Thoughts on Being a Three Star Flag Officer … Retired Vice Admiral Justin McCarthy, SC, USN

Newsletter: What do you attribute your success to?

Vice Admiral Justin McCarthy, SC, USN

Vice Admiral Justin McCarthy, SC, USN

McCarthy: First and foremost the people who supported me throughout my career. You learn early on in our business that the enormity of the responsibilities of a Supply Corps officer are too great for one person to handle on their own. You must rely on your people and I always had great people supporting me.

Second was the leadership skills I learned and developed in life, initially through my early lessons as a Boy Scout, which were refined throughout my various educational opportunities and experience tours. Leadership is a developed skill and truly successful people never stop developing those skills.

Newsletter: What was your most challenging assignment?

McCarthy: That’s an interesting question. The challenges of each assignment naturally grow as you progress throughout your career so it’s difficult to meaningfully compare the challenge of an assignment as an O-9 to that of an O-1. At the time, each was significant in its own way.

Being Department Head as an ensign was pretty challenging at the time. Taking the lessons learned at Supply Corps School and applying them for the first time when you are the only Supply Corps officer on board was a daunting yet exciting challenge. So was assuming an afloat department head role on a ship that was midway through a deployment (that’s a story for another time) as well as recommissioning a ship that had been in mothballs for 30 years (USS Missouri). Having said that I would have to say being Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Fleet Readiness and Logistics) was my most challenging as well as most exciting assignment. Being the CNO’s chief staff officer for readiness and logistics issues while simultaneously prosecuting two major combat operations (Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom) and the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process (BRAC) was certainly a challenging assignment.

January/February 2004 – Chief Warrant Officer Leon Cole, Food Service Officer, center, and the USS Ronald Reagan Principal Assistant for Services Lt. Danny King, right, took the opportunity to tell Chief of Supply Corps Rear Adm. Justin D. McCarthy about some of the Supply operations on board the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier.

January/February 2004 – Chief Warrant Officer Leon Cole, Food Service Officer, center, and the USS Ronald Reagan Principal Assistant for Services Lt. Danny King, right, took the opportunity to tell Chief of Supply Corps Rear Adm. Justin D. McCarthy about some of the Supply operations on board the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier.

Newsletter: What is the hardest thing you ever had to do as a Supply Corps officer?

McCarthy: Having to confront the fact that despite your best efforts to develop them, occasionally you will run into people that are not a good fit for what they are doing and you will have to remove them from those positions. What made it hard for me is first, recognizing the impact such circumstances have on the individual and potentially their family, but also having to acknowledge the fact you may have failed in your efforts to develop the individual. That said, as a leader you are responsible for making those tough decisions, as hard as they may be at the time.

Newsletter: What in your career are you most proud of?

McCarthy: Two tours stand out … Commanding Officer of the Supply Corps School (NSCS), and Commander, Naval Supply System Command and Chief of Supply Corps. Having the opportunity to help shape a generation of Supply Corps officers as CO at NSCS was a distinct honor and privilege. We had a great team at the time, many of which have stayed connected for the over the 20 years that have passed since that time. It’s also gratifying to have senior officers approach me and proudly indicate they were a student during the time I commanded the Supply Corps School.

Having said that, being Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command and Chief of Supply Corps, was clearly the pinnacle of my military career. Leading NAVSUP and our officer and enlisted supply communities at any time is an honor, but doing so during that particular period in our history was truly a unique experience. It was during that period that the 9-11 attacks shook the very foundations of our nation, NAVSUP was being challenged to significantly reduce costs and our Corps was moving more aggressively into the joint logistics arena. It was a proud period when despite all the challenges being thrown at us, the NAVSUP team and our Corps rose to the challenge and demonstrated its unique value to both our Navy and the Joint logistics community.

May/June 2004 – Rear Adm. Justin D. McCarthy, Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command and Chief of Supply Corps, discusses products available during the WESTPAC Armed Forces Logistics Expo held at the Yokosuka Naval Base Fleet Recreation Center. The EXPO is held to foster cooperative relationships between local and stateside companies interested in doing business with the U.S. Government.

May/June 2004 – Rear Adm. Justin D. McCarthy, Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command and Chief of Supply Corps, discusses products available during the WESTPAC Armed Forces Logistics Expo held at the Yokosuka Naval Base Fleet Recreation Center. The EXPO is held to foster cooperative relationships between local and stateside companies interested in doing business with the U.S. Government.

Newsletter: How do you think what you’ve learned over your career helped you after you left the Supply Corps?

McCarthy: If I had to list two of the top demanded skills in the private sector, they would be leadership and professional logistics skills. Simply stated, these skills are timeless and there are few better laboratories in which to develop those skills than as a Supply Corps officer. I have and continue to lean on those skills today.

Newsletter: What one piece of advice would you give today’s Supply Corps officer?

McCarthy: I’m tempted to give you a list of things in response to this question. Instead, I’ll boil it down to two things, neither of which should surprise you. First and foremost, take care of your people. What I mean by that can be summed up in this way: respect them, challenge them, listen to them, develop them, and give them the ability to excel. It is through them that you will succeed.

The second is to always set the example you expect others to emulate. I’ll lean back on a seminar I used to hold for every graduating class while CO at NSCS. In it I would emphasize the fact you are constantly being “snap-shotted” by your juniors and those who work for you. That is true no matter what rank you hold. Always conduct yourself in a way in which you are proud to say you are a naval officer and a Supply Corps officer.

Newsletter: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

January/February 2003 – Rear Adm. Justin D. McCarthy, Chief of Supply Corps, left, talks with LOGSU2’s Commanding Officer Cmdr. Steve Gill, center; and Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Bill McCormick while on the Naval Air Base Little Creek firing range.

January/February 2003 – Rear Adm. Justin D. McCarthy, Chief of Supply Corps, left, talks with LOGSU2’s Commanding Officer Cmdr. Steve Gill, center; and Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Bill McCormick while on the Naval Air Base Little Creek firing range.

McCarthy: This is an exciting time for our Corps. We are valued more highly both within our Navy and as Joint logisticians than we have ever been. As our Corps continues to adapt to meet the challenges of our Navy and the Joint arena, those of us who no longer serve in uniform continue to watch with pride and support those who today carry on the legacy of our Corps!