"Once excellence is achieved, it can only be maintained by constant innovation.” –Tom Collins, Author
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 a successful as a Supply Corps officer. Our 11th article in this series is focused on innovation. Captain Eric Morgan is the Deputy Assistant Commander for Corporate Operations for Naval Supply Systems Command and the Strategy lead for the Navy Supply Corps community.
SC CC: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I went to junior high and high school in Fairfax, Virginia, so that is where I call home. I attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh where I met my wife, Beth, and commissioned via Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps in 1993. I earned my Masters in Operations Research from Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) and attended Executive Education at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. My wife Beth and I have one son Cameron, currently in high school.
My operational assignments include the USS Gonzalez (DDG 66), USS Hartford (SSN 768), USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), and as Commander SUPPO on amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). I also served in Iraq as executive officer for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Support Team. Through those tours, I gained operational experience in the North Atlantic, 5th Fleet, 6th Fleet, 7th Fleet (twice) and on the ground in U.S. Central Command.
Ashore, I served as instructor and training officer at Navy Supply Corps School (NSCS), earned Joint Qualification at DLA Headquarters, and learned the aviation business in depth at Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Weapon Systems Support in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My core skill set is in supply chain management both Navy and DLA, with a strong focus on analytics driven by my operations research (OR) background and tours. I’ve always enjoyed finding and maintaining the “big picture” perspective, so I have a strong affinity for my current position’s focus on strategy development/execution and synchronizing the communications that go with it.
SC CC: You have great tour quality, and a predominantly “conventional” career path. What guided your detailing decisions as you progressed through your career?
Starting with six years of sea duty on small ships, my exposure to other Supply Corps officers was limited. As a junior officer, my career decisions were largely driven by what I heard at the Supply Corps Road Show. The information our community shares during the annual Road Show is invaluable and should be taken to heart. My tour at the schoolhouse in Athens, Georgia helped expose me to more career insight from multiple sources. My first mentor, then Cmdr. Mike Patten (NSCS academic director), guided me towards NPS and OR. From there on, I began trying to get to a big “supply-centric” tour like an inventory control point where I could really learn the business. Going to the carrier as an O-4 also helped since I was able to learn from two more great mentors, Capt. David Meyers and Capt. Jim Liberko, who taught me the business and gave great advice for my follow-on detailing decisions.
SC CC: Given your position as NAVSUP’s lead for Strategy, and in today’s Supply Corps where nontraditional opportunities are much more prevalent, what advice can you offer to junior officers out there?
We commonly hear the terms “sustained superior performance” and “tough, visible shore tours with competition”. The first is a given, but there are only so many billets in those “tough, visible” highly-desired locations. There aren’t enough billets at OPNAV, NAVSUP, other system commands, and fleet logistics centers for everyone in the Supply Corps. My advice is to make the best of wherever you are detailed, learn and attain as much as possible, build or reinforce a strong service reputation, and adjust your career plan as appropriate. That superior performance reputation is critical to your later career; without that as a base, your odds of getting competitive positions diminish.
SC CC: As a mentor, what advice do you typically share with perspective mentees? What would be your advice to a JO who gets conflicting information from more than one mentor?
As I said in the previous question, I believe the primary keys to success are sustained superior performance and a strong professional reputation. The second piece of advice that I offer to my mentees relates to Rear Adm. Yuen’s “Can you fight?” We frequently hear the Chief ask this question, but do we really understand what he means? I ask my mentees: “Are you an expert in your designated line of operation?” I challenge them to learn everything possible at every opportunity about the business of the Supply Corps from the senior officers and civilian subject matter experts that drive our business. I encourage everyone to not just seek the next job to check boxes, but to take the opportunity in whatever job you are assigned to truly become a functional expert. You are there to learn the business so you can apply that knowledge in a later more senior tour.
I also advise folks on what I like to call “risk minimization.” By this I mean, don’t give a board a reason to not pick you.
Establish expertise in a career field AND gain the sub-specialties/additional qualification designators that go with it. Earn qualifications and certifications whenever you can as the opportunity to do so may not come again. Once you make decisions that close a door, it often cannot be reopened. Additionally, seek competition and do well in that competition. Finally, interact with as many mentors as possible and look for career insight from everywhere. When that advice conflicts, look for a common theme in the advice you’ve been given. Take all of it into account, and then find the path that resonates most with you.
SC CC: In your current role as the ACOM responsible for strategy, what do you see as the community’s greatest challenge? As the Strategy lead, what is your greatest challenge?
My strategy role is where NAVSUP and the Supply Corps community cross over, but the two are a bit different. On the community- side, I am primarily concerned with how we shape the Corps, along with our core competencies, to continue to provide the supply, financial, contracting, and logistics support the Navy needs for the next 20-30 years. Based on this, how do we grow the officers whom we will need for future critical positions? It may not be the same as in the past and is always slowly shifting. We can see changes in the landscape, maybe on the margins, but there are indications where we may need to fine-tune our traditional current paths. We are already doing some things to adjust. For the first time in four years, last November, we reconvened the Supply Corps Senior Leadership Symposium to talk about ongoing community issues. We are also reconvening the annual Captain (Select) Training Symposium to help synchronize our community.
