Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Plate of Spaghetti

I'm a food-nerd...self-ascribed and-admitted. So it's totally in character for me to use food metaphors. Here's my food metaphor for my job...it's a double helping of oil-slicked angel hair pasta ('cause that's my fave), slopped onto a tea saucer. Some days I fool myself into thinking that I can keep every strand of pasta perfectly balanced on the plate. But most days I'm more realistic and realize that there is no way humanly possible that I can keep every single carb from falling off. My responsibility is to not let the important stuff slide off, and to decide what is less important that can be slurped up later.

I think that most operational units are like this. I really don't know about shore /support jobs...I haven't had enough of those to really make a call on that. But with operational units, you've got personnel, operations, engineering, guns, awards, classified material, training, medical, schedules, message traffic, SORTS, community relations, port calls and morale, readiness standards, AOPS/TMT, surging lines that need adjusting, meetings, inspections, human relations, assist visits, CASREPS, parts, budgets, and that's just the stuff from the top of my head in about two minutes.

I do my best to prioritize what I keep on the saucer. My XO says that my metaphor lends itself to just constantly putting out fires, which is definitely a possibility. But if I can define what is important to me, as the ship's leader, I can help build little birds' nest pastas that keep critical stuff as a basic building block of the whole heap.

I afford my personnel a very high level of importance. If I take care of my crew, they'll take care of me. Or said another way, I can't do their jobs, but I can make sure they have the tools, training, time and environment with which to do their jobs. Operations are also important to me...that's what this gig is all about, why it's fun. I'm also finding that material condition, readiness and sustainability are important to me. If the equipment doesn't work, we can't do the mission, and we're wasting time, money and effort until it gets fixed, and fixed the right way.

Jeez, I just realized I'm parroting an ALCOAST from a while back where the Commandant talked about People, Mission and Stewardship. But it's really true, those are the basics of what makes this organization work and last.

Those three things cover a lot of what's on the plate, but of course it's more complicated than that. All junior officers learn from a very young CG age that there are some things that you just don't mess around with because they are career enders. This list includes money, guns/bullets and security issues. So those *must* stay on the plate. However, because they're so important, there are myriad ways for them to be messed up. Two small pieces of guns and security slipped from my plate today. Whooooop, just slithered away. I see the durn buggers on my lap making gross grease stains on my trousers, but they're slippy and small and round, and really, really hard to get back on the plate once they've fallen off. I can make sure no more of that particular flavor of pasta fall off the plate, but I can't go back into the past, and return to the plate the ones I let slip off.

And I've got to get over the fact that they're gone. Learn from my mistakes so I don't make the same ones over again, and then...move on. It's harder than it sounds.

Just for the record, I'm not eating pasta tonight...I just had a bowl of some awesome homemade beef and barley stew.

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