Spotlight on CIVMAR turned Military Sealift Command Europe and Africa civilian Deputy Operations Officer Bob Kenney

Military Sealift Command Europe and Africa civilian Deputy Operations Officer Bob Kenney

Military Sealift Command Europe and Africa civilian Deputy Operations Officer Bob Kenney

Q: How many years did you work as a civil service mariner (CIVMAR)?

A: After graduating from the State University of New York’s (SUNY) Maritime Academy in 1992, I worked as a CIVMAR for 13 years, starting as a Third Mate and working my way up to a Chief Mate, also obtaining my master’s license. I worked aboard MSC ships including USNS Sirius, USNS Lenthall, USNS Saturn, USNS Patuxent, USNS Humphreys, USNS Kanawha and USNS San Jose. I’d started thinking about becoming a mariner at a young age – I grew up in Long Island on the water and used to watch the ships coming into New York Harbor. A friend of the family went to SUNY Maritime, which helped me figure out my own college track.

Q: What was your favorite part of being a CIVMAR?

A: The memory that has stayed with me most profoundly is the feeling of being in charge of an underway replenishment. Nothing compares to a 1,000-foot carrier pulling up alongside us, 180-feet off the port side of the ship, and taking on fuel for three hours. It’s a physical feat of manpower, having the right people in the right place for everything, and an awareness of everything that could go wrong.

I also loved working with a lot of different people from all walks of life, from people who started working without a high school education through people who had several master’s degrees. MSC ships bring so many different types of people together on a platform only about 600 feet long. During our watches, you could really get to know a person. I remember one guy, who was one of 15 kids in a family from New York City.

Second Officer Bob Kenney stands watch aboard USNS Patuxent in 1998

Second Officer Bob Kenney stands watch aboard USNS Patuxent in 1998

Q: What is the most memorable mission you played a role in aboard an MSC ship?

A: My first big mission was during the war in Bosnia in the mid-1990s, working all of the time with the USS Truman and USS George Washington carrier strike groups while I was aboard USNS Saturn. We worked incredibly busy days in the Mediterranean Sea and we felt very connected to the war taking place not far away. We could see the missiles from the ship at night, and then the next day we’d read about the event in the newspaper. We really felt like we were at the tip of the spear.

Q: When and why did you transition from working at sea as a CIVMAR to an ashore job?

A: I transitioned to an ashore job after my first daughter was born and my second daughter was on the way. After spending eight or nine months a year on a ship, I was tired out and wanted to spend more time with my family. But I can’t say that I don’t miss the feeling of being at sea.

Third Officer Bob Kenney stands watch aboard USNS Sirius in 1993.

Third Officer Bob Kenney stands watch aboard USNS Sirius in 1993.

Q: What has your career looked like since then?

A: After ending my career as a CIVMAR, I began working for the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Maritime Center. I then moved to MSC Headquarters in Washington, D.C., to work in the safety division. My family and I moved to Naples, Italy, in 2010, where I became the civilian Deputy Operations Officer for MSC

ships operating in Europe and Africa. I will return back to the United States this summer to work in MSC’s Norfolk office.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your current job?

A: It’s been wonderful to reconnect with old shipmates and become part of a lot of great operations supporting not only U.S. 6th Fleet, but U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Transportation Command. Sometimes when CIVMARs call from the ships, I’m able to connect with them and they know that I, as a former CIVMAR, know what’s going on and what they’re talking about. I can then better explain the position of the master’s to senior military leadership on my end.

Q: How do you think the rest of the Navy views MSC?

A: I’m excited about the direction MSC is going in. MSC seems to be recognized as a leader in the naval services at the most senior level. Platforms are being envied by the military services across the board, as the military sees MSC’s ability to run ships efficiently. CIVMARs are dedicated people and employees, and that shows in their work.

Q: How has your experience as a CIVMAR helped you in the ashore professional workplace?

A: Working as a CIVMAR teaches you unbelievable training in personnel management; conflict management; and communication. You learn how to be self-resourceful out at sea and find solutions on your own, as you are required to be dependent on yourself to get many things done. Your attitude is always part of the solution on a ship. You learn to deal with stress appropriately and move forward. You also learn to take pride in every aspect of what you do.

Q: What advice do you have for MSC’s current CIVMAR community?

A: Don’t discount anything you’ve done in the past – document all of you training and experience. Use your time at sea to improve yourself professionally and seek-out all available training online. Establish good contacts. Always know what’s required in the job you want next, so you can step into the job at any point when you’re needed.

Q: Which CIVMARs have you looked to as role models throughout your career?

A: I learned true commitment to running a ship in a professional manner by so many wonderful individuals working for MSC. I must give a shout-out to Captains Jim Dolan and Rich Cicchetti, and Chief Engineers Steve Burdi and Peter Shuffels.

Kenney's former ship, Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS John Lenthall (T-AO 189) conducts an underway replenishment with a U.S. Navy combatant ship in the Mediterranean Sea.

Kenney’s former ship, Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS John Lenthall (T-AO 189) conducts an underway replenishment with a U.S. Navy combatant ship in the Mediterranean Sea.

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