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#BlackHistoryMonth: Profiles in U.S. Navy Leadership

As the Navy joins our nation in the observance of African-American/Black History Month, Navy Live is sharing profiles in U.S. Navy leadership – both past and present.

Visit this blog each day as we post a new profile – showcasing how the diversity of our people strengthens our Navy and reflects the nation we serve. You can also view previous profiles and visit Naval History and Heritage Command’s website for stories of how the diversity of ideas, experiences, background and expertise has enabled us to operate successfully around the globe.

Rear Adm. Vincent L. Griffith
Director, DLA Logistics Operations (J3)
Defense Logistics Agency

RADM GRIFFITH 5X7 OFFICIALHow did you decide to join the Navy?

During my last semester in college I had an internship at Sears where I worked with several former Army officers. They encouraged me to join the military—any branch—for the experience. They said that if my ultimate goal was to get into big business I should get experience in the military, get an MBA and then I’d be set. I looked around for opportunities in logistics and found the Navy had a logistics organization called the Supply Corps. It was a natural fit because it allowed me to serve my country while jump starting my career. I intended to follow the career track of my Sears colleagues, but 34 years later, I’m still in because of the incredible camaraderie and the critical mission of defending the United States.

Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you throughout your Navy career?

Having a mentor is extremely important. One of my first mentors was Capt. Charlie Pierce. We met during my second tour of duty, when I was working as supply officer aboard USS Stonewall Jackson (SSBN 634), a ballistic missile submarine. He embraced me, taught me how to lead, how to run meetings and how to expose myself to new things I’d encounter in my career. He was approachable and he helped me understand the difference between what I wanted and what I needed. I wanted to stay tied to the Supply Corps’ submarine community in Charleston, South Carolina, for my next tour. Pierce encouraged me to broaden myself by going to Washington, D.C. If I’d stayed in Charleston, I would have never promoted beyond commander, because the Cold War ended and we downsized the submarine force.

AZ Industries for the BlindAnd D.C. is where I met another of my great mentors, Vice Adm. Ed Straw. I worked as his aide at Navy Supply Systems Command and later at DLA. He introduced me to strategic planning and other things you’re seldom exposed to as a lieutenant. Both Pierce and Straw helped me get where I am today. There have been others in the Supply Corps, like Vice Adm. Keith Lippert, Vice Adm. Al Thompson, Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek and Rear Adm. Dan Stone, who took a vested interest in my career and helped guide me along a path of success.

Another big influence on my career was Army Gen. Colin Powell. I only met him once, but his thoughts on leadership really resonate with me—particularly those regarding characteristics to seek out in your personnel. Loyalty and trust are absolute necessities of a leader and subordinate. I will fail as a leader if my folks no longer bring me their problems, because they have lost confidence in my ability to assist them.

Can you share a story about someone, perhaps someone in your family or otherwise, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than perhaps even you ever thought you might.

FLC Yokosuka Change of CommandInside the military: Straw. He challenged me every day to be more than I thought I could be. One of the big measures of success in the Supply Corps is how we perform at sea. Support to the warfighter is of ultimate importance. He taught me to push myself every day to exceed what I thought possible the day before.

Outside the military, my parents were my biggest influence. We were Southern, and I grew up on a farm. There were things that we encountered every day that would challenge your abilities. You had to use what you knew and just figure out how to deal with the rest.

Additionally, my undergraduate experience at Berry College challenged me academically and helped reinforce the work ethic my parents instilled in me. True to their motto of “Head, Heart and Hands,” I had the opportunity to manage my peers through their exceptional, on-campus work experience program. All of those lessons, an extremely strong work ethic and a knack for problem solving delivered me to the place I am today.

GLS Change of CommandPlease tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why?

First were my sea assignments: two carriers and a submarine. That’s where I interfaced the most with our enlisted community. Those are the men and women who make the Navy hum—the sailors and chiefs who make our ships and aircraft work. Supporting them, making their lives better and improving morale was a highlight. Every time they’d come to the mess decks for a meal, I wanted it to be something special. That’s where I really felt you could see the results of our tactical activities. A successful UNREP yields fresher ingredients, a better meal and a happier crew. The strategic things we do boil down to those meaningful tactical engagements.

Then, there were the jobs where I was in command. I’ve been in command three times and each was a powerful experience. When someone has enough faith to give you that opportunity, you need to excel and think about how you support your customers. We’re in the support business. The opportunity you’ve been given to make others’ lives better and improve readiness; those are the things that I think are memorable. I’m extremely appreciative of those opportunities.

RDML Griffith  _ UH60 Crew 3

What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

First, you have to lead by example. Leading is about identifying an objective, task or goal you want to accomplish and having your whole team, many with disparate views, come together to achieve the desired outcome. When you pick a course, you have to communicate to your folks through voice and action so the whole team owns that path. Second, you must show people empathy by listening to them and sincerely caring about their well-being. Third, you have to make sure your folks know you have their best interests in mind and, finally, you must provide them with the tools to be successful. When you pull all of that together, you get results. Nothing is more fulfilling for a leader than witnessing mission success and knowing that each individual on the team contributed their best to achieve mission accomplishment.

Rear Adm. Jesse A. Wilson Jr.
Commander, Carrier Strike Group Ten

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Dec. 3, 2015) – Rear Adm. Jesse Wilson, commander of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10, holds an all-hands call in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Dwight D. Eisenhower is underway conducting carrier qualifications. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anderson W. Branch/Released)Why did you decide to join/serve the Navy?

