By Vice Adm. Bill Moran
A couple of years ago, our CNO coined the phrase “where it matters, when it matters” to plainly describe the unique proximity and responsiveness our Navy provides in times of conflict and crisis. And it’s our ready Sailors who make it happen.
This past week, Fleet Master Chief Beldo and I had the privilege of visiting many of these Sailors standing watch throughout the Arabian Gulf and CENTCOM.
We began our visit with the Bush Strike Group just hours after media first reported their air strikes against extremists in Iraq.
Our visit had been scheduled months ago and the reason was straightforward – to answer questions, to listen to comments and to take back concerns within our manning, personnel, training and education portfolio.
We anticipated meeting with Sailors who, given the pace of their work, would likely be a bit fatigued or even frustrated. What we found instead were motivated and energized Sailors who clearly understood the missions they were being asked to plan and carry out.
Over a three-day period, where we visited Bush, Roosevelt, Philippine Sea and units assigned in Bahrain (like Ponce, PC and MCM crews, VP-10 and any number of CTFs), Sailors gave us a healthy list of questions, comments and taskers. But what stood out above any one issue was their focus and enthusiasm.
This trip wrapped a year of visits to fleet concentration areas in every region around the globe. At each stop we met with Sailors and families to better understand rewards and distractions from their service. What we found was remarkable energy and resilience, but also stories of struggle and frustration with unpredictable deployments, inefficient detailing and antiquated training.
Based on Sailor feedback, Navy leadership took on initiatives to alter how and when we crew our units, improve quality of service, and change how we screen Sailors and families for overseas duty. We also increased sea pay, worked to reduce gaps at sea, and have proposed a new high-deployment pay for those away from home longer than seven months.
All of these initiatives are intended to increase morale, warfighting spirit and the ability to get the job done, but in some cases they were simply late or long overdue tasks.
To sustain and advance future initiatives our personnel business needs to become more nimble and responsive. We’ll need to anticipate and address challenges before they burden Sailors, create retention problems or hinder our warfighting focus. Beyond simply reacting to problems we will strive to be more forward leaning.
Over the next year, through continuous improvement, our team in DC, Millington, Pensacola and Great Lakes will focus on more long-term and aspirational goals aimed at improving our support to the Fleet.
Your feedback will continue to be important to advancing new efforts and breaking old paradigms. So please continue to share your comments and good ideas – every one of them helps.
See you in the Fleet,