Achieving Success in the Navy Supply Corps … Leading to Balance

    The Supply Corps Office of Personnel has initiated a series of interviews, focusing on Supply Corps (SC) career management and what it takes to achieve success in Supply Corps careers.  Third in this series is ‘Leading to Balance.’

    Lt. Cmdr. Jay Ramsey, SC, USN, Supply Corps Career Counselor (SC CC), interviewed Capt. Duke Heinz, SC, USN, Commanding Officer at the Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Jacksonville.  Capt. Heinz shared his personal career path.

SC CC:  Tell me about yourself.

Capt. Duke Heinz, SC, USN

Capt. Duke Heinz, SC, USN

Capt. Heinz:  Well, I grew up a Navy brat.  My dad was a P-3 pilot who later transitioned to the Aerospace Engineering Duty Officer community and spent the latter part of his career managing various weapon system programs at Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).  My younger brother went to the Naval Academy (Class of ’91), so as I matriculated through college at James Madison University, wrapping up my bachelor of business administration in international business, the Navy was familiar territory.  My parents’ next door neighbor was Capt. Tom Sims, SC, USN (Ret.) and he mentored me over several summers with regard to the Supply Corps and what a great opportunity it would be to leverage my business degree, while gaining valuable leadership experience and the opportunity to travel the world.  With that said, I applied to Officer Candidate School after graduation, and off I went!

SC CC:  Please discuss your assignment history with us.

Capt. Heinz:  Talk about “stove-piped”…my first tour out of the Basic Qualification Course was aboard USS Bergall (SSN 667), but after that it’s been predominantly aviation heavy.  I blame my dad…he told me after the sub that I should consider shore duty at a Naval Air Station (NAS) and working with aviators.  Trusting my dad, I asked the detailers for orders to NAS Miramar (this was when “Top Gun” was still a very popular movie).  Instead, I received orders to NAS Lemoore, located in the San Joaquin Valley of California near Fresno.  Not exactly the garden spot of San Diego, but a great place to cut your teeth on Naval Aviation Supply Officer qualifications and everything aviation.   Follow-on tours with the Blue Angels, USS Enterprise (CVN 65), and Naval Inventory Control Point Philadelphia, with a pit-stop in between at SUP OP in Millington as the lieutenant shore detailer.  I finally made it to D.C. with a tour at OPNAV N80 as the Head Program Objective Memorandum (POM) Mechanic.  Then I took a ‘breather’ with a year of study at the Eisenhower School, Industrial College of the Armed Forces before heading back to sea as the Supply Officer aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68).  My last tour before taking command of the NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center in Jacksonville was as the Operations Director at NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support back in Philadelphia.

SC CC:  You have great tour quality.  Of your assignments, which assignment (or two) stands out as being the most personally and professionally rewarding?

Capt. Heinz:  I think every tour I’ve had stands out as special in its own unique way, but if you had to make me pick, I’d say my sea duty assignments top the list…particularly Bergall and Nimitz where I served as Supply Officer.  I joined the Navy to serve my country, to lead sailors, and to go to sea.  Were there challenges on sea duty…absolutely, but that was part of the job I signed up for and I enjoyed every minute of it.  In fact, Capt. Jack Moreau, my relief as Supply Officer on Nimitz, likes to say that I left fingernail claw marks down the officer’s brow when the Executive Officer had to drag me off the ship after turnover was complete.  Besides sea duty, I would add that my recent tour as NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support (WSS) Operations Director was a close second.

SC CC:  Is it safe to say that your most rewarding tours were your most challenging assignments?  What takeaways would you like to share from that experience?

Capt. Heinz:  Certainly all SUPPOs inherently understand the rewards and challenges of sea duty.  That said, my two most challenging tours were at OPNAV N80 and at NAVSUP WSS Philadelphia as Operations Director.  At OPNAV, I learned the nuances of what “completed staff work” really meant.  There were no second chances, you either got it right, or they found someone else who could.  N80 is known colloquially as the “Bullpen” for a reason; they’re the team that’s in the game late to close the books on the Navy’s annual POM (budget) submission and deliver it to the Chief of Naval Operations.  The environment was, and still is, hectic and fast paced, but I learned immensely about how the Navy operates at the most senior levels, and the opportunity to “peer behind the curtain” was both educational and fascinating.

