Pentagon orders for a JO

Kierkegaard

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Jan 26, 2017
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605
Wondering if anyone can comment on the nature of assignments to the Pentagon for junior officers on a shore tour. I know many senior officers find themselves stationed there, but is it common for unrestricted line O-3s to be stationed at the Pentagon after their Div-O tour? What would billets would they typically hold? All I could think of is flag aide and other administrative assistants. Are these billets considered career-enhancing? And in general, what considerations should go into picking where to do a shore tour whether one wants to stay in or get out afterwards?

Obviously all the JOs on the Yard are currently on their post-Div-O shore tour, and I have no plans to knock on the Commandant’s door to ask him about his experience. So does anyone here have any first or second hand knowledge of what it’s like?

Here’s what I do know. Largest single officespace in the world, huge bureaucracy. Unlike how it’s portrayed in Hollywood, it’s all pretty boring admin work like procurement, answering to Congress, and setting regulations, right? That’s all I know.
 

Capt MJ

Formerly Known As Attila The Hunnette
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Wondering if anyone can comment on the nature of assignments to the Pentagon for junior officers on a shore tour. I know many senior officers find themselves stationed there, but is it common for unrestricted line O-3s to be stationed at the Pentagon after their Div-O tour? What would billets would they typically hold? All I could think of is flag aide and other administrative assistants. Are these billets considered career-enhancing? And in general, what considerations should go into picking where to do a shore tour whether one wants to stay in or get out afterwards?

Obviously all the JOs on the Yard are currently on their post-Div-O shore tour, and I have no plans to knock on the Commandant’s door to ask him about his experience. So does anyone here have any first or second hand knowledge of what it’s like?

Here’s what I do know. Largest single officespace in the world, huge bureaucracy. Unlike how it’s portrayed in Hollywood, it’s all pretty boring admin work like procurement, answering to Congress, and setting regulations, right? That’s all I know.
Love to see you thinking ahead.
Let me set the scale for you at the Pentagon: one-star admirals are slide-flippers. Senior captains just out of major command (like the Dant) stand at the back of the briefing room for hours as a ready resource while the senior flags and very senior civilians sit at the table. URL O-3s are usually flag aides and seldom seen otherwise, unless they are a junior watchstander at a place like the White House Communications Agency or a RL type doing something normal for their career path. You occasionally see stellar JOs hand-plucked for something special, such as Protocol Aide to CNO or a junior speechwriter for CNO. That happened to two of our sponsor alumni family; both have gone on to command.

Staffs at the Pentagon are focused on the vision, mission, policy, resources, strategy, planning, programming, budgeting, for their services and forces. A lot of analysis, a lot of thinking 20-50 years ahead, a lot of fighting over priorities and funds - the other end of the spectrum from the operational pointy end of the spear, but necessary.

Flag aides at all levels (“loopers”) can be very good jobs, because of the exposure to how the Navy works at high levels, meeting potential mentors, having a flag officer sign your fitrep (if you’re a screw-up, it will sink you if bad paper), the eye-popping things you will hear and see, the professional growth demanded by the pressure to be a skilled trouble-shooter, politically astute, logistics ace, etc. The down sides are: much will depend if your flag is a great person, your leave time is at the discretion of the flag and their schedule, long hours, lots of travel, extremely difficult to get your Master’s during this period, which is the classic window to get it. I was a Flag Sec as a LCDR - huge career boost - later an EA to a 3-star. There is a special desk at BUPERS that handles flag aide assignments. It’s definitely competitive and highly selective. All three of our sponsor family who are now captains had flag aide tours. If you are already a stand-out performer as a JO, it’s a career accelerant. If you run into CAPT Beth Regoli ‘99 at the Yard, former BattO and now the SAPR (or current term) program officer, ask her about her time as aide to VP Biden. You have a huge range of shore tour officers of various communities to ask this question of - that is one of their roles, to help show the way to the next generation. Pick your time and place, and ask! Most of us like to talk about our careers. 😉

Your warfare community has web pages devoted to career paths. You will talk to senior officers in your designator about possible shore tours while you are in tour sea tours. DC staff/Pentagon duty is atypical.
Typical choices, and there are MANY more:
- full-time student at Naval Post-graduate School. Or even AFIT!
- instructor duty - USNA company officer or ProDev or faculty, instructor pilot in aviation pipeline, instructor at SOBC at Groton, etc.
- smaller shore-based staff in a major homeport, say, Schedules Officer in Operations at COMNAVSURFGRUMIDPAC in Pearl Harbor, nice if you roll off a ship tour there as a SWO.
- disassociated duty - aviators often go to officer recruiting duty. (Two aviators in their summer whites at a table outside my university post office found me, but that’s another sea story).
- a billet at a larger staff such as AIRPAC or SURFLANT or a joint staff where you start to build your skills in your sub-specialty. Your sub-specialty is a set of skills, separate from your warfare specialty, that you build with a related Master’s. designated shore tours, etc. My DH got his MS in Ops Research/Analysis (name changes) at NPS, then later shore tours built on that skill.

