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Capt. William Skinner, SC, USN
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 success in Supply Corps careers. Our 6th article in this series is with Capt. William Skinner, SC, USN, who is currently at U.S. Fleet Forces Command. Lt. Cmdr. Jay Ramsey, SC, USN, Supply Corps Career Counselor (SC CC), interviewed Capt. Skinner on his personal career path.
: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
: I’m originally from Plymouth, Michigan, and the youngest of eight kids. My father was a World War II (WWII) Marine who served in the Second and Fourth Divisions deployed across the Pacific Theater, my mother served in the United States Navy in the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) in Jacksonville, Florida throughout WWII.
• USS Niagara Falls (AFS 3) - Sales/Disbursing and Assistant Stock Control
• Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) FOUR-SUPPO
• USS Germantown (LSD 42) - SUPPO
• Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Office of Personnel (OP) - Detailer
• The Ohio State University - 810/Master of Business Administration (MBA)
• Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) N81 and N80-Readiness Assessment and Program Objectives Memorandum (POM) Mechanic
• Defense Logistics Agency - Aide-de-Camp to Vice Admiral Lippert
• NAVSUP Naval Inventory Control Point Philadelphia – Budget Officer
• Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic - Deputy Comptroller
• USS George Washington (CVN 73) - SUPPO
• Industrial College of the Armed Forces
• Joint Contracting Command (JCC) Iraq/Afghanistan - Chief of Staff
• Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) - Logistics Branch, Chief of Staff & Operational Contract & Support Division Chief
• U.S. Fleet Forces Command – Comptroller
: In your current capacity as Fleet Comptroller, what are your greatest challenges?
: We have been directed to comply with the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act and meet the Financial Improvement Audit Readiness requirement to be fully audit ready by 2017. The scope of preparing for an accounting audit for an $11 billion operation, afloat and ashore, across the globe has been a huge effort.
The sequestration has caused incredible budget instability. We were required to manage the Fleet requirements in the execution year, and our ability to project future funding levels was limited, making it very difficult to build our spending plans for the coming years.
The sequestration and budget instability has caused other issues, such as: furloughs; multiple budget submits, and a government shut down during our busiest time of year, working to close out one year and begin anew under a continuing resolution, which was very challenging. This especially hit our civilian teammates who were directed to go home (albeit temporarily). Lastly, but certainly not least, we had a number of valuable and experienced employees retire without the seed corn behind them to grow the next generation of financial managers.
: You have great tour quality. How did you go about selecting those assignments? Which assignment was the most challenging? Most rewarding? Is there a favorite?
: I have been very fortunate throughout my career to work with capable and talented people. From day one aboard the USS Niagara Falls, senior Supply Corps officers took interest in my career and helped guide me. I truly began to understand our community and how our billet structure supported the Navy during my tour at OP, where I was able to work in OP1/Detailing Division and in OP3/Officer Plans & Policy Division. I leveraged my interaction with the community and personal observations to determine where and with whom I wanted to work and learn from in the future.
My most challenging tour was as a POM Mechanic in N80. We had to evacuate our office on 9/11 and manually reconstruct the entire Navy budget on Excel spread sheets. There were six computers sharing a single hard drive, no networking or issue papers or any of the support documents we typically relied upon. The only positive note was the new budget we were working was about $25B/year more than the proposed budget we briefed to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) on the morning of the 9/11. I do not think there is a better place on the OPNAV staff to see the big picture than the way you do in N80. As a POM Mechanic, you take all the warfare area inputs and weave the budget together for the CNO. You have a front row seat supporting the CNO’s vision for the Navy.
My most rewarding assignment was Joint Contracting Command Iraq/Afghanistan (JCC I/A)… using contracting to support the “Winning Hearts and Minds Campaign” by employing Money as a Weapon System. The JCC I/A enabled United States Forces - Iraq and United States Forces - Afghanistan efforts to rebuild a war torn country, establish women-owned business and teach the locals to sustain themselves. It was amazing to be a part of something that important.
