BZ and hot issues

The following blog, written by Rear Adm. T.K. Shannon, commander, Military Sealift Command, talks about MSC’s current hot topics, beginning with a “bravo zulu” for the crew of fleet replenishment oiler USNS Leroy Grumman (T-AO 195) in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

USNS Leroy Grumman (T-AO 195) arrives Sept. 2 in Souda Bay, Greece. (U.S. Navy photo by Paul Farley)

USNS Leroy Grumman (T-AO 195) arrives Sept. 2 in Souda Bay, Greece. (U.S. Navy photo by Paul Farley)

 They’re just doing their job – providing fuel, food and spare parts to our fleet. But it’s an important job, and USNS Leroy Grumman is the main logistics show in town in the Eastern Mediterranean. Our civil service mariners aboard Leroy Grumman are supporting four destroyers, two NATO ships and an Amphibious Ready Group. That’s a lot of hungry Marines and Sailors to feed, a lot of generators and aircraft to fuel, and a lot of ships to bunker as our Navy remains forward deployed and ready for whatever occurs in that volatile area. Leroy Grumman is averaging five underway replenishments a day, with frequent port visits to restock. The professionalism and gung-ho attitude of our CIVMARs on Leroy Grumman are sterling examples of why our reputation is so strong among our Navy and Marine Corps customers. “Bravo Zulu” to Captain Dave Murrin, Chief Engineer Timothy Carway, and their mariners for all their hard work!

Current topics

I’ve conducted All Hands Calls at our three largest stateside locations: San Diego, Washington, D.C., and Norfolk. With current budget restrictions, I haven’t visited our area commands around the world yet. So let me fill you in on a couple of topics and what I’ve heard so far in the way of feedback.

First, our budget environment is obviously pretty bleak. Congress seems to be in gridlock, and I don’t see that changing soon, so it’s likely sequestration and all of its consequences will continue to affect us in fiscal year 2014. I need your help and ideas on how we can do things better, faster, more effectively, more efficiently. Like I’ve said before, feedback is the breakfast of champions. Please, let me hear what you’ve got to say. The best ideas are on the deck plates and in our staff.

Geographical consolidation of MSC headquarters is causing a big buzz. As the new guy at the MSC helm, I’m coming in with my eyes and ears wide open, and I’m not convinced we have covered all the bases yet. Right now, I have more questions than answers. Is there a business case for a geographic consolidation? Yes. But, a consolidation would involve more than just money. It involves people – both now and many years down the road. Budget realities being what they are, I don’t see any move anytime soon. There is still much information to be gathered before a final decision can be made.

The last topic is command climate surveys. You just went through one about a year ago. Briefly, the results showed three strength areas: positive equal opportunity behaviors, good work group effectiveness and generally good job satisfaction across the workforce. Three concerns that came to light were trust in the organization, leadership cohesion and sexual assault bystander intervention. By now you all should have had the new version of sexual assault bystander intervention training. It’s a serious subject that affects all of us and we must improve in that area.

As for the other weaknesses, we’ll find out from a new survey which just began. I’ve asked you to participate in our Command Climate Survey that I’m required to conduct after I’ve been at the helm 90 days. It will give us a take on where we’ve improved or not improved, compared to last year’s baseline data.

Command buzz

I have gotten some great feedback from our All Hands Calls I’ve conducted; I really appreciate that forum. Communications is always a challenge in large organizations, and I will endeavor to make our communications better every day. It’s definitely an area we’ll work on as it affects our important implementation of competency alignment.

I hear that you’re concerned about bosses who may be 3,000 miles away. I understand that there is a perception that competency alignment is a Washington, D.C. – Norfolk issue. I know we need to communicate much better what competency alignment is, what it is designed to do and how it should work. More to come on that.

There’s a lot of interest in the field about our new ships – JHSV, MLP, AFSB. I get excited, too, but we can’t lose sight of our core capabilities: sealift, combat force logistics and fleet support. They are what keep our Navy on station and mission-ready.

Those are the major areas of feedback I’m getting. Everything I hear helps me understand, make decisions and move forward. Please keep the feedback coming.

Thanks for your service!

T.K. Shannon
Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy
Commander, Military Sealift Command


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