First Tour Advice

Discussion in 'Life After the Academy' started by scutrules, Dec 12, 2015.

  1. scutrules

    scutrules 5-Year Member

    Dec 31, 2010
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    About to head out to schools and then to my ship! Looking for y'alls advice on what worked (or what didn't work) as a JO. Anything you wish you could've done? Anything you're angry you did? I guess I'm looking for ways to help my sailors as much as possible and if anyone has any advice, I'd love to hear it. Thanks!
  2. NavyHoops

    NavyHoops Super Moderator 5-Year Member

    Jul 13, 2011
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    Listen and watch. You learn so much. Don't ask your sailors to do anything you wouldn't do yourself. Listen to your senior enlisted. Every ship has a Bull Ensign... Ask him or her questions. JOs in the wardroom should be helping one another, they are a great resource for support and help. Watch some of the more senior JOs and see if their teams are performing well... Think about why? You will make mistakes... Just learn from them. Get to know your job and your Sailors while getting qualed. Good luck and enjoy the ride!
    USMCGrunt, AROTC-dad and Capt MJ like this.
  3. raimius

    raimius 10-Year Member

    Jun 9, 2006
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    Whatever your job, do your best.

    For example, in a flying squadron, it is common to be assigned duty as a snacko (in charge of the snack bar). While that is a simple job, it is also a test. It is highly visible if you do great or fail. The job itself is not that important (although aircrew love snacks!), but the measure of a new LT/ensign is easily visible in the performance of the job. At my previous base, I made a pretty good impression by simply keeping the snack bar stocked and running efficiently. It wasn't a tough job, but I made a good impression on leadership because I took it seriously. Really it was only 20 minutes of work a day...but everyone could judge the results. Some LTs after me did even better...others not so much.
    AROTC-dad, USMCGrunt and Capt MJ like this.
  4. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ 5-Year Member

    Sep 27, 2008
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    Good advice above. You will get assigned many collateral duties which will put you in front of others around the ship outside your immediate chain of command. Wardroom mess treasurer, PFT officer, assistant CDO, etc., or seasonal ones such as Combined Federal Campaign or Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society officer, transportation coordinator for some special ceremony or Mr./Ms. Vice at a foreign port call Dining In. Do them well with a cheerful attitude. If you wonder how junior officers get racked and stacked, it's because department heads other than your own see you do a job well and place you above your peer ensign in their department.

    Listen to your chief. Listen to your chief. Listen to your chief. If you disagree, don't do it in front of your sailors. Work it out privately and present a united front.

    Do not p-off the CMC. Consult them as a professional resource. They have raised many JOs.

    You are not a civilian after 1700 or whenever you leave the ship or are on leave or on social media. Ever. Bad impulses tank careers at every rank.

    Don't get behind on your sailors' admin, their leave papers, special requests, training, evals. They will notice. No special request chit ever sat overnight in my inbox or mail. If you need more info, ask for it. But act on it.

    And with regard to special request chits... Evaluate them from perspectives of what's right by the regs, what's right for the ship (are you consistent with ship's practice), what's right for them (good sailor? problem sailor?), and critically, what precedent does it set. This last trips up many a JO.

    You will make lots of decisions every day. You will never have 100% of the info you think you need, so you may have to proceed with 80% or less. You will make mistakes. Own them and fix them. You will make more and more decisions, and more important ones, as you rise in rank. Not making a decision and procrastinating is a decision.

    You will do well to earn the respect of your sailors. If they like you, that's great, but respect for your fairness, professionalism and consistency of thought and deed will carry you far on their hardworking shoulders.

    Look at the pay charts for enlisted personnel and appreciate they may have challenges you don't. Ensure you and your enlisted leaders have open lines of communication flowing upward and awareness of how to get a sailor help for personal problems before safety or other issues are exacerbated. Don't assume they will know this; this should be a regular theme of your leadership communications. Respect them for their roles. Officer and enlisted make an amazing team when both sides appreciate the other and work with one mind.

    Emails and texts are fine. F2f and phone calls are even better to hear early about problems and get you out of your stateroom to where your sailors work and live at sea.

    Do not shoot the messenger. Flaming people is short-sighted and will eventually ensure your people will avoid telling you bad news unless they absolutely have to or very late in the game. There are ways to express grave disappointment and encourage team solutions. It will take practice to clamp down on that first reaction while your brain is silently yelling "S_ _ T."