My favorite tour was as the SUPPO for the USS George Washington. This was where I learned the importance of supporting and communicating with the warfighter. On the carrier, you answer to multiple bosses: the commanding officer (CO) of the ship, the executive officer (especially during messing/berthing/zone inspections); Wing CO; squadron COs; and the embarked carrier strike group (CSG) commander and staff, all of whom are looking for your help to get their missions accomplished. My entire department worked to support a dozen direct senior customers and thousands of shipmates, who accessed our service daily. One misdirected email to the CSG could potentially derail a critical relationship. There were a lot of moving parts, a hundred things that could go wrong and many sleepless nights. I would go back in a heartbeat.
: If you were a Junior Officer (JO) now, knowing what you do, how would you go about securing a mentor?
: Develop relationships with multiple mentors. There are lots of opinions and multiple successful career paths to sort through, so find the person or people who best address your needs and challenge you to grow. Ideally, look for mentors 5-8 years in front of you who will pull you along with them. If you have only one very senior mentor too early in your career, remember they will be gone soon.
The real key is to take big jobs (tough work) and work with fellow Supply officers to learn and understand how the Supply System works. Build a good reputation through hard work and a good attitude and establish relationships across the community. The mentors will observe your performance and come to you.
: What characteristics do you most value in those who work with you?
: Hard work. Knowledge of our community and business systems and a willingness to work with our community. It hurts my head when SC officers blame the “Supply System.”
Honesty. Good intuition. I also question junior officers who do not have any white space on their records; it is important to learn the business and not just chase credentials.
: Do you think that SC officers face more ethical dilemmas now than in previous years? If you could give a young JO one piece of advice regarding ethics, what would it be?
: I think, unfortunately, there has always been a self-serving or criminal element not just in the SC, but in any business. There are more electronic points of entry today that are constantly being challenged, but with our training and background we know what “right” looks like. Have the courage to stay on the side of right and make those tough decisions that, whether you see it now or not, will make or break you. To borrow an analogy from my boss, “Know your seams”, those areas where there are no clear borders, because this is where surprises (the bad kind) come from.
And always remember, there are plenty of folks to go to for help; Supply officers that you can reach out to for advice and support.
: What is your “secret sauce” to success in the Supply Corps?
: I think there are five areas that are key to a PhD in the Supply Corps:
- Due to the nature of an Afloat Supply Officer, we understand accountability and decision making from day one on board our ships and submarines. We develop a compressed OODA loop (observe, orient, decide, and act) allowing us to effectively make critical decisions. My Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Suppo’s exceled in real world operations and were combat multipliers to the Combatant Commander. Nikki Gathright responsible for Contracted Security Forces in Iraq, Eric Oxendine building roads and Helo pads across Afghanistan, Mike York’s efforts to identify criminal activity in Afghanistan contracts, Jason Warner restoring Iraqi Facilities and services to the Green zone to name a few of our Supply Corps heroes and the scope of their work.
NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support/NAVSUP
– A master’s degree in learning the Navy Supply System.
- Understand how big Navy policy works in OPNAV or Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
- Learn how to support and communicate with the warfighter.
Navy Supply Corps School instructor/aide/executive assistant/OP- all good, handpicked jobs the community recognizes. It is here that you can make a reputation for yourself, good or bad.
: Stay on top of the simple stuff like record maintenance including photos and awards and the like.
Have a plan; know what you want to achieve and set goals to get you there. The most important job of all…? Take care of your people.
: Work/life balance is important to the success of any executive. What keeps you grounded?
: There is always more work to do, so take time for your family, find time to think, and get to the gym.
: Last but certainly not the least … do you think Coach Meyer will lead the Buckeyes to yet another undefeated regular season? Will they win the big game in 2015?!?!
: Although I’m a Buckeye by MBA, I was born and raised outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan. As a lifelong Michigan fan, I expect a disappointing Michigan loss during the season (Appalachian State comes to mind) that will all be forgotten by beating Ohio State and ruining their undefeated season. You heard it here first!