BY LT. JORDAN STEPHENS, SC, USN
SC CAREER COUNSELOR
OFFICE OF SUPPLY CORPS PERSONNEL
NAVY PERSONNEL COMMAND
The Career Counselor from the Office of Supply Corps Personnel interviewed Lt . Carl Catacutan. Catacutan is division officer on USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).
[caption id="attachment_6995" align="aligncenter" width="450"]
Lt. Carl R. Catacutan, SC, USN
SC CC: Tell me about yourself (education, career, family, assignment history, etc.).
I grew up in a Navy family and graduated from Louisiana State University, where I met my wife, Jordan. I earned my commission through Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps and was part of the first Basic Qualification Course (BQC) class in Newport, Rhode Island in 2011. After graduation, I was assigned as Supply Officer aboard USS Santa Fe (SSN 763) in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. After that, I completed the Joint operational logistics internship on the Joint Staff J4 in Washington, D.C. I reported to USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) as a Division Officer in Bremerton, Washington last October.
SC CC: Describe your current assignment.
I am the Materiel Division Officer (S-8). Materiel Division is responsible for the receipt, stowage, issue, and inventory of consumable materiel, along with hazardous materiel (HAZMAT) managed by the HAZMAT branch (S-8A). Our S-8 team maintains 40 storerooms, containing 60,000 line items valued at over $110 million. We work with the other Readiness Divisions, Stock Control (S-1), Aviation Supply (S-6), and Repairables Management Branch (S-6A) to fulfill Stennis’ Coordinated Shipboard Allowance List (COSAL), Quality-COSAL and Aviation Consolidated Allowance List requirements. I report directly to the principal assistant for logistics, who is accountable to our Supply Officer (SUPPO) Cmdr. Jason Warner, for the operation and effectiveness of all readiness divisions.
SC CC: You completed your department head tour on a submarine. How has this tour differed from that tour in terms of the scope of your job and daily routine?
In supply terms, the range of my responsibilities on Stennis is slightly narrower than Santa Fe, but the depth is considerably greater. For example, I no longer manage financials or food service as I did on Santa Fe, but I am now responsible for more people (40 versus 10), more inventory ($110 million vs. $25 million) and more spaces. My daily routine now is more focused on supply department operations, whereas my routine during my department head tour required me to stay engaged with ship’s operations and tactical employment. I operated valves and stood watch in the control room to dive, drive and navigate the ship. Though both tours are challenging in their own ways, I think any Supply Corps officer with dolphins would agree that there is nothing quite like being CHOP.
SC CC: What takeaways would you like to share from that experience?
Catacutan: I learned a lot about leadership, teamwork and the tremendous value that Supply Corps officers bring to afloat units, but my biggest takeaway is that you often will learn more from your failures than your successes. Sea duty is TOUGH! I made mistakes and had my share of bad days, but in the process, I was able to learn from those mistakes, grow and develop my management style, and view my failures as teaching points rather than moments to beat up myself.
SC CC: What has been the biggest surprise about your time so far on John C. Stennis?
When I first arrived aboard, I was astonished by the breadth of quality-of-life services provided to the crew and the teams providing those services. Sailors from Stennis’ supply department run two retail stores; numerous vending machines; four Navy Cash® ATMs; a barbershop; three laundry rooms; a post office; a Starbucks® coffee shop (aka Java John’s); a Morale, Welfare and Recreation operation; and multiple fitness centers. These Sailors also service hundreds of staterooms for our senior officers and serve over 15,000 meals a day when Carrier Air Wing Nine is embarked. It’s really quite amazing to witness, and it happens because we focus on our people, processes, and customers.
SC CC: We often speak about the importance of the apprentice/mentor relationship in the Supply Corps. How have your mentors helped to shape your career decisions thus far?
Well, for starters, my mentors helped me get aboard Stennis! But along with that, talking with mentors has allowed me to be more informed about my career decisions because they often ask me questions that I would not think to ask myself. Moreover, my mentors have been able to supplement guidance that OP disseminates by sharing their own personal experiences. I am grateful for that, and it has made all the difference in the world as I plan my next steps.
SC CC: What do you think are the most important skillsets for a junior officer serving afloat to have; and, what advice would you give to young JOs as they head out to their first operational tour?
There are many, but I’ll highlight three that are necessary, but alone not sufficient – communication, time management and critical thinking. Communication skills are important because they are tested every day and in every interaction you have. Being able to understand your audience and deliver an effective and concise message, both written and verbal, will set you apart. Time management is important because there isn’t enough time in the day to complete everything we need to do. So, knowing how to prioritize tasks – personal and professional – and allocate your time to complete them will serve you well. Lastly, on critical thinking, Capt. Fabry (a former Stennis SUPPO) said it best in an interview two years ago as she advised that you should anticipate the secondary and tertiary effects of each action, expect follow-on questions, and think two or three steps ahead – these are surefire ways to establish credibility with your chain of command and peers. On Stennis, we voice this in our motto - “Look Ahead.”
For BQC grads with orders in hand, I say, never let anyone or anything compromise your integrity. Never stop learning. Practice humility, and treat people with respect. Last, but not least, have fun. Enjoy your tour and live out the stories you will tell when you are old. Supply Corps officers, at sea or in expeditionary units, lead teams of motivated young Americans to defend freedom and democracy around the world. If that doesn’t get you pumped, you are in the wrong business!
SC CC: Work/life balance is important to the success of any officer. What keeps you grounded? What work/life balance advice can you share?
My formula is simple. I maximize quality time with my wife; take leave when I can; call my parents, siblings and friends regularly to check in; exercise and eat right; and pray to God to give thanks, and ask for the strength to wake up tomorrow to do it all over again. My advice to others is to identify what you value and be deliberate about scheduling time for it. In the end, you’ll be happier and perform better at work.
SC CC: Where do you hope to go next in your career, and where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I have been fortunate enough to be selected for the Supply Corps’ Civilian Institutions program (810), so I’m headed to get a Master of Business Administration after this tour. Needless to say, Jordan and I are very excited and grateful to have this opportunity. Ten years from now, I see myself at a place where I will make an impact and remain relevant within our community, and I think the lessons and experience I’ve gained serving on the Joint Staff and on two afloat units will help me get there.