Get to Know your New Commander

Oct. 3, 2018 | By kgabel

Commander, NAVSUP and 48th Chief of Supply Corps Interview

By Navy Supply Corps Newsletter Editorial Staff How did your past experiences prepare you to serve as Commander, NAVSUP, and the 48th Chief of Supply Corps?
VIRIN: 190906-N-XZ219-0165
I have 30 years in the Navy this summer, and those 30 years have gone quickly. During that time, I’ve had a variety of tours across several different echelons in the Navy, to include those in the fleet and NAVSUP. I’ve served at the fleet at two different Type Commands (TYCOMs), Pacific Fleet, on three ships, and a Fleet Logistics Center (FLC). During that time I had the opportunity to see the force development aspect at Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). I was able to see the weapon systems from inception, and gained perspective on the decisions that affect the cradle-to-grave life cycle sustainment of those weapon systems. That experience at NAVAIR was critical; it helped me see how naval weapon systems are conceptualized and developed, and how the sustainment of those weapon systems is envisioned from day one to how it ends up playing out in reality. I feel I have a very strong perspective on what the fleet’s needs are and how we fit into supporting the fleet—whether it’s the policies that drive afloat logistics operations, or the last-mile logistics support at the fleet-facing regional FLCs. I understand how we support fleet operations, and how we are truly fleet aligned, one-on-one, side-by-side. I’ve worked inside of the Joint logistics arena with two experiences at Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Inventory Control Points; one at DLA Aviation, and then one in command of DLA Land and Maritime. I was also forward deployed at DLA Support Team Kuwait, embedded on the ground, forward, in-theater, side-by-side with Joint warfighters across the spectrum of all the services and their forward serving units. I gained a great appreciation for the importance and the strength of the Joint logistics support network, and how important it is for us, as Supply Corps officers, to gain that skill set, and the experiences of Navy and Joint logistics. Because when we go out to fight, it’s going to be as a team, it’s not just going to be a Navy fight, it’s going to be a Joint service team that fights to victory. I don’t know that any of us ever feel we are totally prepared, and I hope to always be open to learning in every assignment. It is through my own experiences and the experiences of others that I become better informed and better supported in my decision-making. I appreciate the opportunity to listen to others and consider their recommendations in those decisions. What continues to make the Supply Corps relevant in 2018?
VIRIN: 181003-N-ZZ219-8359
The Supply Corps continues to be a high-demand, low-density community of supply experts for the Navy. Clearly, our “Ready for Sea” battle cry is the foundational start of our relevance and the fact that we are, from the time we graduate from the Basic Qualification Course, side-by-side with every operational and warfighting community reinforces our “Ready for Sea” mantra. Nearly one-third of our supply officers are in operational assignments at any given time. Similarly, about two-thirds of our supply enlisted teammates are operational at any given time. We are in the operational environment not only on our ships and in expeditionary commands, but also in individual augmentation assignments to supplement Joint forces in theater in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Djibouti. We continue to be in high demand because of our skill sets. Not only is this fundamentally important in the operational arena, but it’s also important in force development, force generation, and force employment. Supply Corps officers have a role to play in all pieces of that puzzle, and I believe that our agility in adding value in each of these arenas, as well as in the Joint logistics arena, is unique to the Supply Corps. The Navy’s voice in the Joint logistics arena is largely carried by our supply community. The Navy’s interest in how we contribute and sustain Navy forces in the Joint fight are largely shaped by Supply Corps officers. With regard to the industrial mission-set, the shipyards, the aviation depots of the fleet readiness centers, we have an opportunity to supplement the team on the material support mission by expanding our presence in support of the commanding officer’s specific mission. We have an opportunity now, on behalf of the Navy, to get ships and airplanes back in the fully operational inventory on time, ready to fight. We have an opportunity now to reinforce that mission set with our expertise, our relationships, and our connections back to the various stakeholders—most notably, back to NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support, as both a supporting and supported command. What are your priorities as the 48th Chief of Supply Corps? We must maintain a relevant and impactful community, and ensure that we have the skill sets to contribute to fleet readiness. To do that we have to understand the developmental building blocks at each pay grade, and how we shape each officer’s experience. This will enable those officers to contribute to our priorities, and help fuel future decisions that are going to shape the effectiveness by which we support and sustain our warfighting teammates. Professional development is key. Knowing and understanding from day one how we individually fit into, and contribute to the team’s overall effectiveness is vital. By that I mean, Supply Corps officers are trained at Navy Supply Corps School to be effective SUPPOs on a ship or expeditionary unit. They don’t necessarily get a bigger picture, take a step back to the 30,000-foot level, and realize where the ship or unit is going to fit into a bigger strike group or larger operational construct. I would like to see us reinforce the bigger operational picture at key points throughout the professional development of our community. That may come through increased interaction with the Naval War College, with tabletop exercises--perhaps injecting capstone tabletop exercises to increase understanding and lead to more questions on the “how” and “why.” Students need to understand that their team is going to impact more than just their ship or unit, it’s going to impact the effectiveness of the battle group, squadron, battalion, etc. We