I am the son of a retired master chief petty officer (AFCM) of 27 years in the U.S. Navy, so I grew up on and around naval bases my entire life. However, I never desired to join the Navy nor did I ever consider it until one day during my 11th-grade year in high school. I paid a visit to the guidance counselor’s office to check on class registration or another administrative matter. While I was waiting I picked up a copy of the U.S. Naval Academy catalog that was on the coffee table in the office. I started thumbing through it and I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I had never even heard of the Naval Academy and I lived only an hour and a half south, plus my father was career Navy—free four year education, plus you get paid while you are there, great institution with sports, guaranteed job after graduation. I had already seen the benefits of the Navy lifestyle and it was close to the house. It sounded too good to be true. I applied and the rest is history. After intending to do only five years and get out, I have now done almost 30. I guess the joke was on me.

Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you?

My father, Jesse Sr., the retired master chief of course, for starters. He showed me what confidence looked like and he provided a very stable and comfortable life for our family through his service in the Navy. He planted the seed and turned it over to my first commanding officer, Capt. Pat Marvil, USS Reasoner (FF 1063), and subsequently the last three serving chief of naval operations. They were all great mentors to me, even to this day.

Please tell us a story about someone, perhaps in your family or otherwise, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than you ever thought you might.

My wife and my three daughters by far have had the most influence and have challenged me more than anyone. You can check commanding officer and admiral at the door. To them, I am just Jesse and dad and I need to fix myself. They have all humbled me and let me know constantly that I am not that big a deal. At the same time, deep down they are my biggest supporters and cheerleaders and they inspire me to constantly strive for excellence. Also, the friends and shipmates I have made along the way have inspired me, pushed me and made me better. Four members of my graduating class from high school came into the Naval Academy straight from graduation—eventually six from our class total—and we all graduated.  Additionally, four members from my Naval Academy company are now flag officers.

PP11 CoverPlease tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why.

There is no more memorable assignment than command. USS Higgins (DDG 76) was my first, so that has a special place in my heart. Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23 was also a very memorable and fulfilling assignment as I was afforded the opportunity to serve as the Sea Combat Commander for the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group but also as the mission commander for Pacific Partnership 2011. During the first mission day of Pacific Partnership 2011, a rainbow wrapped itself around the port side of the command ship I was on, the USS Cleveland (LPD 7). I had lived nearly half a century and I had never seen anything like that, nor have I since. From that day forward, it was reinforced to me that I was not in charge but merely a passenger here to serve.

What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

It means being blessed with the unique opportunity to lead, guide and take care of the men and women that make up the greatest maritime force that this world has ever known. When you go down to the sea in ships and do business on the great waters, you see amazing things and it will change you for life.

The Honorable Franklin Parker
Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs 

WASHINGTON (Jan. 14, 2016) Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus swears-in Mr. Frank Parker as the new Assistant Secretary of the Navy (ASN) for Manpower and Reserve Affairs (M&RA). The ASN for M&RA is responsible for recruiting both active and reserve, United States Navy Sailors, Marines, government civilians, contractors, and volunteers. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Sam Shavers/Released)

Why did you decide to join/serve the Navy?

I have always held the deepest appreciation and respect for our service members as well as a strong belief in our mission. Throughout my upbringing, I admired my father, cousin and uncle and their service in the Air Force and Army, respectively, instilled in me an early desire to serve our nation in a similar way. Though I began my career in private legal practice, when presented with the opportunity to join the Department of the Navy in 2009, I could not pass on that honor.  I have been privileged to return to the Navy recently in my current role and there is no place I would rather be.

Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you?

My father, uncle and cousin, as strong, honorable men, and whose military service planted the seed for my current work. My mother, through her incredible strength, intelligence and natural leadership abilities. My grandmother, for her profoundly kind heart and unwavering faith in me.  My grandfather, as an inimitable example of the power of positivity, persistence and public service. My big sister for always watching over me and for her example of intellect, resilience and professionalism. And, numerous academic and professional mentors and colleagues, without whose support I would not be here today.

PEARL HARBOR (Feb. 23, 2016) Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) Franklin R. Parker delivers remarks during a panel discussion hosted by the Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor's Navy Region Hawaii Wounded Warrior Family Symposium at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH). The symposium was held during the 2016 Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) Pacific Trials. The goal of the symposium is to hear directly from the families of enrollees about their experiences, their ups and their downs since learning of their loved one's injury or illness. The trials allow wounded, ill, and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen from across the country to compete in different events at JBPHH and other locations throughout the island. The top athletes will be awarded a spot on Team Navy and advance to a competition among all branches of the military. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Johans Chavarro/Released)

Please tell us a story about someone, perhaps in your family or otherwise, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than you ever thought you might.

Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen and former Navy Principal Deputy DUSN Tom Tesch—two nukes who are treasured mentors and friends. They have taught me volumes about professionalism and leadership both by words and example, and have been two of my staunchest advocates. I am a much better person for having shared this journey with them.

Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why.

My current assignment, assistant secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, because it allows me to work directly in support of our greatest resource: our people.

What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

An opportunity to serve our active-duty Sailors and Marines, our reserve component and civilians whose collective hard work and sacrifices protect the safety and security of our nation.

ASN Parker with wounded warriors

Capt. Marvin L. Jones
Commanding Officer, Naval Support Activity Bethesda

CAPT JONES  8X10 COVERED 08How did you decide to join the Navy?

For as long as I can remember, military service has been a tenet for my family. As an enlisted member content with serving in the U.S. Air Force, the thought of switching over to the Navy had never crossed my mind. My goal was to complete my undergraduate education and apply for a commission in the Air Force Medical Service Corps. But by the time I obtained my degree, the Air Force had curtailed its accession pipeline for active duty enlisted members desiring to transition into its Medical Service Corps. A classmate and fellow Air Force enlisted member who had the same goal told me that he was going to apply for the Navy’s Medical Service Corps. He applied, was selected for commissioning in the Navy, and a year later called me to come visit him at his first Navy duty station. I went to see him at Naval Hospital Jacksonville and fell in love with the Navy and its mission. I knew then that this was the life for me. I applied for the Navy Medical Service Corps, was selected, separated from the Air Force and was commissioned into the Navy without missing a beat. The rest is history–best decision I ever made, second only to marrying my wife!

Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you throughout your Navy career?

SG 2There are several leaders whose guidance and coaching have contributed significantly to my growth and development as a leader in the Navy. I’m forever grateful to each of them as their personal investments in my career yielded dividends, which epitomize leadership lessons that I now pass on to those whom I mentor today. Some mentors who’ve had the greatest impact on my career are retired Vice Adm. Adam Robinson, retired Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris, retired Rear Adm. Fred Sanford, Rear Adm. Elaine Wagner, Rear Adm. Brian Brannman and retired Capts. Kelly McConville, Tammy Nathan and Jim Cooper. I’m blessed for their tutelage which spans from my very first days in the Navy to today. Their trust and confidence in me compels me to serve and mentor others just as these great leaders have graciously mentored me.

Can you share a story about someone, perhaps someone in your family or otherwise, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than perhaps even you ever thought you might.

Gen McDewWithout question, my mother and father have been the greatest influences, along with my brothers and sisters who are my biggest supporters. Throughout my life, from my childhood to present day, my family has continuously called me higher while providing consistent encouragement that challenges and inspires me, both personally and professionally.

Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why?

I’m very fortunate to have enjoyed every one of my Navy assignments and have garnered a wide range of valuable experiences and insight from each. The assignments that stand out as the most rewarding are my tours of duty as commanding officer, Naval Health Clinic Charleston and officer in charge, Naval Branch Health Clinic, Key West. Serving in those leadership roles provided me the greatest opportunities to help develop enlisted Sailors and junior officers into tomorrow’s Navy leaders. The assignment that helped foster my own personal growth and development the most was my role as Navy Medicine’s chief diversity officer and special assistant to the surgeon general of the Navy. It afforded me the unique opportunity to help cultivate Navy’s diversity mission and educate the Navy Medicine enterprise on the virtues, value and necessity of diversity in our workforce.


What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

To me being a leader in the Navy is not a job, it’s a calling—a calling to serve and meet the needs of those for whom you are responsible. It’s about taking care of your Sailors, both military and civilian, so that they can take care of the mission. In the end, the success of my leadership is not measured by my personal accomplishments, but by how well I have served, motivated and inspired my team to achieve the unimaginable.

Rear Adm. Cedric Pringle
Deputy Director Joint Interagency Task Force South

pringleHow did you decide to join the Navy?

When I was in high school in South Carolina my older brother, who was enlisted in the Navy, sent home postcards from his UNITAS deployment to South America. His post cards inspired me to want to travel, to be challenged and to make a difference.

Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you throughout your Navy career?

I have been blessed with many great mentors and role models throughout my entire 29-years of service. Most of my mentors are due to my career-long affiliation with the National Naval Officers Association (NNOA). To name a few, Adm. Michelle Howard’s remarkable career has always been inspirational to me and we have served in similar types of commands. Additionally, retired Vice Adms. Walter Davis, Derwood Curtis, Anthony Winns, Mel Williams and Bruce Grooms, as well as retired Rear Adms. Sinclair Harris and Julius Ceasar, were each instrumental in shaping my naval career. Retired Capts. Bernard Jackson and Donnie Cochran are also lifelong friends who provided me guidance throughout my career. There are many others who have contributed to my success and I thank them all.

Pringle 2Can you share a story about someone, perhaps someone in your family or otherwise, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than perhaps even you ever thought you might?

My brother, retired Cmdr. Herbert Pringle, inspired me to always do more. Following high school we attended University of South Carolina and commissioned one another as ensigns in 1986. Additionally, my wife, retired Cmdr. Katrina Pringle, also inspired me to continue pursuing excellence in every endeavor. Both are instrumental to my success.

Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why?

Each tour has been both challenging and rewarding in unique ways and, as a result, each tour has provided great memories. However, my two most recent previous tours provide significant highlights. For example, the challenges of commanding the Navy’s first hybrid-propulsion amphibious assault ship were overshadowed by our team of 1,100 Sailors earning all operational safety awards, the ship’s first Battle E and the Retention Excellence award following the ship’s first deployment. After that tour, I was honored to serve with the U.S. Senate, which gave me a better Pringle 1perspective on how our nation operates at the highest levels of government. Additionally, I also was honored to serve as the military escort for numerous members of Congress to over 30 countries during that tour. I suspect that my time here as the deputy director of Joint Interagency Task Force South will likely provide great memories to add to my collection.

What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

Being a true leader is about embracing and demonstrating servant leadership. We should always be willing to set and maintain conditions for excellence throughout our command. We should also be willing to remove any barriers which may prevent anyone from achieving their fullest potential.

One of my personal mottos is that “Excellence is a journey, not a destination.” In other words, achieving excellence takes time, continuous effort and perseverance.

CMDCM (SW/AW) Everette “Lamont” Parker
Command Master Chief, Naval Support Activity Lakehurst

1416943814494Why did you decide to join/serve the Navy?

As a youngster, I grew up in an environment that did not show opportunity for much promise. My mother was 16 years old when she got pregnant with me. My father was never really a part of my life. I grew up one step away from being impoverished. I joined the Navy because a good friend of mine who had graduated two years ahead of me went into the Navy. He was pretty much one of the bigger kids I looked up to. Antonio Williams is his name. He was home on leave and he was out at the local park shooting basketball with us just like we had always done. He seemed to be the only one who could understand what I was feeling. I mean here we were with the big dreams of how we would change the world and we had no vessel, no opportunity or no real significant transportation to take us to success (accept the Navy). I jumped in (full speed ahead).

Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you?

