By Analicia Halasowski, Security Specialist, Navy Engineering Logistics Office
In order to grow as a leader, students of the Corporate Management Development Program (CMDP) are asked to find a Development Opportunity (DEVOP) that will push them out of their comfort zone and requires them to adapt to a new position and culture, while fostering personal and leadership growth.
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Flight deck of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72)
For my DEVOP, I chose to go aboard an operational aircraft carrier—the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). This may seem like an odd choice, since typically students of CMDP rotate to other office branches. I’ve had the opportunity to experience a number of different offices, travel to a variety of locations, and do a range of work projects across the NAVSUP Enterprise. Therefore, in order to broaden my perspectives and enhance my leadership development, an operational DEVOP was the smart choice.
I wanted to be where the action was, and operations was an area where I was lacking experience. I want my career to head in the operations direction. By going out to sea with the active duty Navy, I could observe first-hand the end result of the work civilians do, and be a part of an entirely different work culture.
Development Assignment Position
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Observing an ammunition onload with the HSC-5 Nightdippers (MH-60S Helicopter)
The position of a B-Strike aboard an active carrier is dynamic, and, if filled by a self-motivated individual, can be an extremely beneficial and exciting experience. The B-Strike billet is normally filled by an O-3 or O-4, and has historically been occupied by pilots awaiting a department head position while fulfilling their aviation appreciation tour (exposure to sea duty in order to appreciate air duty) requirement. As a civilian GS-13, I was equivalently ranked to fill the position.
As a member of the strike team, I was exposed to all aspects of an operational carrier and had the opportunity to contribute to tactical-level operation planning. I assisted approximately 100 naval aviators in qualifying for carrier landings, which was the work of planning over 1,500 fixed and rotary wing flight hours.
Additionally, I took on a special assignment from the strike officer. The digital file structure was not organized. Previously, there had been no set system for saving records in an organized manner. This is important, as officers typically turn over every three years, and an organized, self-explanatory system would greatly improve the turnover process. I spent time familiarizing myself with the duties of strike operations, their files, products, and workflow, and then assembled a new structure to present to the office. With their approval, I reorganized the entire shared drive, resulting in a simple system that is easier to navigate.
Experiences During DEVOP
The experiences I had on the ship can be categorized two ways:
- Leadership/communication principals
- Character building
The time spent working on my daily tasks, attending meetings, observing leadership along the chain of command, and day-to-day operations provided me with the leadership competencies expected during a DEVOP. There is a lot of “leadership by walking around” on the ship, as Sailors are spread out and not everyone has access to email. Most communication is done daily at quarters, via face-to-face interactions, and 1 Main Circuit (1MC) announcements.
I attended a number of meetings while on the ship, including:
- All officer’s meetings
- Operations quarters
- Navigation briefs
- Replenishment at sea briefs
- GUNEX (details on the execution of the weapon tests)
- Planning boards for training
Attending these meetings was an effective way to observe leadership and planning in a different perspective than from my regular work environment. Subject matter experts gave their share of the brief, and everyone spoke up when they had lessons learned or suggestions.
I also had the opportunity to observe and/or participate in a number of events and drills, which I would categorize as character building:
- F-35 launch: I was able to physically launch (push the fire button) for an F-35 from “the bubble.”
- Landing signal officer platform: I stood on the platform at the edge of the ship where the officers signal and guide the incoming jets for a safe landing.
- Weapons on-load: Over four million pounds of ordnance was brought onto the ship by helicopters and side-by-side transfer; I was able to observe this from a helicopter.
- GUNEX: Weapons were fired on moving targets such as a drone towed behind an airplane; a remote-controlled jet ski; and a remote-controlled boat.
- General quarters/man overboard drills: Conducted at all hours.
- Mass casualty drill: I participated as a victim actor, and was able to see how the ship trains corpsman and medics for a mass casualty event.
- Flight Deck 5ks.
Leadership Competencies Acquired and Strengthened as a Result of the DEVOP:
- External Awareness: Getting out of the civilian office space and being aboard a carrier gave broad depth to the Navy and fleet.
- Flexibility, Strategic Thinking Decisiveness, and Problem Solving: In an operational environment, you plan for missions; however, the plans change as soon as the mission starts. Having the ability to solve problems in an unfamiliar situation is a quality that good leadership requires.
- Resilience: Being underway, you’re always on call, always a leader, and you need to have toughness and flexibility. The military has a saying—hurry up and wait—which I was able to get through first-hand experience a number of times. Stress and pressure can build up when over 3,000 people are together on a ship and unable to go home for weeks at a time. Being able to adjust to this setting is crucial.
- Leveraging Diversity: The ship is comprised of a variety of ages, backgrounds, experience, and education. There is also diversity between enlisted personnel and officers. Chiefs have more experience than junior officers (JOs), but JOs outrank chiefs. This makes for an environment requiring tact and teamwork. It’s important to know your people, their backgrounds, and maximize their knowledge and potential.
Personal Benefits Gained
Leaders in an operational environment meet short deadlines to keep up with the ship’s pace. In order to accommodate ever-changing operations, decisions are made based on the information in front of you. The ship operates 24/7. I found that I thrived in this environment, and was able to keep up with the operational tempo, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I went underway with Abraham Lincoln a total of four times, totaling 34 days at sea. During this time, I learned new methods and exercises of communication and intend to use them. For example, the pilots have a “true confessions” session, where they admit to their mistakes in order to prevent other pilots from making the same mistakes. This can be used in the civilian side as a means of accountability and lessons learned. Morning quarters (stand-ups) are held throughout the ship as a quick method of passing information and priorities to the Sailors. This can also translate over for a means of quick gettogethers in the office as opposed to email blasts and long meetings. I also experienced leadership and mentorship while helping enlisted personnel through difficult situations, teaching them that sometimes taking no action is the best action, and other mediation and communication strategies.
–photos by CVN 72, Public Affairs Office