Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Taking Care of Our Own

Greetings Shipmates,

As our Navy Reserve Sailors take the opportunity to celebrate the holiday season with family and friends, I’d like to drop anchor on the more somber subject of suicide in our armed forces.  Suicide does not just impact Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines coping with combat deployments but the entire force.  The holiday season is not exempt either.  It hits a personal note with me. 

My college roommate committed suicide on our winter break from college.  To this day I still wonder what more I could have done to interrupt that terrible trajectory he was on which ended with his taking his own life … perhaps a phone call during the break just to talk, or a visit to his house as he lived nearby.  Talking with his parents, I found they were as distraught as I was trying to make sense of this terrible and needless loss of life.     

As I look at the details surrounding the eight suicides of Navy Reserve Sailors this calendar year I’ve tried to look for common trends for life experiences which might give us something to target to prevent further suicides and attempted suicides.  There is no easy answer.  Yes, most of these Sailors were under 30 and E-5 and below, but that was the only commonality. Some had mobilized, others not.  Some were married, some divorced, some single. Unfortunately, in many cases, we will never know what really went through that person’s mind or what combination of events triggered their decision to end their life.

So what do we do to prevent this loss of life?  First, never let the Sailor get to a point where suicide is contemplated.  Try to identify stressed Sailors early and take action to get them help.  The Navy has made an enormous amount of resources available to individuals suffering from stressors, whether they are financial, relationship or of some other nature.  There is a way to get yourself or your Sailors the help they need to ease some of that stress or burden. 

Second, stand firm that there is always another option.  No matter how badly or hopeless a person feels, suicide is not the answer.  If you know your Sailors, then you know when something is not right.  If you suspect someone you know is thinking of hurting themselves, get help.  Don’t be afraid to act.  You don’t always know how many “other” signs have been conveyed to someone else and we must assume that every “sign” is the last sign.

Let’s make this year, 2013, a better year for our Sailors and our families.  Let’s focus on our troops and ourselves and keep each other alive.  Reach out, get help, intervene and speak up.  We are here to help and we do care.

I wish you all the best of Holidays and a very Happy New Year.  See you all in 2013!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Congratulations to 2012 Reserve Family Award Winner - NOSC Tucson!

Readiness begins at home. We have to support the families at home just as much as their deployed Sailor.  NOSC Tucson gets it, and thanks to their proactive and innovative approach they have been selected as the 2012 Reserve Family Readiness Award winner.
How'd they do it? NOSC Tucson developed a family support program that takes care of Sailors the moment they walk onto the quarterdeck and equally as important, they establish 100% contact with the families.  When a Sailor deploys, NOSC Tucson continues to reach out to both the Sailor and the family so any problems are tackled sooner rather than later. This approach is a complete team effort --- from the most junior Petty Officer to the Commanding Officer --- the CO personally wrote and sent more than 387 hand-written letters of support to all mobilized Sailors and their families. That's the commitment and personal touch that drives a successful family readiness program. Well done, and well deserved NOSC Tucson!
I want to share more good news, this time from the great state of Michigan. I recently visited NOSC Battle Creek and was on hand for the ribbon cutting as they opened their new facilities. Besides the impressive new digs, I was most struck by the spirit of cooperation permeating this outstanding NOSC. Located on Ft Custer Training Center, they work hand in hand with multiple services and have established valuable partnerships. The sense of community in Battle Creek is second to none, and they are truly to be commended for fostering strong relationships both with our sister services and in the community.
Do you have any stories about how your NOSC has demonstrated a similar level of excellence either supporting deployed Sailors and their families, or building partnerships in the community? Let me know, I'd like to recognize them in this public forum.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

On Force Reductions

Today’s ALLNAVRESFOR message laying out the reduction in NECC/Seabee forces over the next few years is pretty specific in terms of the how and why this decision was made, but I want to give everyone my perspective as well. Whenever there are significant changes to the force I find that people may try to read things into the situation that aren’t necessarily there, so I want to take this opportunity to explain some of the why and wherefore and also to take any questions you might have.

First, this is just our part in a DoD-wide effort to shape to a post-OCO environment.  The fiscal reality of our current economy mandates action.  All the services are trying to figure out how to meet national security requirements while staying within the top line.  One of the many efforts Navy is taking is to reduce the Reserve force by about 6,000 Sailors by fiscal year 2016.

So that’s the situation, and from there Navy had any number of options to determine which billets from which communities would be impacted. We went through an exhaustive review of our current force, assessing not only current demand, but gauging our future requirements as well. What we found was that with the end of the war in Iraq and the drawdown of our efforts in Afghanistan, our expeditionary forces are larger than required for peacetime operations. Navy Seabees will take the brunt of this reduction as a result of this decreased demand for reconstruction abroad, but the remaining Seabee force will be large enough and capable enough to continue their critical mission.

