Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Transitions

My sister very kindly pointed out to me that I haven't blogged in a while. She knew the date of my last post. While we were in the car. Driving. No computers around to check the date or anything. So, I guess that means I need to get back to posting. My goal for the summer is about a post a week. I mean I'm not taking classes, I don't have any crazy long class reading list, nothing that should keep me from writing more often. So, now that I've made the pronouncement of a post a week public, I can be held accountable for it.

Maryland's School of Public Policy graduation ceremony was last week. I was so excited when I heard a few weeks ago that ADM Allen was scheduled to be the keynote speaker. The first thing my friends at school asked me when the announcement came out was if I was going to go. Umm...OF COURSE!! Not only to see ADM Allen speak, but also to see my friends walk across the stage. I don't think I've been to a college spring commencement before (I graduated in the winter).

The School's Dean graciously sent out a video link of ADM Allen's address, which I highly recommend watching because it is a truly amazing speech! Black swans, wicked problems, leadership, management and governance, collaboration, conditions for trust, unity of effort, "an analog government operating in a digital world"...I could go on. There were a few familiar concepts I recognized from his All Hands communiques over the course of his tenure as Commandant. Lifelong learning, caring leadership, adapting to a changing world--that kind of stuff. While he talks to the graduates of the School of Public Policy as future leaders and public servants, I took to heart his charge of "creating the art of the possible where none existed before" by using our leadership skills, curiosity (which I think can extend to ingenuity and creativity), tenacity and compassion. It applies to all of us.

Side note: in a conversation with Dean Kettle after the ceremony, he said that very few organizations spend as much time, energy and focus developing their future leaders as the Coast Guard does. That made me feel good.

But my very favorite part of ADM Allen's speech was at the very end, when he charged the graduates with facing their future, "...be insatiably curious. Be life-long learners. And when you inhabit that world in the future, and you're presented with that problem, create the art of the possible where none exists. And walk among giants, and do not feel small." (Emphasis added, because that part gives me goosebumps.)

And then he got a standing ovation.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cuttermen Association Annual Meeting

Last Tuesday was the Cuttermen Association's inaugural Annual Meeting. It was in Alexandria, just a short Metro (and a little bit of a walk) away. I couldn't *not* go.

Note to self, though: when chatting with your new Program Manager, don't brag about cutting class to attend a very professionally important, but hardly academic meeting. Especially right before trying to talk to him about what office might be open for your upcoming payback tour. He took it pretty well, but definitely grimaced/smirked at me.

And, like most things I write, this post will be my perspective on the meeting and some of the surrounding discussion. It is not endorsed by the Cuttermen Association, nor is it a complete synopsis of what went on. If you're interested in that, I recommend looking to the meeting minutes.

I got there a little late...doors on the Metro train were stuck for about ten minutes at Fort Totten. I think I would have been late anyway. But when I finally strolled in, there were about 45 to 50 people already seated, listening to CDR Mike Cribbs go over the Election Nominations. He finished up and CDR Rusty Dash (my second CO when I was XO on WASHINGTON) took over to "take a fix" on the organization. He went over membership information and trends (562 members as of 5 May 2011!!), the state of the website, what had been accomplished over the last year since forming, what hadn't been accomplished over the last year, and what we hoped to look like this time next year. I must have come in after President, CAPT Brian Perkins introduced and thanked the Surface Navy Association (SNA) for their support and sponsorship, but there was lots of discussion throughout the day about the Cuttermen Association relation with the SNA.

A couple of observations as I settled in: there were LOTS of Academy class rings in the audience. Like probably a solid 40 percent of people were wearing them. And there was only one other Girl in attendance (I actually just now struggled with whether to call her a Girl, woman or female; I went with Girl in the spirit of the blog; hope you don't mind, Chief). MKC Tina Calflin, the Women Afloat Coordinator from EPM, was there. Two other Girls showed up for the pre-lunch address by ADM Papp. But that still means the majority of people there were male officers. And thankfully (though out of sequence), there was some discussion about needing to change that to be more inclusive of both junior enlisted and women.

There's something I have to say about being more inclusive, which really didn't come to me until the Cuttermen's Call later in the afternoon, but it fits here, so I'll go with it. As far as I could tell, there were two Lieutenants in attendance as the most junior officers there (in a statistical oddity, I have worked with them both before), the most junior enlisted person was probably a Chief, and well, me and Chief Calflin represented our gender. I chatted with a great number of people, but only two people I *didn't* know took the time to introduce themselves. With the people that I talked to that I didn't already know, I initiated the conversation...which, even as an O-4 (yay! finally made it), is pretty intimidating when that someone is an O-6, or even O-7 (ret).

So, here's my suggestion on how to be more inclusive of all participants: the senior people, the ones that are scary to talk to sometimes, need to take the initiative and not just talk to their peers. Talk to the junior people, talk to the Girls, talk to people you don't already know. There may have been a lot more of this going on than I actually saw/experienced, but as a (very obvious) minority in the room, I felt like there could have been more of it. And yes, there is something instructive in this for me to keep in my mind as well. I am no longer as junior as I once was. It is now incumbent upon me to make the effort to be inclusive as well.

