Monthly archive

January 2020

Your Command Tour Starts Now, Ensign!

in Leadership/Navy Stuff

This post originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.

Ok JOPA, put your Ensign Cards away, time for some tough loving. Oh, sorry, I’ll wait for you to finish that rant about “Big Navy blah, blah, blah . . .” Ready?

So, you think you have a few years until you have to get ready for command? Wrong! Your command tour started when you put on those butterbars. Oh, you don’t believe me?

  1. Check your social media. Every hilarious meme, gif, “sh**post,” and whatever else you’ve shared to showcase how brilliant and witty you are is out there for the world to see. And it’s not going away, no matter how clever you are with your security settings, online aliases (trust me on this one), and new apps that hide or delete your messages. Someone will excavate that one post and drag into the public spotlight at the worst possible moment for your career. Just ask an athletedirector, or politician. The officers sitting on your boards will see it but, more importantly, so will your sailors. Twenty years from now, you will be judged on what you do today, like it or not.
  2. Get a motto. Instead of hideously mocking dependents on the JOPA Facebook page, you could—bear with me—say something positive (I know that’s rich coming from me). The best leaders have mottos, maxims, slogans . . . whatever you want to call them. It may be a gimmick, but it helps. If you can’t communicate in simple terms, you can’t communicate. And commanding officers who use these mottos don’t make them up at their change of command ceremony. They hone their thoughts over time. Here are just a few that I’ve picked up from leaders I respect throughout my career (I won’t use their names since I didn’t ask their permission, but happy to give credit if asked):
    • I can do anything, I just can’t do it alone
    • Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier (Colin Powell originally said this . . . it’s ok to steal mottos!)
    • Do great things!
    • #keepgrinding
  3. Make up your own mind. We’ve got this thing in our culture where, as junior officers, where we rail on “Big Navy” and embrace change. Then, at some point as senior officers (usually when we assume command), we publicly embrace every order from higher headquarters and start to resist change. Here’s a pro tip: you’re allowed to decide for yourself whether you like something or not. If you enjoy something about being at sea, its ok, you can admit it. You don’t have to be anti-everything. Here’s another: you don’t have to pretend you like an order for your sailors’ sake. Trust me, they will figure you out. Your opinions on the order don’t have much bearing on the situation anyway. Did you give your best military advice as feedback in an appropriate and timely manner? Check. Is the order lawful and ethical? Check. Move out. Instead of pretending that you “like” every order you receive, show your sailors that you will faithfully execute orders, regardless of whether you “like” them or not—and when your sailors execute the orders, they’re executing YOUR orders, not the “Damn Exec’s” orders. Isn’t that the essence of naval professionalism?
  4. Don’t lie to your sailors. Lip service kills morale. I’ll admit it, I’ve done it. I think we’re getting better as an institution about being honest inside the lifelines, but there’s one big lie that I keep hearing, and it starts when you stand in front of your first division. You tell your sailors it’s all about them. FALSE! Your heart’s in the right place, but you’re lying. It’s all about the MISSION. Ideally, every sailor’s interests (including your own) would be aligned with mission accomplishment, but military service doesn’t work that way. There will be times you’ll need to miss that appointment, that birthday, or even that wedding (hopefully in increasingly rare order). It’s called sacrifice, and you’re going to ask your sailors to do it. You’ll need to do it too. This is the service you and your sailors provide the nation when you commit to your oath. So don’t crush their morale by “blowing smoke.” Be honest with them. Try to articulate how you are all (including yourself) part of a system driving toward mission accomplishment.
  5. Write something! Someone once said “If you need something done, ask a sailor. If you need something said, ask an officer.” I’ll bet an officer said that. There’s some truth to it. Officers communicate, and none more so than those in command. By nature of the way we operate, most of that communication will be written: emails, orders, directives, publications, naval messages . . . the list goes on. Do you think that when you assume command, those who read your words will heed them, understand them, internalize them, and take the action you expected? HA! Let me repeat that . . . HAHAHA! Some people will ignore you, some will misunderstand you, some will challenge you, and some will set off on entirely the wrong course. The simple fact is written communication is tough, and you need practice, but reading and writing isn’t enough. You need to put your ideas in the arena before you take command. Practice receiving feedback professionally and adjusting course (or not) as you see fit. You don’t have to be a blogger (please don’t start a blog), but you can publish at USNI, CIMSEC, or any number of sites. You can also practice by drafting staff documents within Navy and DoD circles. Lots of ways to write . . . just write something!