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Captain Morgan participates in the Speed Mentoring program at Naval Supply Systems Command Headquarters.
In my role at NAVSUP, my greatest challenge is to drive the Enterprise to focus long-term/strategically. We are so lean that much of our capacity is taken up by reactionary, day-today operations. We must continually force ourselves to apply bandwidth to being proactive and thinking strategically so we can better position the Enterprise to operate in the changing environment. In order for the organization to be successful, the Commander of NAVSUP needs someone besides himself who is focused on the long-term and can help keep the Enterprise headed in the right direction.
SC CC: In light of Secretary Mabus’ recent establishment of Task Force Innovation, would you care to share your thoughts on how we, as a community, can help to harness the creative ideas of our fellow Sailors and civilian teammates? At the individual level, how can “we” make a difference?
This is an area where NAVSUP and the Supply Corps are already leaning forward with actions in progress. We’ve seen a lot of movement over the last year with the creation of LogIC…Logistics Innovation Cell…with civilian and military innovation representatives from each of the NAVSUP Assistant Commanders (ACOMs) and Echelon III commands. We are capturing great input from both the Enterprise and the Supply Corps community. The Department of Navy innovation tool Hatch…a Navy forum whereby anyone from junior enlisted afloat to senior officer ashore can submit innovative ideas…is getting a lot of use. The forum enables anyone to enter their idea and get immediate visibility by big Navy. LogIC has their own NAVSUP forum that we use in the Enterprise to expose and discuss ideas. These forums empower the individual to come forth and submit their ideas and are proof that good ideas come from everywhere.
For the community, we also harness creative ideas from things like senior leader and junior officer training symposiums. Earlier this year, we set up four Supply Advisory Teams (SATs) with participation across the community to flesh out some of these ideas. At the individual level, don’t sit on your insights. Whether you are an E-4 on a carrier or Lt./Lt. Cmdr. at NPS…getyour ideas somewhere visible. There is no guarantee that we can pursue every one but they need to be part of the conversation. This is where I think we can do better…we need to do more to crowd source ideas from within the community. Crowdsourcing at its best is very powerful. More coming on that front in the near future.
SC CC: Among your assignments, which ones do you feel provided you the greatest opportunity to be innovative, to affect positive change, and have the biggest impact? Why?
There are definitely earlier points in my career where I felt I had a lot of influence and the ability to truly affect change locally, but those opportunities increase and the scope of impact grows as you get more senior. By the time I served as supply officer on USS Boxer, I was knowledgeable enough to know what I could do, and I also carried the rank and experience to make it happen within the Supply Department and the ship. However, answering the question today, my current position wins out. As a NAVSUP ACOM, I routinely have the opportunity to share ideas directly with the Chief of Supply Corps and other senior leaders of our community. This combination of access and the resources of a global Enterprise makes more things possible.
SC CC: With the new focus on innovation, and so much recent attention given to ethics and trust, how should we as a professional Corps, move forward? How do we find those intersections of law, regulation, instruction, and ethics where we can still be innovative and add value to the Navy and the Supply Corps? Is it a stretch?
Achieving this is not a stretch at all. As you said, we are a professional Corps, and ethics and trust are directly in our wheelhouse. From our earliest days at the NSCS, we’ve always been taught to “punch the pubs” and given the regulations/guidance, find the best way to support the mission or commanding officer’s desires…the “this is what I can do for you” approach. In today’s environment, it is ever important to work closely with our judge advocate general counterparts to come to solutions that are good, right, and honorable. With the impact of social media and increased scrutiny today, it can be immediately apparent when you stray from good, right, and honorable. Charting the proper path while being innovative is how we will move NAVSUP and our community forward while being relevant and ready.
SC CC: Outside of the Navy and the Supply Corps, what motivates you? What has enabled you to push on and serve successfully through a 22-year career? How important has the work/life balance been for you throughout your career?
My family motivates me every day. I love what I do, but I couldn’t do it without them. Being with my family gives me the energy and resources to keep going and do the best job I can do for the Navy and the Supply Corps. None of what we do would be possible without some level of work-life balance. Each of us, when the time is right, must take time to recharge our batteries, whether it’s PT, reading a book, or relaxing with your family and friends. In my family, we like to experience new things. We view moving some place new as an opportunity to see new places, discover what there is to do in the area, explore places we may never have seen otherwise, and give our son the opportunity to do new things in new schools. Frankly, it doesn’t feel like 22 years have passed.
*Special thanks to Capt. Morgan for sharing his time, perspective, and experience.*