Becoming a Subject Matter Expert

LT. CMDR. KIRK ENGLER, SC, USN SUPPLY CORPS CAREER COUNSELOR OFFICE OF SUPPLY CORPS PERSONNEL

When considering the principle lines of operation and communities of interest available to Supply Corps officers, the range of options is extensive. However, that variety can also be daunting to a newly commissioned officer. Do I need to be an expert in everything? Do I need to be an expert as a lieutenant? The answer to both – no. Expertise is developed throughout your career by completing multiple experience tours in a line of operation, in addition to earning a master’s degree in a related Supply Corps line of operation. By the time you are promoted to commander, and definitely by the time you are promoted to captain, you should be an expert in a single line of operation with experience in multiple lines of operation.

The Importance of Starting Early

In the first few years of your career as a junior Supply Corps officer, your professional focus should concentrate on operational support for our Fleet customers. Junior officers create value for the Navy by placing emphasis on Fleet support in the first decade of their careers. After qualifying in a warfare area and successfully completing their first operational tours, junior officers have the opportunity to gain experience in a Supply Corps line of operation and explore functional subspecialties through one of 10 highly competitive, internship programs.

  • Integrated Logistics Support
  • Business/Enterprise Supply Chain Management
  • Navy Acquisition Contracting
  • Business/Financial Management
  • Petroleum, Oil & Lubricants
  • Transportation
  • Joint Operational Logistics
  • Planner
  • Naval Special Warfare
  • Naval Reactors

Other opportunities to gain experience in a specific line of operation exist with shore billets located throughout the United States and overseas. You won’t become an expert at the end of this assignment, but you will begin developing experience in a line of operation and, perhaps more importantly, gain exposure to the array of roles Supply Corps officers fill across the Navy.

Formal Education Forms the Basis for Lieutenant Commander and Beyond

So you’ve made it to lieutenant and have successfully completed a second operational tour; it’s time to look ahead and ask, “What kind of senior Supply Corps officer do I want to be?” and “In which line of operation do I want to become an expert?” Self-reflection, career research, and honest conversations with mentors, family, and friends will guide you through the decision points as you earn expertise through postgraduate education. Depending on your course of study, you will earn a subspecialty (SUBSPEC) preparing you for an experience tour where you will be able to apply and validate your education. Your “toolbox” adds another tool.

The Road to Becoming an Expert

As a proven top performer with at least one warfare qualification, two operational tours supporting the warfighter, and formal education, the board promotes you to lieutenant commander. You’re a “career officer” now! Armed with a working toolbox, you are an asset to the Navy, “detail-able” by skillset. It’s time to pull those “tools” out of your toolbox, crack off the plastic wrap, and get to work honing your skills. Throughout your time as a lieutenant commander and commander, you will work to become a line of operation/community of interest expert by earning Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) qualification and/or upgrading SUBSPECs through successive functional experience tours and a master’s degree in a related Supply Corps line of operation. Currently, only nine percent of lieutenant commanders, 37 percent of commanders, and 53 percent of captains have earned DAWIA Level III certification so you should not expect to become a Level III expert as a lieutenant.

The ability to target a specific specialty within the Supply Corps will define your value to our community. The old adage, “jack of all trades, master of none” is a philosophy that produces generalists, but does not develop the functional specialists so critically needed to successfully support the modern integrated weapon systems operated by the 21st century warfighter. Innovation is born from experience and creative thinking – “how can I better use this tool to deliver combat readiness to the warfighter?” and requires true specialists (experts) to drive problem identification and bring resolution to fruition.

Early superior operational performance combined with initial experience and education in a line of operation develops your foundation. Build your career on this early groundwork with the tools you’ve accrued. The future success of the Navy Supply Corps requires a cadre of leaders with depth of expertise, not managers with range of awareness.

November/December 2016