have a few gaps in the industrial mission set, and it is a priority for me to value those industrial opportunities, put officers in there who, as senior officers, are able to take prior experiences to help inform key logistics decisions. I see us having some of our skill sets out of balance. For example, in contracting we do not have sufficient senior leaders to cover all of the demand signals. Are we properly organized to respond, to transition from peace time to conflict or crisis? What is your leadership style? I believe in and promote a culture of hard work, respect, and integrity. That has been my personal mantra for the majority of my career. These are tenets that I have always reinforced, and they complement the Navy’s core values. From a personal perspective, I think if you have respect you can work through any conflict. And if you have integrity, you have the trust that is essential for a strong team, and if everybody works hard together toward a common goal, you can be successful at almost any challenge. I am inspired when people step up and blossom in challenging roles. A solid, effective team is one where everybody is inspiring the best from each other. How can Supply Corps officers be effective leaders? Effective leaders in the Supply Corps are those who embrace diverse experiences. These experiences are important. Sometimes it’s difficult to find a balance between specializing in a field, and still having enough depth of knowledge across the Supply Corps community, or the Navy, or Joint force at large. Embracing a variety of experiences will expand a Sailor’s scope of understanding. Supply Corps officers must demonstrate character and competence to be effective leaders. It builds the trust and confidence the Supply Corps has with other communities. After all, we are the trusted agents for the taxpayers, and are looked upon to achieve mission effectiveness in the most economical manner. How is the Supply Corps changing? The supply community is part of the warfighting effort. When I was at Pacific Fleet, the commander would not have a planning meeting without the “4”, which was me. That demonstrated the acknowledged value of our contribution as a community. I think that is a very positive change that I have seen. The opportunities are growing for our voice to be heard, and we need to be ready to speak up about how to shape the solutions for sustaining the force in a fight or crisis. I want our Supply Corps officers to be agile in that conversation. Sometimes, that requires valuing those diverse experiences, and not leaning toward your comfort zone or what you’re really good at. Sometimes, we will place people in positions because they are exactly the right person for it; other times, we will put them there because it is something they lack, and it’s one area in which they can expand their value to the Navy. How do you plan to continue driving reform?
VIRIN: 181003-N-ZZ219-8360
Reform has given a name to what we have always had to do, and that is create new approaches to new challenges. You can’t take yesterday’s solution sets and apply them to today’s environment. As the CNO has told us, the character of the competition has changed, and we need to plan accordingly. We have to modernize our processes, our organization, our perceptions, and our solutions to be effective in today’s environment. For example, it means we must effectively use IT systems to achieve a speed of response that wouldn’t be possible without them. It also means having an organizational structure that is multiplicative through existing organizational and professional relationships with others that aren’t even on our key team, but rather outside of our organization. In essence, you’re no longer just a team of a thousand, but a team of ten thousand because you have those strong relationships with other Joint logistics teams, industry partners, and our allies. We go from being just us, to all of us. We need to have a cutting edge advantage against our adversaries that old-thinking and old ways won’t give us. We have problems today that didn’t exist 10, 20, 30 years ago, so we have to be ready to solve the new challenges, the new problems and then sustain the fight. Much like weapon systems have to be modernized and overhauled, so do our processes and policies. It is new think, new ways, new systems, and new ingenuity that will give us the advantage. What does becoming the first female Chief of Supply Corps mean to you? I’m honored to be a part of the long line of firsts for women and continued diversity in our Armed Forces. It’s not forefront in my mind, but people do remind me on occasion. And when they have, some have said “it’s about time.” And in one key way, they are right. By that, I mean it’s about the time that generations of leaders have taken to strengthen an environment of opportunity for each of us to achieve our highest potential. It’s about the time taken to identify barriers and update policies. It’s about all the time mentors take to encourage someone along, to open doors. At the end of the day, it’s about our investment of time in our people. What are your thoughts on having a mentor and being a mentor? I have always been honored to be a mentor, and I love the opportunity to sit and talk with anyone interested in my advice, which is no more or less valuable than the next person’s advice. There have been so many people who have been kind enough to take their time to mentor me, so I like to pay it forward. When I mentor, I try to take the personal side of someone’s career into account, because none of us go through our careers without family, friends, our own mentors along the way, and key milestones that come at different times during a career. Whether those milestones are getting married and having children, getting another degree, pursuing another passion, or caring for elderly parents. It’s important to understand that life happens. You should seek mentors who don’t have the same background as you, and try to understand how and why they did what they did. Having more than one mentor and having a few people that you can trust is important. I have been shaped by mentors and teammates, by peers and subordinates, as well as senior leaders. I’ve had several former Chiefs of the Supply Corps and flags as mentors, but also peers of mine that I have trusted. That’s what it comes down to, a mentor should be somebody you trust to be as candid with you as you would be with them. Photos by Dorie Heyer Fall 2018