There are many options. Some of the best advice I got was the minute you arrive at a new duty station, start planning for what should come next. Ideally, that first shore tour should give you some opportunity to get your Master’s, either full-time or after-hours at a local school or on-base extension or remote. If you use the Navy dime or time, though, you incur ADSO. You don’t have to use it, though. One of our sponsor daughters knew she wanted to get out, so she got her MS in Engineering Management at ODU in Norfolk after hours but didn’t use Navy Tuition Assistance.

A good leader always takes time to do career counseling with their officers. I was blessed to have department heads, COs and XOs who had those sessions with me, made calls, helped me think it through. I tried to do the same for the officers who worked for me.

Lastly, do some digging for “official Navy bios for (name).” A lot of career background is out there in plain view.

 
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nuensis

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863
Your friendly neighborhood JO from whichever community you're looking at may have access to a JO shore billet slate they can show you for their community. That can give you an idea of typical jobs to expect for that community, including whether there are Pentagon billets on the slate, where, and how many.

Check out the SECNAV community brief, merit reorder briefs, the latest board convening order as a guideline on what is "career-enhancing." When you graduate, you should keep these to reference as you write your fitness reports to highlight things you've done that the Navy and your community values.
For example, Indo-Pacific area expertise is called out for all officers in the last convening order--doesn't mean you necessarily need to go to INDOPACOM staff, but taking a job at a China/Far East "shop" somewhere is valued. Things can change every year, so it's a bit of a moving target.

If you really want to get some senior officer mentorship, there's nothing wrong with getting on a senior officer's calendar for a chat, just give your company officer a heads up and schedule it in advance. I guarantee your JO instructors and company officers are doing the same.
 

kinnem

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One opportunity for JOs that is comparable to Naval Post-graduate school, etc. is the Congressional Fellowship Program. I know the USMC has this and I assume the other services do as well, although I don't know how they work. I've never been able to find info on the other services.

One would spend 6 months full-time working on a Masters in Public Policy at George Mason. Following that you spend a year working for a Congressman, Senator, or Congressional Committee staff while finishing their degree. The final 2 years is spent in the DoD Office of legislative affairs. There is a subsequent one year service obligation after that. I imagine a lot of this time is spent "standing in the back of the room" as Capt MJ says. I'm also sure a significant amount of time is spent gathering info the MOC has requested, and is entitled to see.

I can't speak to how career enhancing it is, but I find it hard to believe it will hurt. No doubt there is a lot to learn in this role.

Some folks have spent up to a year putting together their applications together for this program. It is not something you fall into.
 

nuensis

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I can't speak to how career enhancing it is, but I find it hard to believe it will hurt. No doubt there is a lot to learn in this role.
You'd be surprised. I remember there was a West Point grad that spoke out to the CSA about his Rhodes Scholarship program negatively affecting his career because his initial performance evaluations were poor compared to his peers. There's a YouTube video somewhere. I think the Army fixed it later on; the Navy assigns codes in records and adds special notes to convening orders so the board can account for gaps in performance.

Community requirements may conflict with special programs. For example, a Cryptologic Warfare officer doing an non-STEM master's program would be in a bit of trouble--in addition to two years of non-observed FITREPs, they would also be missing a STEM master's degree--a soft requirement for progression. They would have to either get another degree (i.e. on TA), or roll the dice.

Detailers always advertise that the most career enhancing tour is sustained superior performance at sea.
 

Capt MJ

Formerly Known As Attila The Hunnette
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Agreed strong performance in the warfare specialty in operational tours is critical for URL to build a stout foundation for advancement in rank. At some point, skills gained in shore duty in the subspecialty will add to the viability of a long career and continued promotion. One of our sponsor alumni family was an aviator in a soon-to-be-discontinued airframe. Did well in operational tours (flew HUMS missions for Japan tsunami), strategically switched over to FAO, has become an Indo-Pac specialist with 3 languages including Chinese via DLI and in-country tours, and a tour as a senior military attaché in the region. Just got picked up for O-6.

The needs of the Navy (or fill in service) will drive all.
 

flieger83

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CaptMJ wrote something profound that needs to be remembered by ALL midshipmen, cadets, junior anythings...

"Pick your time and place, and ask! Most of us like to talk about our careers. 😉"

I'm an air force guy; a pilot by career field, a staff pogue, exec, aide, etc. CaptMJ described it beautifully; especially Sodom-on-Potomac.

When I was "tasked" to serve as the "executive officer" to a one-star while I was a captain (O-3) (his hand-selected aide hadn't gotten out of the Command and Staff College yet) I thought I was given a sh** detail. WRONG WRONG WRONG!! The schedule was...tough...think "no rest for the weary" and "...get out here, we're catching a jet..." and that kind of life 24/7. However, my general exposed me to the inner workings of large military organizations. He was, at that time, an air division commander (we don't have them anymore) which comprised several air force bases composed of combined strategic missile and bomber wings. His boss was a three-star.

