Faces of the Supply Corps … Life in Balance

    My Navy career began on June 1, 1995, and it has been a balancing act between work and personal life since that day.  I started as a dental technician (DT) and served with the Marine Corps in Okinawa, Japan; Yuma, Ariz.; and Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Lt. Joe Tobias and family.

Lt. Joe Tobias and family.

    Afterward, I was selected for administrative support duties at the Naval School of Health Sciences Detachment at Sheppard Air Force Base.  During that tour, I was also selected to become a DT “A” school instructor.  Following instructor duty, I served aboard my first ship, USS Cleveland (LPD-7), as a newly frocked first class petty officer.  During that tour, I cross-rated to hospital corpsman and was selected for chief petty officer.  Four months after I was pinned to chief, I transferred to Commander, United States Pacific Fleet.  I worked for the fleet surgeon and was assigned as the fleet dental planner.  I vividly recall when I checked in with the fleet surgeon, he told me that when I leave from there, I should leave a better person.  I honestly did not know what he meant by the statement, but it is clear to me today – he wanted me to seek a commission.  After a year on the staff, my division officer, who was an O-5 Medical Service Corps (MSC) officer told me that I should apply for Supply Corps Officer Candidate School (OCS).  I was completely shocked since the MSC would have been a natural fit due to my experience.  She explained that the Supply Corps would offer me far more operational opportunities and options than the MSC community.  I was fortunate to work downstairs from the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics and numerous Supply Corps officers.  I sought guidance from those officers at that command and applied for OCS.  Little did I know that being part of the Supply Corps would be the most challenging, yet rewarding opportunity.

    Over the past four years, I have realized that I need to be more in-tune with family priorities and career management.  I would say that the person who allows me to be more balanced in life is my wife, Michelle.  I consider myself fortunate to have married someone like her.  We first met at the Navy Supply Corps School in Athens.  After we completed Basic Qualification Course, Michelle was stationed onboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and I was stationed onboard USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) in San Diego.  When we learned that we would be blessed with twin boys, we faced our first difficult decision as a married couple: should both of us continue to serve or only one of us?  We discussed the challenges involved in managing a family and two Navy careers, and decided that I would stay on active duty since I had over 14 years of service.  Michelle was initially sad as she too had aspirations of completing a full Navy career.  Prior to her selection for Supply Corps full time support, she was a civilian contracting officer at Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center Puget Sound.  She found great satisfaction in working with Supply Corps officers and touring the USS John C. Stennis led her to apply for a commission.  We have no regrets and know that we made the right choice for our family.  We always discuss career decisions, intentions and goals together.  I don’t hide anything and I let her know the pros and cons.  At times, she will throw a curveball question my way – I guess I can’t outsmart a fellow Supply Corps officer.

    The importance of a good work-life balance was even more critical around the time of the birth of our twins.  My commanding officer on Bunker Hill allowed me to be there for that special day.  After a month of being with our new family, it was time for me to catch the ship on deployment.  Without our parents’ support, it would have been extremely difficult for Michelle to take care of both of them, since one of our boys was in the hospital for an additional month.  I had always believed that deployments were easiest on the service member, and that the spouse at home had the toughest job.  However, this operational tour was more challenging for me since I now had a family.  I was always on the go and tried to maintain that same mentality when I returned home.  Michelle was used to doing things on her own, so we had to discuss how we would work together as a team.

    Nowadays, a typical weekday for me begins at 0500 when I awake then workout at home or the gym where I coach.  At my gym, we do constantly varied, high intensity functional movement.  We use a blend of Olympic lifts, weightlifting, bodyweight movements, gymnastics, rowing, and running.  It tests the general physical skills of strength, speed, endurance, accuracy, flexibility, power, balance, coordination, stamina, and agility.   Basically it prepares you for anything and provides general physical preparedness.  I was exposed to this type of training over three years ago.  Since then I have noticed that I am more focused, I sleep better, and I have more energy.  Although it is shore duty, there are times when I need to stay later or even come in on the weekend.  I don’t think I’m preaching to the choir when I say that many Supply Corps officers work later than their peers—I believe it comes with the territory since we support all entities.  When I return home, I either play with my boys or prepare dinner.  Either of these activities helps me relax and allows me to wind down from the day’s events.  I truly enjoy cooking and making new dishes for my family.  Michelle and I take turns sharing in these activities.   After dinner, my wife gets the twins ready for bed while I clean the kitchen.  Normally we finish around the same time, and then begin to prepare for the next day.  If we’re lucky, we may watch a TV show or catch up on email before it’s time for bed.

    Michelle and I each have our family “roles.”  I consider her the rock in our family.  She takes great care of our boys and manages the “operation” of our household.  My role is to be the provider and protector of our family.  We are constantly communicating our plans – either short or long term.  We share an electronic calendar which makes it easier to plan our activities.  We are cognizant of our time and make our best effort not to overload our schedule.

    There are a few items that I consider important for having a balanced work-life environment.  First, believe in something.  All of us come from different backgrounds; believe in something higher than yourself that you can reflect on.  Second, take care of yourself.  It may sound selfish, but how can you take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself?  Get quality sleep at night and be aware of what you eat.  Certain foods can make you feel sluggish – both physically and mentally.  Third, exercise often to make yourself ready for anything.  Fourth, spend time with your family.  Your schedule, deployments, and military obligations may take you away from what you’ve planned, so cherish every moment you can.  You never know what the future may hold.  Finally, seek professional and personal development.  Establish relationships with mentors and take advantage of opportunities that will make you a successful Supply Corps officer.  Also, make time for personal interests and further education or training.  From time to time I attend seminars, and I enjoy reading books and articles on various subjects.  I am currently taking a graduate course as I enjoy being in a dynamic environment and learning from other people.

    Although my work-life balance may shift from time to time, I try to remain focused on these five things.  There will always be external factors that I cannot control, and it can take time to adjust to the changes that come with military life.  But above all, even though things are not going as originally planned, I am happy with the path Michelle and I have chosen.

Lt. Joe J. Tobias, SC, USN; Assistant Supply Corps Officer Community Manager, BUPERS 3