    The NAVSUP WSS Operations Director job is hands down one of the best 0-6 jobs in the Supply Corps.  The breadth of that operation, coupled with the scope of responsibility across every facet and level of Naval Aviation (NAVAIR; Commander, Naval Air Forces; United States Marine Corps; and industry; etc.) challenged me professionally every day.  Rear Adm. Berube liked to talk about how senior officers need to lead “laterally”.  As officers, we certainly learn how to lead down, and many of us learn to lead up (to manage our bosses), but one of the keys to success, particularly in the Operations Director job, was to lead laterally, with your peers across services, varied commands, and industry in developing supply chain solutions, as well consensus building.  The ability to do that successfully was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my career.

SC CC:  From your wide range of experiences, what leadership skills have you leveraged to lead the NAVSUP FLC Jacksonville team?

Capt. Heinz:  I think the key to your question is that last word, “team”.  Everyone wants to feel as though they are an important, contributing member of their organization/team, whether they are military, civil service, or contractors.  My job as CO is to build and maintain that team, clearly communicate our strategy/mission, celebrate our successes/victories, and learn from our mistakes.  I’m a big management by walking around guy.  It’s amazing not only how much you can learn from an organization by getting out and about, but also what better way to earn that “buy in” from your team by being out in their spaces every day seeing what they are working on, what challenges they might have, what the conditions are of their workspaces, etc.

SC CC:  What characteristics do you most value in those who work for you?

Capt. Heinz:  First off, I like to refer to those that work with me.  I may be the quarterback, but we are all on the same team.  That said, foremost trait is a positive attitude.  You have got to enjoy your job and want to come to work every day, if you don’t, it’s probably time to look for something else.  The ability to communicate clearly is important as well, especially today when so much of our business is done by email or blackberry.  And finally, integrity.  I expect people to be true to their word, and to uphold the tenets of the Navy’s core values: honor, courage, and commitment.  For Supply Officers, and logistics professionals throughout the service, the virtue of integrity should be our guidon.

SC CC:  We are in the midst of board season.  What guidance would you provide to perspective mentees regarding boards and board preparation?

Capt. Heinz:  Good question!  Record maintenance is critical.  I still see many officers’ Officer Data Cards with missing additional qualification designation codes, subspecialty codes, academic profile codes, etc.  It is absolutely incumbent on each officer to manage their own record, and ensure its wholeness.

    One thing that drives a selection board crazy is any anomaly in an officer’s record.  For example, a detaching guided missile destroyer’s (DDG) SUPPO’s FITREP, where they’re a 1 of 1 “Early Promote” (EP), and the block 41 remarks from the CO state that this is “The best Supply Officer I have ever served with in 17 years,”—yet the rating marks indicate three-tenths of a point below the reporting senior’s cumulative average (RSCA).  Was the CO resetting his average?  Did he or she not understand that the RSCA applies for all FITREPS written in that rank, regardless of designator?  Or, was the CO trying to send a message that the SUPPO wasn’t performing up to par?  I would advocate that when you sign your FITREP, you should always know what your CO’s RSCA is.

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

Capt. Heinz:  Well, I have three boys under the age of 11, so the minute I walk in the door life gets “real,” real quick!  They want their dad, and they want him immediately, not someone who is constantly checking emails on the blackberry or isn’t home until after dinner and homework is done.  Not that that doesn’t happen from time to time, but it’s not standard operating procedure in the Heinz household.  More importantly, I believe a key ingredient to anyone successful in their line of work is a solid partner.  Note that I didn’t say “spouse.”  My wife Susan is absolutely a Navy spouse, but we’re partners on this Navy adventure/career, and this isn’t “my career,” or “my successes,” it’s “our career” and “our successes.”

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

Capt. Heinz:  First is to know and understand that the most important person in your career is yourself!  Second, have fun!  If you don’t enjoy your job, you are likely not to be very successful, and your team will read that in you as well.  Lastly, stay in the moment.  It is too easy these days to worry about your next detail or next career milestone you need to meet…”checking the blocks.”  Enjoy and excel in your current position and usually things have a way of working out!

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