The most detailed debate was prompted by LT Eric Quigley's review of the Association By-Laws. Some changes are needed to promote efficiency, rules of order and general sensibility. I don't think anything was formally decided (I didn't entirely follow all the procedural stuff), but it was a good discussion of the Association's ideology. Like, what is the real and effective difference between regular and associate members, who can be on the Executive Board, and whether having a permanent or temporary cutterman's pin should make a difference. As I said earlier, look into the minutes of the meeting if you want all the particulars.

After Eric's By-Law session, CWO John Baker (ret) gave an overview of the Association's budget. The main point I wrote down from CWO Baker's presentation was that donations, above regular dues, are tax deductible because the Cuttermen Association is set-up as a not-for-profit organization.

And then the Ancient Gold Mariner, the Coast Guard Commandant, ADM Bob Papp came in for a half-hour session. I took not-so-great notes of his speech, so I don't want to risk misrepresenting anything he talked about. But one thing he said really resonated, especially for me and in the context of the Cuttermen Association. I know that he's taken some heat lately about his use of the terms "shipmates" and "maritime service," that he's being preferential towards the cutter fleet. He made it clear, at least to me, that he uses those terms inclusively and as terms of respect. We are no longer solely a "sea-going service," but a "maritime service" because of all the work that goes on even as cutters cut ties to the shore and sail off to do their mission. As cuttermen, we rely on the efforts of those shipmates on shore, doing their jobs at Command Centers, Small Boat Stations, NESUs, Sector Prevention Departments, Air Stations, in order to accomplish the overall mission of the Coast Guard. Cuttermen have been a part of the organization from the very beginning of the Coast Guard's beginnings (Hamilton's Federalist Paper Number 12 in 1786). And as sailors, we learn certain things about ourselves and others, about how to overcome insurmountable challenges, and that spirit has carried our service through 212 years of...well, service.

And then he went on to answer some questions from the audience about the budget and the future of the icebreaking fleet. Oh, and then, he recognized CDR Rusty Dash's hard work with getting the Cuttermen Association webpage up and functional, and the great effect the webpage had for increasing the Association's membership! Very cool to have the Commandant come in to personally endorse the group's efforts.

Then it was lunchtime. I didn't have any plans for lunch, so kind of attached myself to a group of folks who looked like they knew where they were going. Turned out to be a bunch of crusty old engineers, Master Chiefs and Warrant to Lieutenants (to now Commanders). One of them looked really familiar, but I couldn't place where I knew him from. CDR Steve Tucker and I did a little hull history comparison and realized we were both out in Honolulu at the same time, and attended plenny of XO's Breakfasts together. I think the lunch group's combined sea service was more than twice as long as I've been alive.

I didn't make the post-lunch session with Dr. Robert Browning for his Association History Presentation. I got hung up in the lobby talking to LT Eric Cooper. We sailed together for about a month on MAUI before he transferred off to be a Norwegian Exchange Officer. He asked me, "do you plan on going back afloat?" I kinda looked at him a little squinty-eyed and asked if he was serious. OF COURSE I plan on going back afloat, what kind of question is that?!? But then I realized I didn't have the same fervor when we sailed together a couple of three years ago.

After CDR Cribbs announced the election results (sorry, didn't write down the details), LCDR Shawn Decker talked about the "Status of the Afloat Community (Human Resources and Assignments)" from a distinctly OPM perspective. He's the Junior Afloat Assignment Officer, and I have to admit to being very interested in what he had to say. It was kinda intimidating. First, I hadn't really thought this through, but of course it makes sense, but the afloat community offers command opportunity at every paygrade (after O-1). He talked a little about how we're losing ENS racks onboard ships as we move from the WHECs to the WMSLs, so ENSs are being placed on WPB 110s and the new FRCs as they come out. This does raise an interesting question for me: if we're losing ENS racks on ships both in terms of number of racks per ships (WMSL has less available racks for ENSs than WHEC) and in number of ships (we're only getting 8 WMSLs to replace 12 WHECs), how does that square with the importance the Commandant places on ENSs getting "maritime experience" onboard cutters? Will be interesting to see how that shakes out over the next few years.

Shawn talked about O2 and O3 jobs afloat (CO, XO and OPS), but I admit to not paying overly close attention, or at least not taking any notes on it. And then he said that the WMEC XO slate is one of the most competitive slates there is, primarily because it is the main pipeline to being a major cutter CO. He also mentioned that it was the most diverse slate in AY11, with four minorities and three women assigned as WMEC XOs. He named the women XOs for me later, and they are definitely an *august* group! But again, that's scary, because that's gonna be the slate I'm competing in here in a few years after my payback tour.

Someone asked about how Engineering Officers In Training (EOITs) fared with follow-on afloat assignments, which is always a great question. Shawn said that the best way for EOITs to get second tours afloat is to have documented shiphandling, judgment, leadership and LE experience. He also made the point that the first three qualities are necessary for really *any* continued opportunity afloat.

There was an open forum to wrap things up. A lot of things were discussed, with a call to action to participate on committees by the general membership. Many of the current committees are committees of one or two, and some of them are staffed with the same four or five names over and over. Again...I need to heed my own words and volunteer to step up to serve on a committee.

Cuttermen's Call afterward was fun. I chatted with both Erics (Quigley and Cooper), ranted a little about whales and things (can't believe Quigs told that story! especially combo'd with the ammo box!). I didn't stay too long...had to get home to let the dogs out before they destroyed the laundry room from being cooped up all day. But the Annual Meeting was well worth attending, to see a bunch of shipmates, meet new ones and continue the tradition. I highly encourage participation!