My greatest role models were the women in my family, my late uncle John Parker, and two renowned educators in Beaufort County. My late grandmother, Jeanette Parker, and my mother, Betty Parker Grant, are the two strongest people I have ever known. I have taken a number of leadership courses, managed to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and graduated from the Navy’s most prestigious schools of leadership (SEA and Command Leadership School (CMC/COB)) and I have not seen anything like what my mother is made up of. She has always made miracles, always solved problems and is still my rock and anchor who I turn to in the face of adversity when I am facing some of my more difficult leadership challenges.

1995 EM3John Parker was a great man. He too served (Army) during his time. He later returned home and is credited for founding sports and recreation in my hometown. Every man associated with sports in Beaufort County knows who my Uncle John Parker is. He was that positive of an influence over an entire community and he had a first-hand impact on my life. He was a powerful man of God and he ensured we were well rounded spiritually, academically and athletically.

Undoubtedly though, two educators in my life probably exerting the most influence over me; Celestine Lewis and Ervin Manigo. Everyone in my hometown of Beaufort, SC knows the late Celestine Lewis… EVERYONE! This woman was small in stature, fair-skinned and seemingly easy going until you met her. Her staple was teaching young men and women (high school seniors) how to be both responsible and accountable. She gets students to come outside of their shell in preparation for real life! She more than likely taught you and your parents. Her mark of influence and personal responsibility in my life was probably most remarkable.

Ervin Manigo on the other hand was my band director. To say that even seems like an injustice. He was that good and much, much more. God sent. He was a role model, a mentor, an inspiration and a leader and I identify with the fact that he motivated me unlike any other person in my life. As a young man growing up without my father, he was truly the first person that treated me like a son. He taught me a great deal about life. You show me a great leader and I will show you a line behind that person. Ervin Manigo’s line of followers stretches across a great part of the State of SC. I’m just glad to say that I know him personally and that he took a personal interest in me.
Again, my situation was not the greatest and I think he saw that. He dug in and pulled me up by his leadership influence. I am who I am today largely impart because of his influence.

My proudest moment III

Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why.

My assignments onboard the USS Porter (DDG 78) and the USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) are the most memorable to me. Aboard Porter, I grew tremendously as a professional Sailor. I went from a junior E5 to a chief petty officer (E7) in my time onboard. Some of the challenges and adversity we faced forced me to grow up rather quickly and that is exactly what I did. I cried tears of disappointment as well as tears of joy while attached to WARSHIP 78.

Navy BirthdayOnboard USS Bulkeley (on the other hand), I was somewhat of a polished leader as a senior chief looking to hone my skills and possibly promote to master chief. Bulkeley challenged me like I have never been challenged before. As a leader, I thought that I had seen and done almost everything; and then there was Bulkeley. Leaders are born or Sailors are broken on that platform. The master chief in me was created onboard Bulkeley (WARSHIP 84). The single most challenging and rewarding place of duty I have ever served in.

What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

Being a leader in the U.S. Navy means everything to me. Some men and women are born to be doctors and lawyers. Others are born to become artists who will ultimately design music, fashion, paint or sculpt. There are men and women who are born to preserve life and protect it; and then there are Sailors like me who were born to lead in the world’s greatest Navy! The day I accepted that I was good at many things but great at being a leader in the U.S. Navy was one of the greatest days of my life. This Navy, this custom and these traditions are my way of life. I take my ability to influence just as important as I take the thought of my next breath.

Cmdr. Winston Scott
Executive Officer, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 25

SONY DSCHow did you decide to join the Navy?

The reason I am in the Navy today is because of the tremendous influence my father had on me. A retired Navy pilot of 26 years, he taught me to fly at a very early age. The attraction to being in the air was certainly obtained from him. But, beyond just the aviation influence, he also instilled in me a sense of pride and excellence. He taught me about leadership and all of the incredible opportunities afforded by serving in the Navy. When I was close to finishing high school, he encouraged me to apply to the Naval Academy, even though at the time I wasn’t necessarily convinced that was the right place for me to go. I had some other schools in mind that I thought would give me more of the “college experience” I was looking for. Even when I ended up with an appointment to the Academy, it still took a little while for me to realize the opportunity that laid before me. I came across many people, friends and family, that heard I had been accepted there and they all offered words of hearty congratulations. My response was typically, “thanks, but I am not planning to attend the Naval Academy.” After a number of such engagements, I figured that maybe it was time to visit the Naval Academy campus just to be sure I knew exactly what I would be turning down. Almost immediately after saying that, my father had booked a trip for the two of us to Annapolis leaving a few days later. A trip I will never forget, we visited the Yard on a Friday. My dad even wore his uniform. We saw many of the monuments on the campus, visited the museum, the chapel, and spoke with a number of midshipmen. The highlight was seeing the parade that afternoon. By the end of that day, I knew in my gut there was only one place for me to go after graduating from high school – the U.S. Naval Academy. The interesting thing is that I knew I was picking a harder route. I recognized the significant challenges that lied ahead, but looking forward to the person I would be on the other side. Embracing the opportunity to do something significant, learning what it means to be a true leader, and placing my sights on becoming a Navy pilot put the final seal on my decision to join the Navy that day, and I have never regretted a single moment. If it hadn’t been for my father’s influence, guidance and the example he set while I was growing up, I wouldn’t be in the Navy today.

IMG_2195Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why?

