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Pacific Priorities

By Vice Adm. Bill Moran
Chief of Naval Personnel

Wanted to share some feedback from my recent trip to Japan and Hawaii – my first chance to engage as CNP with OCONUS Sailors.  Our national and naval leaders have made it clear that this is where our presence matters a great deal. It was important to understand the opportunities and challenges our Sailors and families work through when they agree to take these critical assignments.

140522-N-IU636-128During our five day trip, Fleet Beldo and I met with leadership and conducted all hands calls in Sasebo, Okinawa, Pearl Harbor, Wahiawa and Kaneohe. In all locations morale was high, professionalism evident and our Sailors and their families proud and clearly enjoying being stationed OCONUS.  But there were some concerns so the dialogue and feedback was helpful.

It was the first time visiting Sasebo for me – had deployed to and visited many other parts of Japan in the past. The benefits of serving in Okinawa are well known – and who wouldn’t want to serve in Hawaii – but Sasebo remains a well-kept secret.  Opportunities to serve on ship or ashore continue to grow, and the community in Sasebo is friendly and welcoming. If you are a Sailor, single or married, and are considering service in Japan I highly recommend looking into Sasebo.

We timed our visit to coincide with the release of the updated advancement policy (changes to FMS and CAP) and as a lead-up to the petty officer advancement results. By and large Sailors understood the changes and supported policies to reward sustained performance and allow  greater input from commanding officers and unit leadership.

The most rewarding part of the small group discussions and all hands calls are the question and answer periods – gives Fleet and me a chance to bust myths and get candid feedback.  This trip was no different.  We heard from a variety of folks on a number of  topics, but three specific issues came up just about everywhere we went – PACT Sailors, OCONUS training opportunities, and overseas screening. 140521-N-EP471-032

  • Professional Apprenticeship Career Track (PACT) Sailors (previously referred to as “undesignated Sailors”):  Consistent with what we heard during a recent visit to Norfolk, there remains concern (particularly on ships) over the perceived lack of advancement opportunities being afforded to these Sailors. As was mentioned in the May blog on advancement–over the last few years we brought in a large number of PACT Sailors to help improve at-sea manning levels to reduce gaps at sea. The data we use to track this program tells us that we are doing ok, that most are able to designate in an expedited time frame, well below the 24-months onboard guarantee. However, the direct feedback from unit leadership, NC’s and PACT Sailors themselves doesn’t seem to match the data. My folks here at headquarters and in Millington are looking hard at this–is the data wrong…is this a vocal minority…did we set an unreasonable expectation when we recruited these Sailors…does the policy need to be adjusted.  We owe you answers and will provide an update shortly.
  • Training for OCONUS Sailors: this topic came up at every stop across Japan–concern about being sent overseas without needed schools or NECs only to be sent back to the States to get supplemental training.  This is costly, creates manning gaps and burdens Sailors and families. So we’re working on better identifying requirements ahead time, including more schools in route and fixing the backlog of basic training that every Sailor needs–like firefighting.  We are also working with the Fleets to look at current training requirements–can more be done on the waterfront, through OJT or be eliminated altogether?  No doubt we have some work to do to get more trained folks to where they are needed most in the most efficient manner.
  • Overseas screening process: Lots of concern over the current way of doing business. Heard from a number of leaders that the process takes too long, may not identify the right concerns before a family heads overseas and takes too long to resolve issues once they are raised. Because of the value we place on being forward deployed, we can’t have a process that burdens individuals, passes the buck from one command to the other and doesn’t quickly and effectively allow us to detail our best folks to these critical assignments. RDML Dave Steindl, Deputy Chief of Naval Personnel  is heading up a team beginning next week to find fixes quickly.  The team will cross all disciplines; Fleets, with BUMED right beside us.  Some ideas already being considered:  why not have an FDNF Placement office, ensuring command requirements are met, much like we do right now for all those assigned to Washington, DC…why not get ahead and establish overseas suitability for every Sailor in our Navy through current databases like NSIPS…or other methods to ensure completion of overseas screen — well before orders are written.  The key to most of our success will be — as it always has — our command triads.  They are the connective tissue between their Sailors and overall Fleet readiness.  Many have deployed or been stationed in the FDNF themselves, or they never would have achieved the pinnacle of command in the first place.  Authority to fix this issue already lies with them — goal of this working group is to provide tools to make their decision process easier. This issue has the highest level of attention–we will continue to provide updates as progress is made.

Fleet Beldo and I head out again next week to meet with Sailors and families.  In Newport, we will visit Command Leadership School and the Senior Enlisted Academy, will visit with submarine Sailors and leadership in Groton, and then wrap-up the week in Norfolk at the Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium. Please keep the feedback coming – it’s making a difference.

See you around the Fleet.

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