Before I joined the ranks of the marketing world, I was in the ranks of the US Navy. As a graduate of the US Naval Academy (Class of 1998), I had signed on for a minimum of five years of service as an officer. I opted to be a Surface Warfare Officer, meaning I would work with the surface ships of the Navy. You’ll see some Navy references in my writing for a couple of reasons: I have some pretty good stories from those days, and it was an incredibly important part of my development as a leader of teams.
My first Navy assignment after college was as Weapons Officer on the USS RUSHMORE (LSD-47), a 610-foot ship dedicated to transporting and delivering Marines to distant shores around the world. I learned so many great lessons during those first two years, as I was faced with some leadership challenges (both up and down the chain of command). I made some lifelong friendships during those 2 years and we enjoyed traveling the world together.
During the last 6 months of my time on the ship, I was chosen by the Commanding Officer to revive a dormant training department. I ended my 2-year tour there in the summer of 2000 and headed over the bridge to Coronado to become an Officer in Charge at Beachmaster Unit ONE.
The most fun I ever had in the Navy was with BMU-1. I had the privilege of taking over a team of 30 specialists who were tasked with bringing landing craft with Marines and their gear ashore. If you’ve ever seen Saving Private Ryan, the Beachmasters are mentioned at the beginning of the film. We were given control of the beach landing area and worked to keep a smooth flow of equipment, people and supplies coming from the ship to the shore. In addition to the old-school landing craft, we worked with the LCAC – the incredibly powerful, fast and agile hovercraft.
As a 25-year-old officer, I was younger than many of the men and women entrusted to my leadership. We had a great deal of responsibility for many moving parts, and I enjoyed leading an already awesome team. If I could have stayed in this job for the next 16 years, I might have stayed in the Navy until retirement. But alas, the Navy must put me on a career path and I had to move on after a couple of years.
In 2002, I started a shore tour at the (are you ready for this?) Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center. It has since changed names, but this tour for me was again interesting. Having limited knowledge of legal issues, I became the legal officer for the command. With over 700 young sailors coming from boot camp each year, we were bound to have some discipline problems. It was in this job where I got to see the inside of a Navy brig (from the good side!) and again worked with a great team of highly trained legal specialists.
In each role, my main job was to make sure that those in my division/team had what they needed for success. That meant tools, materials, training, rest – whatever they needed, it was my job to create an environment where they could do their best work. I noticed some other officers working to create an environment for their own personal success rather than seeing the team win. Their intentions had the opposite effect and no one was happy with the officer or his division. Another great leadership lesson for me – and at the ripe old age of 25.
Stay tuned for more pictures from my Navy days as I come across them and see if you can spot some of the lessons learned in my blog posts.