    Pay attention to your written work, whether emails, memos, JAGMAN investigations, point papers. All successful senior officers are good writers.

    Take advantage of every chance to do fun things in the far-flung corners of the world.

    Praise as often as you criticize. Thank your sailors. Smile at them - see them and know them. Don't party with them or have inappropriate personal conversations. It's your responsibility to keep professional distance and set the tone of the workplace.

    In addition to your primary and collateral duties, professional quals and watch standing, work some professional reading in. I always recommend ADM James Stavridis' books - a wealth of knowledge and insight from a master SWO, operational leader and philosopher. And for fun, read "Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun," by Wess Roberts.

    Understand the CO/XO goals, policies and philosophy. Do not question or critique those things in front of your troops, even with tone of voice or expression. If something bothers you, sit down with your immediate superior.

    You are not God's gift to your troops. They are God's gift to you. It will be your challenge, your burden, your joy and your honor to lead them.

    Ok - wow - not sure where all this came from. Years of mentoring junior officers and our USNA midshipmen and alumni sponsor family. Much of my advice comes from things my seniors told me.

    Good on you for asking this kind of question - excellent start. Good luck to you as you start this journey.

    Oh - if you get a nickname from your troops, and your chief tells you about it, it's probably a good thing. If you don't hear about it, or the XO pulls you aside, unsmiling, and asks you why he/she is hearing you are called "The Ax Man", this is probably not good.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2015
  5. Voyager20

    Voyager20 5-Year Member

    Sep 27, 2011
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    This is an excellent thread. However, for a few seconds after the initial read ...I was thinking - "really...isn't it all about being respectful and realizing one doesn't know much..." The thought very very quickly faded and I felt what an excellent thank you for posting your question.

    I like what others have posted...but will add two items: 1. communication communication communication and 2. if anyone wants greater responsibility then master the small, insignificant responsibilities that are first given to you. I am not military, but have worked in the corporate world and have lived a little to realize that most issues develop because of the lack of communication and... the attitude and work ethic of folks who think a job or assignment is beneath them.

    Best of luck on your first tour. I am sure you will do well, especially since you were conscientious enough to post such a question.
    Wishful and USMCGrunt like this.
  6. Day-Tripper

    Day-Tripper Member

    May 16, 2014
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    Regardless of your duty, be the first one in & the last one out.

    And don't get married. Plenty of time for that later when you've matured a bit.
  7. raimius

    raimius 10-Year Member

    Jun 9, 2006
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    Model the behavior you want from others. People watch those in leadership positions.
    Day-Tripper's first line is generally good advice, but be careful you don't set an expectation that troop's families are less valuable than finishing those minor e-mail taskers. If you work till 8pm every night, some people will get the notion that a "good" troop should do the same.
  8. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006 5-Year Member

    Nov 25, 2007
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    Be ready to fail but more importantly, be ready to learn from your failure.
    raimius likes this.
  9. Physicsguru

    Physicsguru 5-Year Member

    Jun 10, 2011
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    Ask your Chief for advice on how to run your shop, but ask your DivO/DH as well. Be able to communicate both up and down the chain of command.

    Orders coming down the chain are your policies, too. Don't say, "Do this because the skipper wants it." Say, "Do this and we will make it work." Take ownership of the orders coming down as if they are yours.

    Get hot, get qualed early. Be known as the guy who can get his assignments done. The ship needs watchstanders, not trainees.

    If there's something good for your division, be the last in line. If there's something bad, be the first. Example, be the first in line for shots, but the last in line for the cookies after.

    Always refer to your Sailors by their rank, never by the first name. They've earned their rank, just like you've earned yours.

    There is so much more to know, and asking advice is great, but in the end you just have to go and try stuff. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Always learn from your experience.

    Take the time every now and then to just enjoy the ride. Admire the stars, gaze at the sea, bask in the glow of a friendly poker game in the ward room, relish the feeling of a job well done. You have the ride of a lifetime ahead of you. Appreciate it!
  10. Jcleppe

    Jcleppe 5-Year Member

    Feb 10, 2010
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    Make sure when you buy a new 55 inch flat screen, that the TV stand is big enough to hold it.

    Seriously though, lots of great advice given above.

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