Naturally, I think every assignment I have done will stick with me forever. When you think of “most memorable”, people usually reference their first assignment. So for me, when I graduated from the Naval Academy, I wasn’t selected to be a pilot. Instead, I became a professional maintenance officer (Ground Pounder) in the Aerospace Maintenance Duty Officer community. For two years, I was assigned to an F/A-18 squadron, but my duties did not involve flying. While I certainly longed to be in the cockpit as a pilot at the controls, I still had an incredible tour. I learned what it meant to be in a supporting role of a greater cause. I was able to concentrate more on the leading and mentoring of junior Sailors, while also learning about the aviation community and how it works. I also learned about persevering and keeping your drive to accomplish your dreams, despite what your current situation might look like. In the latter half of this initial sea tour as a ground officer, I was encouraged to seek a lateral transfer into the pilot program one last time (once again, a father’s influence). After a nearly year-long process, I received orders that had me headed off to flight school. A tremendous experience all in itself, completing flight school and the FRS allowed me to do a second “first tour” – this time as a JO pilot.

What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

To me, being a leader in the Navy means setting the right example at all times for others to emulate. It also means having integrity, doing the right thing even when no one else is looking. Additionally, I think accountability is also an important leadership trait, you need to be able to step up and take responsibility for things. I believe that every one of us that wears the uniform is a leader, regardless of rank. We have the ability to set the right example, uplift and care about those that we work with, and make a positive impact on the units in which we serve. Being a leader is not about being perfect, but about striving to make yourself, those around you and your unit better today than they were yesterday.

Rear Adm. John W. Smith, Jr.
Chief of Staff, U.S. European Command

150904 SMITHHow did you decide to join the Navy?

My younger brother, who was enlisted in the U.S. Navy, planted the seed that the military was an opportunity, but it was a manager at my work that had the biggest influence. I was working as an accountant in New York City, and one late night at the office, one of the managers came around and noticed I seemed frustrated. He happened to be in uniform that evening, his U.S. Army Reserve uniform, and as we talked, he told me to come by his office. He had all his military memorabilia in there, and he said if I was frustrated with my career in accounting, perhaps I should look into a career with the military. So, the next day, dressed in my three-piece suit, carrying my work briefcase, I walked down to the recruiters’ office with the intention of joining the Air Force. However, the Air Force recruiter said he didn’t have the time to meet with me, he was going out to lunch, but the recruiter sitting behind him, a U.S. Navy lieutenant, perked up and asked me one question, “Do you have a college degree?” That was how I ended up as a 24-year-old, non-swimming recruit heading to aviation officer training in Pensacola, Fla.

Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you throughout your Navy career?

My parents were blue-collar workers, and worked very hard to provide us with opportunities they didn’t have. My middle school math teacher, Mr. Malick, was also very influential to me. He was the first to realize my potential, and pushed me to excel. He taught me that I could do more with math, and helped me get over my fear of math. It was the first time someone showed me that if I really put my mind to it, I could do anything. Later on, in my military career, I was fortunate to have excellent commanding officers who realized my potential, who could see that with a little bit of polish and leadership skills, there was a possibility I could have a long military career.

Can you share a story about someone, perhaps someone in your family or otherwise, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than perhaps even you ever thought you might.

I remember one in particular, then-Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Sesky, who was doing my fitness review, and I asked him, “Where are there minority officers?” He said, “I don’t know, but I do know I need you to stick around.” He followed my career ever since, and continued to mentor me along the way. On the flip side of that, I also had commanders who weren’t so encouraging or supportive, and they motivated me just as much to succeed. One of those challenging commanders even told me that I would never accomplish anything, that I would never be screened for command. I ended up surpassing him by four pay grades. I think everyone experiences poor leadership at some point in their careers, and my advice is to remember that a bad leader is only one person. It’s important to seek out and surround yourself with better role models, people who’ve taken the appropriate path to be leaders, who can provide structure and help align things in place to help you. As I like to say, never utilize one data point.

Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why?

I’ve been an aviator most of my career, and all my assignments have been exciting. Flying is what I enjoy most. However, I really enjoyed my tour at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when I commanded the detention center there. I enjoyed it because the biggest challenge was to motivate and lead troops who had an incredibly difficult mission while under intense media and political scrutiny. I enjoyed working fantastic young men and women who are committed to service to their country. Another memorable experience for me was flying in Egypt. We got permission from the government there to fly over the Great Pyramids. That was a highlight. In college, I had to write a paper on the pyramids, and I was angry at the professor for making me do it. “I will never get to Egypt!” I told said. And yet there I was, flying over them, and then later, visiting and walking through them. That was a highlight.

What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

Being a leader means different things to everyone, but to me, being a leader means being able to shape and mold the future. Our young people are our future, they have the possibility to build us as a great nation. So by leading people, I get to have that opportunity to shape and mold the future, and they shape and mold me, as well.

FORCM (AW/SW/IDW) Eddie L. Knight
Navy Recruiting Command

FORCM KNIGHTHow did you decide to join the Navy?

I made a decision to join the Navy for several reasons. I wanted to experience a different path other than college or graduating high school and taking a somewhat traditional route of migrating directly into the civilian work force. Just like many Americans today, I felt that it was my duty to serve our country with honor and having an opportunity to travel the world was an added bonus.

Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you throughout your Navy career?

I’ve had many role models and mentors throughout my life which include my parents, grandparents, family members, church family, teachers and even my friends. All of these amazing people were absolutely the foundation of my humbling military career.

The experiences with my outstanding Navy recruiter, retired Master Chief Petty Officer Mitchell “Mitch” Brockington, who I still stay in contact, and recruit division commanders without question set the tone and ensured that I would maintain the right course. My guiding principle is “leadership by personal example,” which has always been the hallmark of my career and to render anything less would be a great injustice to our Sailors and nation as a whole. Navy’s most precious resource is its people and I want to show them my experiences in order that others can succeed by learning from my shortfalls and achievements.

My first chiefs’ mess was absolutely vital in me being prepared to be a chief that others strive to emulate. I use some of those principles today at Navy Recruiting Command by continuing the proud tradition of service by recruiting the highest quality Sailors to maintain our Navy’s standing as the world’s pre-eminent maritime force.

