With more than 100 prospective department head candidates from the Surface Warfare community attending NPS, it seems fitting that four visiting Surface Warfare flag officers would jump at the chance to talk with them. And they did.
Recently, an audience of upwardly-mobile Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) lieutenants filled Ingersoll auditorium for an hourlong conversation with a collective of highly-experienced flag SWOs. The senior officers, all rear admirals, were on the NPS campus attending the Center for Executive Education’s Leading Innovation Seminar along with 15 other flag level participants.
NPS’ senior SWO and Surface Warfare Chair Capt. Chuck Good invited Rear Admirals Cedric Pringle, Bill Byrne, Richard Cheeseman and Joey Dodgen to get their perspectives on leadership at sea, expectations for department heads when they were in command, and what the officers can do over the next several years to prepare themselves.
“One of the advantages of having a strong SWO community on campus is the ability to take advantage of distinguished visitors from the community,” said Good. “Our students are able to receive and understand the strategic direction of our community straight from the top, and in turn, those leaders get immediate feedback and dialog with the junior leaders charged with carrying out that direction.”
Rear Adm. William Byrne, Commander of Carrier Strike Group 15, said he wanted to see four things from his officers – aggressive, assertive, confident and knowledgeable.
“As you cross the brow as a brand spanking, new department head school graduate, let me throw this bit of advice to you. I expect you to be aggressive. I want you to be an aggressive ship handler, warfighter, an aggressive leader and mentor,” said Byrne.
“In order to be aggressive, you have to be assertive, and being assertive is not personality dependent,” he continued. “You have to be confident and to be confident, you have to have knowledge. You just have to know your stuff.”
“And it really doesn’t matter if you’re getting a degree in operations research, mechanical engineering, national security affairs, or any other degree. What you really learn at NPS is how to study, how to manage your time, how to team, how to partner, and how to get the result,” Byrne said.
Surface Navy Association Monterey Chapter President Lt. Levi Beaird was in the audience listening closely to what each of the admirals had to impart to the gathering.
“There were several points each admiral emphasized and reminded all of us SWOs that we are in a new era of Great Power Competition. In this era, we are presented with new threats that require a different strategy,” said Beaird.
“Part of this strategy is the professional and tactical development of naval officers, SWOs, who will lead the high-end fight at sea,” he continued. “The other part of this strategy is leveraging SWO’s experience and education, across multiple disciplines, to think and respond innovatively to new and emerging threats and tactics.”
The senior officers stressed the importance of being “brilliant at the basics,” as Byrne put it. They stressed the importance of serving as examples to junior officers, of being compliant and innovators at the same time.
And they all resoundingly agreed that there is little better experience for a SWO than time at sea.
“The point is to place proven talent back at sea to drive operational excellence and surpass what was required with compliance. It is also a push to give SWOs more experience at sea to drive proficiency in seamanship and other warfare areas,” said Beaird.