So, don’t wait until you’re sitting in the captain’s chair to figure out how you will command. You’ll be too late. Your command tour starts now, ensign!

ERASE Yourself!

in Announcements/Navy Stuff

This post originally appeared on the USNI blog here.

WhatsApp has been hacked! Facebook sold your data! Terrorists are tracking your running routes!

Nothing is sacred. I may be a millennial, but I remember when the internet was an idyllic place full of weird AOL chat rooms and pirated Phish MP3s. Nowadays? It’s a battlefield, and you are ill equipped. For example, the Navy just declared the Chinese-owned app TikTok—which does the same thing as other social media apps, but in a cooler and shadier way—is a cybersecurity threat and advised everyone to uninstall it. If you’re 35 or older Tiktok isn’t directly targeting you, because there’s zero chance you’ve downloaded the app (if you have, you’re trying way too hard). No, TikTok is targeting your newest sailors and, maybe more importantly, your kids. No argument here. Like I said… nothing is sacred.

Yes, the internet is dark and full of terrors, but there is a glimmer of hope! I’ve teamed up with DARPA to announce a brand-new program designed to protect you from yourself in this scary information environment: Elective Reversible Amnesia and Social Eradication (ERASE)!

ERASE is an exciting new opportunity to render you invulnerable to the enemy’s attempts to target you on the internet. Let’s face it, we stink at information security and emissions control. Our ships are like fountains of electromagnetic energy and personal data whenever they enter port. ERASE takes the problem out of your hands with a simple procedure that will make it impossible for you to remember anything not pertaining to the Navy. You’ll be the sailor you’ve always dreamed of becoming! Meanwhile, the ERASE team will also eliminate any evidence that you ever existed in society (both on the internet and IRL). No more pesky distractions from family and friends! BTW, since the procedure is elective, you are responsible for all costs but we’ll dock your pay with a discreetly coded line item on your LES, and you won’t remember how much you got paid before the procedure so you won’t mind at all! The good news is, just in case you do want to keep your spouse and kids around, your family can get ERASE’d under TRICARE Prime for a very reasonable co-pay!

Whose kids are these and why do they know so much about ships?

You’ll also be glad to know our military physicians have a 51 percent success rate in reversing the procedure and restoring your original identity. Should you have second thoughts, you’ll probably be able to go right back to living your terrifyingly risky existence on the internet (Note: zero of our test patients have elected to reverse the procedure they cannot remember having). The simple fact is ERASE is the only feasible defense against cybersecurity threats. We’ve been trying to tell you simply not to use unfamiliar information technology, but then some hot new app or “show us your Social Security Number challenge” comes along. Short of actually understanding continuously evolving information technology and how we can safely and effectively use it to our advantage, ERASE-ing yourself is the next best alternative.

Trust me, we are all on the front lines of the information battlespace and it’s only getting worse. Last week, the Office of the Secretary Defense sent out a memo to all service members warning of the unknown dangers of direct-to-consumer genetic testing, like and 23andMe. The industry is mostly unregulated, and your genetic data could be used for questionable purposes. Its not enough that we protect your mind and personal data online with ERASE, now we need to protect your DNA as well! We all know you’ll just ignore the warning to stop using these tests, and there is evidence that your security (and, therefore national security) could be compromised if even your relatives take these tests. What we don’t know is how any of this really works, which is why the folks at DARPA also asked me to roll out their follow-on initiative to ERASE: Precautionary Unlikely Reversible Genetic Enhancement (PURGE)!

PURGE is an experimental, legally safe medical procedure that scrubs your DNA of any connection to your lineage, just as a precaution. Think of it as a juice cleanse for your genes! You’ll no longer be vulnerable to DNA attacks, or for that matter any of the hereditary diseases that have plagued your family for centuries. Our scientists can also code honor, courage, and commitment into your DNA, so you’ll finally be able to live up to that FITREP bullet that says you’re “the living embodiment of the Navy’s Core Values.” With the combination of PURGE and ERASE, you’ll be entrusting your DNA, your brain, and your social existence to the Navy’s competent hands, which virtually guarantees your continued promotion! Bonus!

Talk to your PCM about PURGE, because you haven’t paid attention to a word I’ve said!

Also, while not official DoD policy, I don’t recommend using those at-home colon cancer screening tests either. There’s no way to be sure someone won’t harvest your genetic data from your DNA “sample.” Plus, it’s just gross.

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