Two years ago, Supply Corps officer Lt. Cmdr. Angela Watson stepped off an airplane in Hawaii, breathed in the fragrance of plumeria and ginger, and smiled to herself as she imagined the endless, carefree days of surfing.
And then, reality kicked in.
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In one of his final acts as Commanding Officer of NAVSUP FLC Pearl Harbor, Rear Adm. Paul Verrastro presents the API Award to Lt. Cmdr. Angela Watson. The ceremony took place on June 27. Two weeks later, Rear Adm. Verrastro turned over the helm to Capt. Mark Wheeler, the new NAVSUP FLC Pearl Harbor Commanding Officer. (Photo by Jim Murray)
Within days, she had placed her surf career on the back burner and had set out to tackle the most challenging assignment of her Navy career. Overnight, the sweet scent of plumeria and ginger was replaced by the scent of JP5 and JP8, as she took charge of the Navy Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor (FLCPH) Fuel Department, the largest bulk fuel distribution facility in the entire Department of Defense.
It was a daunting assignment for the young lieutenant, and it took place during one of the most tumultuous periods in the history of the department. At the time, few people would have guessed that within two years, Lt. Cmdr. Watson would achieve the American Petroleum Institute’s “Navy Fuels Officer of the Year.”
Fresh out of “fuel school” at the University of Kansas, Lt. Cmdr. Watson arrived during a time of extreme transition for the Fuel Department. Just months prior to her arrival, Naval Base Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Force Base had merged their common functions, torn down the fence that had separated them for years, and became Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH). Overnight, the bulk of Hickam’s airfield fueling operations, facilities, personnel and environmental programs were transferred to NAVSUP FLCPH. At the same time, fuel farm operations at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, located on the island of Kauai, were also transferred to NAVSUP FLCPH.
The transition was destined to be a demanding test of Lt. Cmdr. Watson’s leadership skills. Not only had the Fuel Department doubled in size in numbers of employees, the department’s responsibilities and organizational structure had markedly changed also. In addition, Lt. Cmdr. Watson was heading an organization in which half the personnel had spent years working for the Air Force on Hickam, while the other half had been working for the Navy on Pearl Harbor. It was her task to blend those two cultures into one. That’s not something she learned in fuel school!
She began by designing a new “Joint” logo that incorporated Pearl Harbor and Hickam fuel operations. She arranged for departmental picnics and holiday parties, which provided more opportunity for social interaction, and she initiated a “reader friendly” department newsletter – “Fresh Off the Fuel Farm” – that covered everything from policy changes to accomplishments to folksy news items. In addition, Lt. Cmdr. Watson sought opportunities to upgrade the skill levels of all employees, and she was quick to reward good work through the use of On-the-Spot awards, the presentation of command coins, and other means.
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On a beautiful spring day in Hawaii, Fuel personnel gathered for the presentation of the API Award for Best Bulk Fuel Terminal. "I would not have earned the API award without the commitment, hard work, and diligence of the 100 superb men and women who make this Fuel Department the best in the Pacific, if not the entire nation," said Lt. Cmdr. Watson, who received a separate API award for Navy Fuels Officer of the Year.
Fortunately, she had honed her leadership skills during two fast-paced years aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). She learned that by trusting in the leadership of her officers and chiefs and the hard work and dedication of her Sailors, she could overcome any challenge that confronted her. She did not forget that lesson when she arrived at Pearl Harbor. Her unflagging trust in her fuel personnel – Air Force and Navy – earned her the solid support of everyone, and the reorganized department never faltered in its decades-long tradition of providing outstanding support for the war fighter.
With her people backing her, the department prospered, and accolades were quick to follow. The command’s Environmental Quality Team, which was led by Lt. Cmdr. Watson, won the 2011 Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Environmental Quality Team Award, the 2011 Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Environmental Quality Team Award, and the 2011 Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) Environmental Quality Team Award. The team was recognized for its unfaltering commitment to environmental stewardship, a commitment that was substantiated by a litany of accomplishments, including a marked reduction in energy consumption, aggressive advances in fuel reclamation, the standup of an industrial wastewater treatment plant, and a handful of other programs that worked simultaneously to protect Hawaii’s fragile environment without adverse affects to the command’s mission capability.
In 2012, the NAVSUP Inspector General (IG) stated that the Fuel Department’s accounting practices were the best they had seen; and, when the IG inspection had ended, the department had earned the highest grade achievable. The department also received a grade of Excellent during the 2012 Air Force Unit Compliant Inspection.
Also in 2012, the American Petroleum Institute (API) announced that NAVSUP FLCPH’s Bulk Fuel Terminals took first place in its category, and the FLCPH Retail Fuel Activity (airfield operations) took second place in a separate category. And, as mentioned in the first paragraph, Lt. Cmdr. Watson was selected by the API as the “2012 Navy Fuel Officer of the Year.”
The Fuel Department receives one of its toughest tests every two years when the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise is conducted. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC 2012 began on June 29, and ran until Aug. 3; and, with 22 nations participating, it was the largest RIMPAC ever conducted.
The success of any large-scale maritime operation is contingent upon the availability of logistics, particularly the proverbial “beans, bullets and black oil” required by all participating vessels. At the best of times, this is a daunting requirement; during RIMPAC, it becomes a formidable, complex task.
During RIMPAC 2012, NAVSUP FLC Pearl Harbor saw its workload spike to levels normally seen only during times of conflict. By the time RIMPAC had ended, the Fuel Department had provided about 30 million gallons of fuel to more than 60 ships. In one 10-hour span, the team loaded 2.8 million gallons of F-76 fuel to three fleet oilers.
Originally from Neosho, Mo., Lt. Cmdr. Watson has 12 years of naval service. Well-equipped for the fuel job, she reported from the University of Kansas, where she earned an Master of Business Administration in Petroleum Management and a Master’s degree in Supply Chain Management. Prior to joining the Navy, she also earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in accounting. She has served aboard two ships, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and the HSV-2 Swift, a high-speed experimental vessel that resembles a large aluminum catamaran. In an August 2011 ceremony aboard the historic battleship USS Missouri (BB-63), she was promoted to her current rank.
“I would not have earned the API award without the commitment, hard work, and diligence of the 100 superb men and women who make this Fuel Department the best in the Pacific, if not the entire nation," Lt. Cmdr. Watson emphasized. “Every day, I am amazed at the things they are able to accomplish. I am indebted to my team, and I wish all their names could have been engraved onto this award. They certainly deserve it!”
By James Murray, NAVSUP FLC Pearl Harbor