class they were assigned) and complete their disbursing and retail operations curriculum and a 36-hour block of instruction on Leadership Management.  On the last day of their phase III residency, the students graduate and return home.  At this point, each of these students have attained the moniker, “Ready for Sea,” and their designators get changed from 3165 (student) to 3105 (Select Reservist) having fully completed the BQC-NR program.  

 To this end, this is how a Reserve officer becomes a fully qualified Supply Reserve officer.  Each of these officers can now be mobilized, and are again qualified “ready for sea.”  They assume duties within the various units that comprise the Navy Reserve, and can volunteer for assignments or duty on Active Duty for Special Work (ADSW), recall opportunities, as well as Individual Augmentee (IA) or Global War on Terrorism Support Assignments (GSA).

 There is a parallel program that runs in conjunction with the BQC-NR program that allows the Reserve community to select officers to attend the six-month residency active duty Basic Qualification Course (BQC).  The active duty course includes the Division Officer Leadership Course (DIVLOC) and is an excellent opportunity for our Direct Commission Officers to learn and train side by side with their active duty counterparts.  The Reservists are hand-selected after endorsements by the regional N4’s, and are sent to Newport under permanent change of station orders.

 During Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, the Reserve community was able to place 16 students in the active course.  The results have been tremendous.  August 23 was a beautiful sunny day as 3rd Battalion Echo Company, and 80th Company BQC-NR, with Rear Adm. Mark Heinrich as the guest speaker, graduated.  Three of the top four graduates were Direct Commission Officers that had been selected to attend the active duty BQC course.  Ens. William Allen was the honor graduate and ran away with four out of the five curriculum awards.  The number two graduate was Lt. David Sanchez, and he was selected among his peers and his instructors and won the Leadership Award, and not to be outdone, Ens. Rebecca Goff achieved a final average of 96.96 percent, and graduated number four!  The feedback from the students to my staff and I is that the active duty course is easier to navigate and much more enjoyable.  What we cram on the reserve side into the three, two-week phases and the distance-learning piece over 15 months is done in the BQC at a steady pace spread out over the six months.  The students in the active BQC also have the added benefit of instructors that are always on hand for remediation, follow-up training, and one-one discussions as needed.

 The story does not end there however, because the application and process that I describe is for the most part void of the many intricacies that come along with each of our students lives that require them to balance their work and life commitments while working towards completing the BQC-NR or active duty program for the few that get selected.  Ultimately, either as a member of the BQC-NR or BQC, our students share the common goal of fulfilling their contract to become fully qualified Supply Officers.

 While drafting this story, I had the 82nd company BQC-NR completing their phase II residency period at the schoolhouse.  I held from them that I was writing this story and throughout our two weeks together I had an opportunity to ask questions that would help me answer the intent of this story; the story of how Reserve officers become fully qualified supply officers and the added and much more important additional story of the necessary balance of work and life commitments that attribute to that end.

 What I found during the past two weeks is that many of the familiar themes that continue to resonate for the Reserve students, which I have witnessed during my short six months at the command.  Issues such as job and or career changes, moving, childbirth, etc. …  Most of those issues are easy to work through, and with time and with a little flexibility by my team and I and the leadership at the schoolhouse, we can generally overcome most issues that our students are experiencing.  It’s not always that easy, and albeit the infrequent call from a student who asks what his or her options are as they have to assist their spouse or a loved one with cancer treatment or the death of a parent.  Those calls get handled with a resounding, “whatever the member needs,” because we do whatever we must do to ensure that the officer has the support at their unit level and from the school to look after their loved ones and when the time is right, return and re-engage.

 On Nov. 7, at the conclusion of a long afternoon at the podium teaching “Introduction to Expeditionary Logistics,” I tipped my hand to the 13 students from the 82nd Company about this article.  It was almost like they knew what I was looking for, and had been lying in wait for my question.  What they reminded me of was what we have been seeing all along and well before my tenure at the schoolhouse.  Each student has an individual story, and no matter what processes we put in place to support them during their time as students, sometimes we need to sit back and just listen to what they have to say and help them resolve the issue before them.

 One size does not fit all; there are a number of common denominators among our students in what they must overcome or confront to fulfill their commitment, but key among them is that they are not the same and they all have a story.  What was intended to be a short discussion on the topic became anything but.  Each student voiced their feelings and observations and many common themes emerged, such as knowing that their families are supportive of their time away from the family dynamic, and working for companies that are “military friendly” can make all the difference in a student’s life.  

 One of the students who struggled through phase I and the subsequent distance learning requirements stated that students should not “try to be John Wayne, the strong and silent type does not work in the BQC-NR”.  He realized shortly before returning for phase II that interaction with my instructors was needed, and reviewing study habits was the key to success; he was successful.  I am happy to report that he is back on track academically and doing very well indeed.  Ens. Yolanda Davis of the 82nd company indicated, “In the reserves, you could do as much or as little as you wanted to, but that was not the case in the BQC-NR program”.  Another common theme was that while they were away from their families and their jobs, they were doing something relevant, training that they would need, and it was something that mattered.

 In the end, our officers continue to show what Reservists do best, that they can overcome and adapt and they will continue to train and be ready whenever called upon.  Ens. Michael Tanner also of the 82nd company summarized it best; “We are here because we volunteered, and because we want to be, that is our commitment.”

 

By Lt. Cmdr. Onofrio Margioni

Director, Reserve Programs, Navy Supply Corps School