More importantly, even though many of their billets are going away, the Sailors are not. We are going to first reevaluate the current assignment of Sailors to Seabee units and then distribute the right Sailors to the right units. To do that we’re going to conduct a force-wide reassignment of all SELRES Naval Construction Forces Seabee billets.   

This is where I’m going to plug FleetRIDE.  This is a great program for all Sailors to use, if only to see what’s out there and alternatives to their current career track.  FleetRIDE will be especially effective for Seabees.  It’s a career management tool that brings the Sailor, career counselor and ECM together to match the right Sailor with the right career.

This will be a challenging time for many, but know that we’re committed to our Sailors and their careers. I wanted to give you my perspective, and hope that you will follow suit and provide comments or questions here. 


Monday, November 5, 2012

Preventive Maintenance

I'd like first to say that I hope you and your families are safe and well in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, or the Superstorm of 2012.  My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who suffered in this storm.  I also want to thank and give credit to all our Sailors who have mobilized within the past week to assist in efforts to help the citizens in those areas affected.  You are truly a credit to our service and we wish you the best of luck as you step up to help those in need.

This brings me to the topic I want to write about this week.  Readiness - specifically, being ready to respond "Anytime, Anywhere".  For example, some of our Sailors in the Northeast assigned to NOSC Schenectady, New York were called up not by the Navy Reserve but by the New York Naval Militia to respond within 24 hours of Sandy's landfall to assist with recovery efforts on Long Island.  24 hours.  Think about that.  Our Sailors were ready to go at a moment's notice.  They were medically cleared and physically capable of answering the call.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative, but it focuses on the ways we keep our Sailors and Marines in a high state of readiness and ensure they are able meet the demands of our combat missions and the roles that support them.   One of the key components to this initiative is Personal Fitness.

We need our Sailors to be healthy, both mentally and physically.  I am well aware of the challenges you face juggling family life, civilian jobs and military obligations.  For those on active duty or mobilized, PT is an obligation and one supported by their Navy command, but in the civilian sector most likely it is not the same.  You don't have free nutrition workshops that you can attend during office hours or a gym facility nearby which is free of charge.  Throw in the commute, homework and dinner with the family, the nightly bedtime story for the kids and before you know it, its 9 p.m.  You meet with your fellow Sailors two days a month, two weeks a year, but we expect you to be physically fit all year round.  It is definitely a challenge.

So how do YOU do it? I want to hear the ways you maintain your fitness level and fit it all in, given this challenging environment. How do you stay motivated and what advice would you give to your fellow Sailors to keep our Force ready to go at a moment's notice?

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Changing Course and Maintaining Talent

Greetings Shipmates,

Last week I wrote about the outstanding Sailors I met when I traveled to Navy Operational Support Center Columbus during the celebration of the Navy's birthday, and I mentioned how many of them exemplified our commitment to the Continuum of Service.  This week, I want to write a little more about what we mean by that phrase and the why it's such an important investment in our Navy.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, the Continuum of Service initiative is a philosophy which directs different kinds of career management tools designed to allow Sailors to transition more easily back and forth from active duty, Reserve and civilian life. We've found that encouraging a flexible career path for our Sailors allows us to maintain our standards of excellence while providing the flexibility our Sailors need.  And of course, we know it's important to have the right person in the right job with the right skills.

There are numerous programs that enable our Sailors to contribute to the Navy mission in many different ways through a "Lane Change." As I wrote before, our talent pool is deep and we'd like to keep and develop that talent for the long haul.  We understand that there are times in your career when you have to make adjustments for family, health or professional reasons.  Our Continuum of Service philosophy serves to offer workable alternatives and easier transitions.   For example, did you know the Career Intermission Pilot Program (CIPP) provides an opportunity for active-duty Sailors to take a one to three year sabbatical to pursue professional or personal goals by transferring temporarily to the Individual Ready Reserve?  Or, if your current rating is overmanned, the Fleet Rating Identification Engine, also known as FleetRIDE, can help you find another rating you're qualified for with more room to grow. These are just a couple of the resources we use to maintain our talent and give them opportunities to stay Navy.

My challenge to you is to research and learn about our programs so you and those you work with have all the information needed to continue your service. Take advantage of the toolkit of resources we have and take charge of your career.  And I definitely encourage you to contact your career counselor at your NOSC to determine the best path for you, your Navy career and your family.

I'd like to close with a request from me to you, to share a story about one of your career transition experiences.   Did you shift from active duty to the Reserve or from the selected Reserve to the Individual Ready Reserve?  Or maybe you went through the process to convert to a wholly different rating, or participated in a voluntary recall program?

Whatever the case, take this opportunity to share your story and experiences.  I look forward to hearing from you!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Celebrating the Navy Birthday with NOSC Columbus, Ohio

Hello All and Happy 237th Birthday to our Navy,

Last weekend I had the opportunity to celebrate the 237th birthday of the United States Navy with the Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and citizens of Columbus, Ohio. 

Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC), Columbus and the local Navy League hosted the region's annual Navy Ball which was attended by Sailors from commands in the surrounding area including the Ohio State NROTC Unit, Defense Logistics Agency and the Navy Recruiting District.   During the Ball we paused to recognize those 27 NOSC Columbus Sailors currently on Individual Augmentee (IA) assignments and supporting Navy and combatant commanders across the globe.   

During the dinner I had the pleasure of speaking to a Supply Officer who, in my opinion, was a perfect example of a Continuum of Service.  This officer started his career in the active component then transitioned to the Selected Reserve only to finally accept a permanent recall to active duty - all this while working as a civil servant.  It is amazing to see the opportunities that present themselves … if you are open to them. 

The next morning I spoke with many NOSC Sailors who were busy working hard on their individual readiness.  I was particularly impressed with a Senior Chief who is preparing for his sixth deployment as a Hospital Corpsman.  I also spoke with a young Seabee who, despite the significant restructuring going on in his community,  maintains an optimistic outlook that there will continue to be opportunities out there for hard working Sailors. 

I departed NOSC Columbus impressed with the focus on readiness training, as well as the outstanding examples of the Continuum of Service in action. Their Skipper, CDR John Sterba, certainly runs a tight ship and is very much committed to ensuring the success of his Selected Reserve cadre assigned.The Navy Reserve talent pool is deep;  the expertise our Sailors bring to the Navy, the investment in training we provide and the commitment we have to our Sailor’s personal and professional readiness is the trifecta for excellence.  

As I continue my journeys around the Force, I look forward to seeing other outstanding examples of this excellence everywhere I go. 


Friday, October 5, 2012

Keeping the Balance

One of my first visits to the field shortly after assuming command was to the Boy Scout Summit construction site near Mount Hope, WV.  Navy Seabees are assisting in the construction through a program called Innovative Readiness Training which provides real world training opportunities for our service members and units to prepare them for their wartime missions while supporting the needs of America's underserved communities.  This site will be the future location for the Boy Scout Jamboree. 

While there I toured several different projects underway, with nearly every reserve component providing support. Along the way, I met a representative Sailor who particularly impressed me. Engineering Aid Second Class Jessica Lyn Leonard was the lead Engineering Aid on the JTF/Beckley Summit project.  At the time Petty Officer Leonard was surveying the construction of a large Amphitheater.  I was amazed at her education; she started by graduating from Florida Community College with an Associate of Arts degree in drafting certification in 2005 and has since completed her Bachelors of Arts degree majoring in Religion with a double minor in Urban and Regional Planning and Business Administration. Currently she's awaiting approval of her thesis for a Masters of Arts degree in the College of Design, Construction and Planning from the University of Florida.

I chose to highlight Petty Officer Leonard because she is great example of how to balance an incredibly busy lifestyle.  Why? Petty Officer Leonard is a wife, mother, a cancer survivor, a Sailor. She has volunteered 1,640 hours to local preservation societies, classrooms, and other places, using her skills as a planner, surveyor and drafter. Petty Officer Leonard is assigned to NMCB FOURTEEN DET 0614. 

She was only one of the many outstanding Reserve Sailors and Marines on the mountain that day but she exemplifies the balance the reserve member brings to the fight. While receiving great training and experience that only the US Navy can provide, her personal contributions equal that of the training she receives. To the Navy, she brings her extensive education; her life experiences and lessons learned; her commitment to her family, community and country; her professional expertise and most of all, her fighting spirit.

I was honored to be invited to visit that day. I was impressed by the work that was being accomplished. I was inspired by our sailors and I am committed to my Reserve Sailors like PO2 Leonard. She is a Navy Reserve Sailor. She is a war fighter. But she is just one example. I know there are thousands more like this around the Navy Reserve and I'd encourage you to share their stories here. I'm looking forward to reading about them.  

Thank you all and have a great weekend,

Monday, September 24, 2012

Speed Bumps


Assuming command a short 48 days ago, I’ve decided to jump in with both feet and start a blog.  My primary purpose in starting the blog is to highlight outstanding units and Sailors that I meet as I travel around the Navy Reserve Force.  I’d also like to generate discussion and get feedback on issues impacting our Navy Reserve Sailors today.

As the Commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command, I support the Navy Reserve mission of providing strategic depth and delivering operational capabilities to our Navy and Marine Corps team, and Joint forces, from peace to war.   I do this by delivering Reserve Sailors to their active component gaining commands at the right time with the right skills at the right readiness level.  My goal is to remove any barriers and “speed bumps” our Selected  Reservists  encounter while also maintaining accountability for the resources expended in getting these Sailors to the fleet.  It’s a fine balance. 

So, let’s kick this conversation off! First, sign up to receive my blog posts via email. Secondly, tell me about some of the “speed bumps” you have encountered in supporting your gaining command.   I’ll be using  your feedback to improve the process and am looking forward to starting a productive dialog!

All the best, Clutch