Achieving Success in the Navy Supply Corps … “Can you fight?”

March 10, 2015 | By scnewsltr
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 SC careers. Our eighth article in this series is with Capt. Rudy Geisler, SC, USN, who is currently serving as the Chief of Staff (CoS) at Naval Supply Systems Command, Mechanicsburg. Lt. Cmdr. Allen Owens, SC, USN, Supply Corps Career Counselor (SC CC), interviewed Capt. Geisler on his personal career path. [caption id="attachment_2918" align="alignright" width="240"]
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Capt. Rudy Geisler, SC, USN SC CC: Tell us a little bit about yourself (education, career, etc.) CAPT Geisler: I’m a Philly native and grew up in a big family (five sisters, one brother). It takes some serious work to keep a family that size moving, so I guess my earliest lessons in logistics came from watching my parents balance schedules, resources and competing priorities throughout the years. I don’t think I ventured more than 150 miles from Philly until I joined the Navy, and both my and my wife’s extended families are still there, so our ties to the area are pretty strong. On the professional side, I have my bachelor’s degree in business administration from Drexel University, a master’s in business administration from the University of Kansas (KU) and master’s of strategic studies from the United States Army War College (AWC). My early Supply Corps career was almost lifted right out of “It’s Your Career”: submarine (USS Grayling); Navy Acquisition Contracting Officer (NACO) intern at Fleet & Industrial Supply Center (FISC) Pearl Harbor; surface ship (USS Bataan); then on to grad school at KU. From there I ran the fuel terminal in Diego Garcia, then on to Naval Inventory Control Point, Philadelphia, and three years as a detailer in Millington. At that point I went off the beaten path a bit: AWC, U.S. Special Operations Command, Naval Special Warfare GROUP TWO Logistics and Support Unit (LOGSU-2), and then I served as the N41 at Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) - five straight years wearing cammies. After just a year at NECC, I transitioned to Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP), Mechanicsburg, where I spent nearly two years as N3/4 and am now the Chief of Staff. I am due to rotate this summer, and am slated to take command of Naval Support Activity Mechanicsburg-Philadelphia. I am also married with an incredible bride, and two great kids. SC CC: As a Junior Officer, what drove your detailing strategy? CAPT Geisler: To be brutally honest, I didn’t have a strategy. When I was first commissioned I had a 4-year plan: to complete my Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps obligation and move on to other things. That is a plan I’ve failed to execute for several decades now. As an Ensign, I was confused about which way to turn and really had no senior mentors – how I didn’t get out of the Navy then is still kind of a mystery to me. Fortunately, I was selected for a NACO internship at FISC Pearl Harbor as my second tour, and there gained numerous senior mentors, most notably Capt. Dave Ruff. Dave and his wife Nancy took my wife and I under their wings and showed us the way to do things right as a Navy family. I look at their mentorship as a turning point for my career. SC CC: Serving as the CoS must present you with many unique challenges. However, if you had to pick one thing, what has been your greatest challenge in your current capacity? CAPT Geisler: You asked for one, but I’m going to give you two: volume and complexity. First as N3/4 and now as NAVSUP CoS, the volume of things that cross my desk is unbelievable. Just about everything we do as a supply community crosses my desk in some way, shape or form, and there are very few, if any, slow days in the office. Complexity is the second thing. Very few things that hit NAVSUP headquarters looking for a decision are simple or easy. The simple and easy decisions are made at much lower levels, as they should be. Digging through the layers and competing priorities to find the best solution to complex issues is challenging – but also extremely rewarding. SC CC: Ethics should be front and center of every decision that we make as Supply Corps (SC) officers. What do ethics mean to you? CAPT Geisler: Defining ethics is challenging, as there are nuances that are unique to each individual and situation. As a community we have been grappling with this issue for decades, and if you go back through the archives of The Navy Supply Corps Newsletter, which we did as we developed our recently published guidelines, you will see evidence of that fact. I think those guidelines spell things out pretty well: Do Good – respect the dignity of all persons; Do Right – obey authority (or the law); and Do What is Honorable – make ethics a part of all decisions and behaviors. I think if a person truly strives to consistently meet each of these three guiding principles they will be correct from an ethics perspective the vast majority of the time. SC CC: You have a wide diversity of tours: surface, undersea, and special warfare. Of your assignments, which one (or two) stands out as being the most rewarding? Why? CAPT Geisler: My time here at NAVSUP headquarters has been incredible and I truly enjoyed being a detailer. However, the most rewarding job I have had was Commanding Officer of LOGSU-2. There were about 350 personnel under my command (325 military/25 civilian), and we were spread all over the globe, providing logistics support to all of the east coast SEAL teams wherever they needed it. I was blessed with an incredibly talented and dedicated team. We were in the fight, relevant and having a direct impact on the war effort. It doesn’t get any better than that. SC CC: How do you maintain the all-important work/life balance? CAPT Geisler: This is my biggest personal challenge. Faith and family are my top two priorities, but the reality is I spend far more time at work than I do on either of these. Left to my own devices, I am confident I would fail miserably in this regard, but my wife has been an incredible influence on me, ensuring that I find ways to spend quality time with her and the boys. There HAS TO be dedicated time away from the office. It will never be as much as I’d like, but we work hard as a family to make those hours meaningful. Personal time for yourself is also important. Finding time to work out, read and reflect helps take the edge off and makes me a better person. SC CC: What guidance would you provide to junior officers? CAPT Geisler: First and foremost, learn your profession. One of the Chief’s favorite questions is “Can you fight?” and I think that says it all. Remember that we are Naval officers first, Supply Corps officers second. Understand your role in your command and how it fits into the bigger picture. Second, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and recognize when you are in over your head. I cannot count the number of people who have helped me through the years when I was confused or lost on a given issue. Short of integrity problems, the vast majority of SUPPOs I have seen fail did so because they were afraid to get outside help when it was needed or waited until it was too late. Don’t let that happen to you. Finally, get some senior mentors, both in and out of the Supply Corps. Find ones who will challenge you to take your game to the next level. SC CC: What do you think the future holds with respect to the Supply Corps Expeditionary Community? CAPT Geisler: The past decade has seen tremendous positive change for the Expeditionary community. There are now five expeditionary billets on the O-5 Operational slate, the popularity of our expeditionary billets is off the charts, and the Navy Expeditionary Supply Corps Officer warfare qualification became a reality this past summer. When I went to Special Operations Command in 2007, there were very few 3100 Captains with expeditionary experience on active duty. Those numbers have grown each year since, and should continue to grow going forward. The health of the community is strong and I expect it to remain so in the years ahead. That being said, you cannot “go native” and make a complete career out of the expeditionary world; two, maybe three tours max prior to screening for O-6 would be all I’d recommend. SC CC: What is the “secret sauce” to success in the Supply Corps? CAPT Geisler: That’s a tough one, as I don’t think there is a specific secret sauce out there. If I could make a SUPPO from scratch I think the three main ingredients would be integrity, selflessness and flexibility. Integrity must be the cornerstone of all that we do, because of the resources at our disposal and the autonomy we have in allocating those resources. I think any officer should be selfless, but that is particularly true for Supply Corps officers and the customer service focus of our business. In the fast-paced, resource constrained world we live in, it is paramount that our officers are flexible and capable of finding new and innovative ways to get the job done or we will become irrelevant.

*Special thanks to Capt. Geisler for sharing his time, perspective, and experience.*