Have you ever said, "I'd love to be a fly on the wall..." That's what it was like, except I did the slide presentation preparations, helped brief "the boss" and was his "rep" to the wing commanders (O-6s...which made my job a tad scary...ever had to tell someone three layers above you that their idea is not a good one?) However, each and every one of those senior officers sorta took me under their wing and mentored me. Sure, they were working me to get to the boss, but in the meantime, I learned a ton! And at the end, the "new major, aide to the GO" arrived and I went back to my "real" job of flying jets. However...surprising me (I didn't know the rules that well then) I received what we in the air force called an OPR (In the navy its a FITREP) which was basically firewalled and signed, not by the typical O-4, and then an O-5 endorser, but by the O-7 and nobody else. That was a huge "flag" in my records.

That "Sir, do I really have to do this? Can't some senior officer, someone about to make major, uh, someone else...take this?" job I was "stuck" with? It opened SO many doors and exposed me to some amazing senior officers and civilians. They in turn helped mentor me in my career. And, as CaptMJ said, most are happy to discuss their careers and to offer advice for yours! I picked so many brains for ideas, to bounce my ideas off of...make the time.
 

Kierkegaard

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Jan 26, 2017
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605
Thank you all. Sounds like those opportunities are competitive and quite involved relative to other options such as teaching ROTC. Definitely something I’ll be looking more into over the next few years. I’ve always heard that the shore tour was supposed to be a little bit of a break, but maybe these are geared more toward the workaholic that thrives under a fast work tempo and wants to get out of their assignment what they put in. Being an aide and speechwriter for an admiral sounds like it would be a high-pressure but rewarding billet.
 

UHBlackhawk

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Sep 22, 2015
Messages
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CaptMJ wrote something profound that needs to be remembered by ALL midshipmen, cadets, junior anythings...

"Pick your time and place, and ask! Most of us like to talk about our careers. 😉"

I'm an air force guy; a pilot by career field, a staff pogue, exec, aide, etc. CaptMJ described it beautifully; especially Sodom-on-Potomac.

When I was "tasked" to serve as the "executive officer" to a one-star while I was a captain (O-3) (his hand-selected aide hadn't gotten out of the Command and Staff College yet) I thought I was given a sh** detail. WRONG WRONG WRONG!! The schedule was...tough...think "no rest for the weary" and "...get out here, we're catching a jet..." and that kind of life 24/7. However, my general exposed me to the inner workings of large military organizations. He was, at that time, an air division commander (we don't have them anymore) which comprised several air force bases composed of combined strategic missile and bomber wings. His boss was a three-star.

Have you ever said, "I'd love to be a fly on the wall..." That's what it was like, except I did the slide presentation preparations, helped brief "the boss" and was his "rep" to the wing commanders (O-6s...which made my job a tad scary...ever had to tell someone three layers above you that their idea is not a good one?) However, each and every one of those senior officers sorta took me under their wing and mentored me. Sure, they were working me to get to the boss, but in the meantime, I learned a ton! And at the end, the "new major, aide to the GO" arrived and I went back to my "real" job of flying jets. However...surprising me (I didn't know the rules that well then) I received what we in the air force called an OPR (In the navy its a FITREP) which was basically firewalled and signed, not by the typical O-4, and then an O-5 endorser, but by the O-7 and nobody else. That was a huge "flag" in my records.

That "Sir, do I really have to do this? Can't some senior officer, someone about to make major, uh, someone else...take this?" job I was "stuck" with? It opened SO many doors and exposed me to some amazing senior officers and civilians. They in turn helped mentor me in my career. And, as CaptMJ said, most are happy to discuss their careers and to offer advice for yours! I picked so many brains for ideas, to bounce my ideas off of...make the time.
I knew a guy who was selected to command a company in the 160th as an O-4, a very desirable flying position. Soon after taking command he was selected BZ to O-5, but told he would finish his command. He was then told to go TDY to DC and interview as an aide for the COS of the Army. He bluntly told the COS “Thank you, but no thank you”, that he didn’t want the position and was in the best place he could possibly be. Thought that was the end of it.
A week later he got orders for DC to be an aide to the COS. Apparently, telling him he didn’t want the job was the wrong thing to say.
 
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Chockstock

The Stars and Stripes Forever
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On that note are there any FAOs or Strategic Intel folks here? Would love to hear from you...
 

TBVADAD

Former Navy CTM > Dad to 3 > Official Dog walker
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Never spend time at the Pentagon as a military member. I was there for 8 years as a contractor. Still some of the best years of my life.

Met so many great members of the military (enlisted and officers).

Funniest moment was during the early years of Enduring Freedom. General Richard Myers was with a bunch of aides. Depending on when you were there an older cafe with a Taco bell was across the hall from JCOS office.

The General wanted Taco Bell. Aide was headed over and he was like no I will get it. I stood in line behind him to get some myself. I kinda of stood in the middle of the cooridor in awe that he was going to get his own Taco Bell ;-).

One of the funniest moments I remember.
 
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