Can you share a story about someone, perhaps someone in your family or otherwise, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than perhaps even you ever thought you might.

160212-ZZ999-N-007My mother—she passed away April 1, 2006, also the birthday of the chief petty officer rank; bitter sweet for me—father and grandmothers were some of the most influential people in my life. They instilled in me the importance of foundational pillars: God, family and country. I believe we must always maintain a balance in life and I refer to them as the success triangle: family, self and career.

Our family is very proud of our son. He graduated from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in May 2011. He has since gone on to obtain his commercial flight instructor’s license and commercial flight instrument instructor’s license. His birthday is uniquely the same date as our Navy’s Birthday. So, Oct. 13 and April 1 are two dates that are very special to me.

Many of us have a tendency of focusing the majority of our time and energy on our jobs and/or careers, subsequently neglecting our families and ourselves at times.

Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why?

My most memorable past assignments are the USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (COMUSNAVCENT)/5th Fleet. I decided to terminate shore duty following the tragic events of 9/11 and proceed to sea. I chose a ship’s company tour aboard Kennedy due to the fact that she was the next carrier scheduled to deploy to the Middle East. I was aware that she had more than her fair share of challenges to include the subpar results of an inspection and survey (INSURV), the unexpected change of command with the ship’s commanding officers and a very low crew morale. Nevertheless, we as a chiefs’ mess and the entire crew answered all bells and whistles when we were called upon to execute our nation’s mission. The right leaders were in the right place at the right time and we returned the “Big John” to a highly functional naval war ship!


My next most memorable past assignment was COMUSNAVCENT (NAVCENT) located in Manama, Bahrain. NAVCENT was truly the nerve-center of naval operation in the Middle East and we were at the tip of the spear 24/7/365 during some very tense moments. The Combined Maritime Forces were comprised of some of the most incredible and professional warriors in the entire world!

 What does being a leader in the Navy mean to me? 

Being a leader in the world’s greatest Navy is a tremendous honor. Leadership is synonymous with building relationships. A leader must lead by personal, positive example, be fair but firm, be empathic to others, hold themselves and others accountable and not be afraid to stand in the midst of adversities. It’s better to thoroughly assess the situation and make an informed decision rather than making impulse decisions, as so many are following our lead. A leader must consistently foster an environment of trust, transparency and teamwork while maintaining our Navy’s Core Values of Honor, Courage and Commitment.

Rear Adm. John Fuller
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific

PEARL HARBOR (Aug. 15, 2015) Rear Adm. John Fuller, commander of U.S. Navy Region Hawaii, Naval Surface Group, Middle Pacific, answers questions during a press conference following the Nagaoka-Honolulu 70 Years of Peace commemoration on Ford Island at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The festivities celebrate the 70th year since the end of the Pacific War. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Laurie Dexter/Released)How did you decide to join the Navy?

My dad retired as a colonel after serving in the U.S. Army for 34 ½ years. He demonstrated what can happen when you take advantage of opportunities. He enlisted in 1946, without a high school diploma, and retired as an officer who earned a master’s degree and commanded soldiers in multiple commands. Also, every other member of my immediate family served in the military, including my mom. I grew up as a military brat. It’s how I grew up and couldn’t think of a better and more honorable thing to do when I was ready to leave home. I had a great childhood and, without even knowing it, I was privileged to experience the advantages of military life—travel, adventure, meeting new friends and gaining a perspective, a world view that only military families get. As I started researching options, the Navy life seemed like what I wanted to do and it was a way for me to be unique in my family and travel on the road less traveled, or actually navigate the waters not traveled, since my family had an Army bias. Short answer: great education, great locations, great opportunities to travel the world and a compelling tradition of making leaders who sail around the world and go into harm’s way, alone and unafraid.

Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you throughout your Navy career?

That’s easy: First and foremost, my parents set the foundation. My parents experienced the depression, segregation, injustice etc., but they also valued education and turning challenges into opportunities. As a group I’d also say the coaches I played for, both successful and unsuccessful coaches. I learned that I was always in control of the effort I put into my craft so, no matter how overmatched I may have been, I could still work harder, play smarter and because of that I always felt I could out-tough them in a long match. Clearly, I also learned how to learn from defeat. The third general group would be my commanding officers and reporting seniors. While I didn’t always appreciate the love at the time, I’m thankful they pushed me to be better than I thought I could be. Also, for taking the time to expose me to a broader perspective on how things worked than what I had at the time.

PEARL HARBOR (Dec. 7, 2015) Rear Adm. John Fuller, commander Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, speaks with Pearl Harbor survivor Ed Schuler during a wreath dedication ceremony in remembrance of the 74th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks aboard the USS Arizona Memorial, Dec. 7. This year's theme focuses on the Road to Reconciliation. More than 2,000 guests, including Pearl Harbor survivors and other veterans, attended the National Park Service and U.S. Navy-hosted joint memorial ceremony at Kilo Pier on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. This year's theme focuses on the Road to Reconciliation. (photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeff Troutman/Released)Can you share a story about someone, perhaps someone in your family or otherwise, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than perhaps even you ever thought you might.

I mentioned it before; my dad’s story is a constant inspiration to me. In 1946 his best option to help his family and himself was to drop out of high school and join the Army. Before enlisting he both went to school and worked, but returning soldiers were taking all the jobs. After enlisting he ended up earning his diploma before he would have graduated, rose to the rank of E8 and then earned a commission around 1954. I saw him earn his bachelor’s degree in 1973 and his master’s in 1976. He retired as a colonel from his command at the Pentagon.

After he retired, he worked in the D.C. area for nine years before retiring again and going back to where he grew up. While there he was a dynamic volunteer, even earning volunteer of the year honors from the Georgia state governor. His ethos was to be an active participant in everything he did and to make sure he could make a positive impression on the lives of his family and those with whom he served. How can you have a humble role model like that and not want him to be proud of your effort?

Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why?

This is going to come across as corny, but I learned from my parents to embrace that daily gift we have called “the present.” So the assignment I’m finding most memorable is the current one.  Think about this: Who really enjoys the long yarns about USS Last Ship and all the things someone did? I don’t think I’m a history basher but I’m really all about my mission today and what I can do to grow and improve my commands and my Sailors, Airmen, civilians and their families.

What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

Being a good leader means embracing our Navy values and heritage. Being a good leader means inspiring people, giving your people a sense of pride and a chance to contribute so they can have the self-satisfaction of making a difference. Good leaders build resilient, and thus successful, teams comprising dedicated and sincere teammates. They know their mission and they are committed to achieving it, the right way. Captain America, better known as Roger Staubach, captured the essence of what I’m talking about when he said, “It takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to get spectacular results.” I believe that.

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (Dec. 13, 2015) – Senior Captain Wang Jianxum, deputy chief of staff of East Sea Fleet, People’s Liberation Army (Navy) and commander, Escort Task Group, CNS Jinan (DDG-152) gives Rear Adm. John Fuller, commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific a tour of the bridge of the CNS Jinan (DDG 152) during a routine port visit to Hawaii. The port visit demonstrates parity and reciprocity between two maritime nations. As part of a planned series of military-to-military exchanges between two nations, Chinese and U.S. naval officers will conduct dialogues to build confidence and mutual understanding. During the port visit American and Chinese sailors plan to engage in deckplate level events including touring each other’s ships and participating in sporting events. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nardel Gervacio/Released)

Rear Adm. Kelvin Dixon
Deputy Commander, Navy Surface Force Atlantic

Rear Adm. Kelvin DixonHow did you decide to join the Navy?

When I was a junior in high school I saw a picture of an Air Force F-4 Phantom and it just blew me away. I thought, “How do I get to fly that thing.” Joining the military was always in the back of my mind and when I was accepted to Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas, I also looked into their Reserve Officer Training Corps program. The school did not have an Air Force ROTC program, only Army and Navy. I initially looked into the Army program, but they did not have a strong engineering background and I was interested in mechanical engineering. However, as soon as I saw the Navy program, I knew this is where I wanted to be and I’ve never looked back since.

Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped guide you throughout your Navy career?

I’ve had so many mentors throughout my career that it is hard to just name a few. One of my first mentors was one of my ROTC instructors, Lt. Frank Jackson. He was a pivotal influence and it was his mentorship that drove me to become, during my senior year, the battalion commander of Prairie View’s ROTC unit. Jackson is now the city of Prairie View mayor.

Also, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Johnny Thomas, who later retired as a brigadier general, was another key mentor. He was a Marine officer instructor at Prairie View and was very helpful. “Masher” McDonald from my first ship, USS Preble (DDG 46), was a great mentor. A young boiler tech, 2nd Class Dan Henderson, was a great help for a young and junior officer like me coming up on the ship. I’m glad I now have the opportunity to serve with Capt. Henderson at Naval Surface Force Atlantic.

Other key mentors during my career include: retired Adm. Timothy Keating, retired Vice Adm. Dirk Debbink, retired Vice Admiral Dave Brewer, retired Rear Admiral John Brunelli and Captain Victor Stuckey (USNR) and Chief Frank Toma (USNR). I think mentorship is so important and is key to the success and development of all leaders. The Navy could never have been as successful as it is today without strong mentors, officer and enlisted, bringing up the next generation.

Can you share a story about someone, perhaps someone in your family or otherwise, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than perhaps even you ever thought you might?

My mom, Rosely Dixon, was such a great influence on my life. She passed away several years ago but I can still remember her telling me, “I want you to be something, anything. It has to be positive and it has to be legal, but I want you to make something of yourself. Now go do it.” I spend every day of my life striving to live up to that expectation.

Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why?

All of my tours have been memorial, but some of the ones that stand out are as an ensign and lieutenant junior grade aboard USS Preble (DDG 46) where I severed as the boilers and weapons officer. I had a great commanding officer and crew.

In 1991, as a lieutenant, I had the opportunity to participate in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm as the operations officer for the United Nations Mission headquartered in Kuwait. In that job I assisted in the establishment of checkpoints and managed the movement of all military and civilian personnel throughout Kuwait and Iraq. During that tour I had the honor to meet Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and Gen. Colin Powell.

In 2001, I was a watch officer at the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon under Rear Adm. Edward Masso. I was not there on 9/11, but I lost quite a few friends that day.

In 2008, as a captain, I was mobilized to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as chief of biometrics, with responsibility for all aspects of identification and verification. I had never done this before, had never been involved with biometric work before, but I had a great team and it was a great learning experience.

I was mobilized again in 2010 to Iraq as a rear admiral where I served as director, Iraqi Training, Advising, Operations Mission—U.S. Navy and Marines building the Iraqi Navy and Marines. It was a very challenging but very rewarding assignment.

Lastly, my several years as a flag officer have been very rewarding. I never thought I would be here and I spend every day trying to give back to the Navy.

What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

In my mind, leadership is the cornerstone of the Navy’s success. Leadership is not given, it is earned and you have to work at it to make sure you get it right. I’ve had nine commanding officer tours. I’ve commanded at sea and ashore, active and reserve members. I’ve had the honor to command some fantastic Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, Airman, Coast Guardsman and civilians. I’ve always stressed leadership, character, integrity and military bearing during my command tours. The Navy’s Core Values–Honor, Courage and Commitment–are very important to every Navy leader from seaman to admiral.

 Rear Adm. Kelvin Dixon

Rear Adm. Eric Coy Young
Commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command

RADM Eric Coy YoungHow did you decide to join the Navy?

To be frank, I joined the Navy because I wanted to travel. I had only left Texas once before and I wanted an opportunity to travel and interact with other cultures. Life in west Texas had always been mundane and I yearned for a challenge. I knew there was something more than my hometown and I wanted to expand my horizons. I also knew I wasn’t being challenged to meet my potential and welcomed the opportunity to excel in a stressful environment.

Although I was in an Air Force town, I chose the Navy because I was lucky enough to have the Navy recruiter approach me first. “An Officer and a Gentlemen” had just come out and the cool Navy uniforms put me right over the top.

The recruiter originally approached me for the naval flight officer program, but it only took me one flight to decide that I was meant for a surface career. So I signed on as a surface warfare officer as part of the “600 Ship Navy”.

I eventually left Texas in 1984 for officer candidate preparatory school, and I have not looked back since.

Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you throughout your Navy career?

I have had a number of fantastic mentors and influencers over the years that I truly appreciate and am thankful for.

If I had to pick the very first Navy role model I ever had, it would be my second commanding officer (CO), Capt. Nate Beason. He was the first one who inspired me to stay Navy during a time when I had all but given up hope.

IMG_1208I was on USS Reid (DD 369) during a time when there were very few minorities in the cruiser-destroyer Navy and, after only four years in, I was ready to get out.
That’s when Beason came aboard and everything changed; he became my guiding light. He wasn’t like the previous CO. He was a true leader. As soon as he came aboard the atmosphere on the entire ship changed. He treated me just like the other officers on the ship. He gave me the same opportunities to earn my pin and, in a very short time, put me back on course.

The example Beason set for me is what I put forward today. Everything we do as a leader matters. Both our subordinates and peers amplify the signals we send out, so it is incumbent upon us to always steer straight and provide a positive example for others to follow.

Can you share a story about someone, perhaps someone in your family or otherwise, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than perhaps even you ever thought you might?

My mom, my wife and my siblings—one brother and two sisters—have always been there for me. I am the youngest and they have always looked out for me, ensuring that I was on the right trajectory and providing for me when needed. When I told them I was joining the Navy and leaving west Texas, they loved the idea and said they would see me at every port.

Over the past 30 years my family has visited me at every duty station, up until the recent passing of my mother. Their love and support, and that of my wife and children, has been the biggest influence in my career. I have always challenged myself to do my very best in everything I endeavored. But it wasn’t just for me; it was for my family who truly inspired me.

Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why?

My most memorable assignment was my commanding officer tour as commander aboard USS John L Hall (FFG 32), where I truly had the ability to influence Sailors and guide the future of our Navy.
This tour allowed me to fully employ the talent management of the fine Sailors in my command. What I found the most gratifying about that tour was to see my shipmates screen for command afloat, or command master chief afloat, over the years that followed.

IMG_1202What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

Good leaders must be cognizant that they are in a position of trust and that others are always watching their actions; their actions speak louder than words.

Good leaders hold themselves and others accountable. They don’t ask anyone to do what they wouldn’t do themselves, and they are their own toughest critic.

Good leaders have a “can do” spirit. They can’t wait to move out, to go “engines ahead full.” No one needs to tell them “engines ahead full,” they are already there.

Good leaders have a measure of toughness and resilience. They are the ones that everyone leans on in the darkest of times.

Setting the example and maintaining the tenets of good leadership is what has kept our Navy strong for over 250 years. I am proud to have done my part and will rest assured that we will continue to maintain our global maritime superiority, both now and well into the future.

Cmdr. Jaja Marshall
Commanding Officer, USS Hopper (DDG 70)

Cmdr. Jaja MarshallHow did you decide to join the Navy?

I first planned to join the Navy for a quality education and the opportunity to travel the world. Then, I was introduced to the U.S. Naval Academy by Rev. Harry W. Benter who saw potential in me. I was both fascinated and intrigued by the opportunity to be challenged as a midshipman and be commissioned as a U.S. naval officer. I have been fortunate to be educated and travel during my naval career.

Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you throughout your Navy career?

I have been blessed with many role models and mentors throughout my Navy career who have been family, good friends, shipmates and great bosses. It started with my mother, father, stepfather and late grandmother who instilled values of hard work, determination and achievement in every endeavor. My wife is an inspiration and role model for me as a leader. I have also been blessed to have many leaders and bosses at every stage of my career who have taken the time to mentor me and embrace my family. Anyone who reads this and knows me well can be proud of the influence they have had on my career.All Hands Call

Can you share a story about someone, perhaps someone in your family or otherwise, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than perhaps even you ever thought you might.

When I was in high school and the chance to attend the Naval Academy became more realistic, there were many people–family, friends, guidance counselors–who questioned my desire to attend the Naval Academy and subsequently join the Navy to serve my country. Some unintentionally tried to create doubt but my mother, Gloria, supported my decision and encouraged me to accept the challenge. She inspired me to work hard and achieve my goal of graduating from the Naval Academy.

Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why?

Towing ExerciseMy most memorable assignments are my last ones. I believe that your assignments and duty stations are what you make it. You must have a positive attitude, willingness to embrace change and embrace the realization there are challenges wherever you go. My wife and I have been fortunate to live in different places, experience new cultures and grow as a family.

What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

Being a leader in the Navy means first understanding that it is not about you, rather it is about the great people you lead. I believe it is important to first know yourself as a leader and know your strengths, and to recognize areas for growth to work on. A leader should take the time to know their people’s names, background, family and goals. I consider it an honor and privilege to lead people especially as commanding officer where I am accountable for the safety, welfare, life and professional growth of all my people. My belief is a leader in the Navy ensures readiness, builds family, upholds standards and encourages achievement to maintain warfighting readiness.



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