Talking Points – Talking to Kids about Naval Service

BLUF: Tell the kids why you joined, what you did, why you choose to stay in and how they can service their country and community.

Tomorrow I don my uniform and head out to talk to my son’s cub scout den about Naval Service.

Truth be told I’m actually more nervous about talking to some 7-8 year old boys than my Change of Command Speech which is only a few days after. Continue reading “Talking Points – Talking to Kids about Naval Service”

Driving In Traffic Makes Me a better Naval Officer and Man

I fundamentally believe that driving in San Diego rush hour traffic makes me a better Man, Husband and Naval Officer.

A few days ago someone did what drivers have been doing since the beginning of the Eisenhower Interstate System.  Cut me off. I had to swerve, hit the breaks and If I had not acted we would have had an accident.

While there was nothing remarkable about getting cut off, what was remarkable was  that my first emotion was not anger or even getting upset; my first emotion was humor. I laughed out loud slowed down and proceeded on my way. Continue reading “Driving In Traffic Makes Me a better Naval Officer and Man”

My BWC / TAO / OOD Board Questions

BLUF: At its core a BWC / TAO / OOD is a position of trust. Not knowledge, not compantcy, not hard work can replace that trust. I must be able to look you in the eye and know that you will make the right decision on my behalf.

While knowledge is important, trust is even more important. That is why this is really more of a “discussion” than a “board”. I want to walk away trusting my new BWC, and I want my new BWC to walk away trusting me when he/she decides to wake me up at 2:00am

Below are some of my most common BWC questions. These questions are geared toward Mine Countermeasures Staff which has command and control over  US and Coalition Surface Mine Sweepers, Helicopters, and EOD Divers.


BWC  Board Discussion

Intent of the board: provide me an understanding how how well I trust the oncoming BWC, and how much latitude to give him/her. To have a discussion on my expectations. Understand that this is a position of trust.

No instruction shall take the place of sound judgement.

What are my the wakeup criteria?

One of those criteria were meet. Give me a wakup call.

Desired Response:

  1. To have a discussion about wake up call expectations
  2. Convey you can always call


You are standing watch as BWC during RIMPAC 2018 in building 139. You receive a call from a frantic Canadian diver from a CTU not assigned to us who reports “hey mate, one of your helicopters is operating in the wrong location and just abuut hit my diver”. You look out the window and can visually tell that the helicopter is operating in the proper location.

How do you respond?

Desired response:

  • Quickly acknowledge something is wrong and immediate action is required.
  • Recognize that it does not matter who is wrong (helo or divers) but that the BWC needs to take decisive action.
  • FIRST: Take that decisive action.
  • SECOND: Notify us.


You are standing the midwatch as BWC on watch onboard the USS XXX. At 0400 the XO walks in while doing his rounds. He quickly looks over your plan and says “wow, that does not seem to safe, I really would not do that if I were you”, he shakes his head and walks out.

How do you respond?

Desired response:

  • Quickly acknowledge something is wrong
  • Acknowledge the XO is not in the chain of command; yet his/her opinion as a senior naval officer counts.
  • Quickly be willing to pause operations
  • Quickly be willing to wake us up

It is 2200 and you are BWC during BALTOPS. Over the last three days one of your French ships that you have TACON over has been complaining in their LOGREQ about being low on wine and cheese. The ship CO gives you a ring and reports that he has just worked a deal with his French logistics ship to have a Belgian helicopter conduct a VERTREP to deliver the wine and cheese. The helo will also drop off some parts and conduct a pax transfer.

This VERTREP will not take the French ship of station and is scheduled for 0530 the next morning.

You review the CCIR’s and note that there is no mention of UNREPS in CO’s wakeup criteria.

Desired response:

  • Recognize that although TACON does not include logistic responsibilities, and this is not a CCIR, this is a big deal.
  • Forsee CAPT Cronin’s response if he learned about this at 0600 the next morning.
  • Gather additional information and give us a ring.


Slow motion train wreck: It is the end of a 4 week RIMPAC exercise and everyone has worked hard and is ready to get home. The final ENDEX requirement is mine recovery.  It is Sunday afternoon after the end of exercise party and the dive team had just been recalled to conduct an ordnance recovery in 180 feet of water after the MK-7 sea lions team refused to dive due to an increase in shipping and fishing traffic in that area. It is getting dark, and the weather is kicking up a bit, but still within limits.  Furthermore the dive team’s chief left a day before the exercise ended back to VA Beach as his wife was having a baby, and the team is led by a new ensign. The LPO is a confident 2/c EOD diver and reported to you that he’s done this job thousands of times and that the team is good to go.

In addition the chamber team has already started packing up but they report that in an emergency they can have it ready in about 60 minutes.

(one engine on boat, flat tire on emergency truck, low cylinder pressure, debris on bottom, dive sup prone to seasickness, no radio but working cell phones)

You take a quick look at the risk matrix and see that the dive team is not violating any one item on the matrix. You talk to your EOD rep and there is nothing in any instruction that prevents you from this mine recovery. You call to the EOD unit CDO to verify and the YN1 answers. He reviews the instructions and afferms that you are not in violation of any diving instruction.  You can not get ahold of anyone.

This job needs to be complete tonight as the mines are scheduled for repainting and refurb on monday. Removing the mines is the last item on SMWDC and ADMIRAL Wade’s requirement for ENDEX.

Desired response:

  • Recognize the false sense of urgency.
  • Recognize that no instruction supersedes good judgment.
  • Hold the team at the pier until you get further guidance.


MN1 Taylor, your primary MEDAL operator,  shows up dead sick and totally non functional to his 0100 watch. It is a slow night and MNC Ricks can very easily cover MN1’s position.  What do you do?

Desired response:

  • Empower you to make good, common sense decisions without always checking with us. This is a position of trust.
  • Acknowledge that I signed the watch bill and that is should not be changed without my approval.

What risk are you willing to accept on your behalf, and what must you push up?

Desired response:

  • Accept risk that will stay at DIV31 level; push up risk that will go outside our lifelines.

How do you balance passing up too much information with too little information?


Naval Officer Board Questions


  • Who is your mentor?
  • What are your reading?
  • Why do you want to get off the CMC track and get on the CO track?
  • As an OIC what would you change about MU-2?
  • What is the most useful criticism you’ve ever received?
  • Of all the work (personal / professional) you have done, where have you been the most successful?
  • What does your selected career path look like?
  • Tell me about a failure
  • What specific strengths did you bring to the table?
  • How have previous jobs prepared you for greater responsibility?
  • Describe your leadership style now, and as an Officer?
  • How would others describe you?
  • How do you balance life and work?
  • Do you consider yourself successful?
  • Ethical decision (right vs right)

The Call From the Admiral

Last month I got THE call from THE Admiral.

He first told me that I was a great guy, a fine Naval Officer, and an excellent EOD officer. He told me that my service was appreciated, and I’ve done great things for the community. He let me know that there are many other jobs in the Navy where I could serve. Then he dropped the proverbial bomb.

“Sorry John, but the EOD Leadership had determined that you were not selected for EOD command”

Bummer, Even a bigger bummer since this was my third and final look for EOD command.

While the call was disappointing it was not unexpected. I had known for the last few years that my shot at EOD command was a long shot. Even though I still ran hard and tried to stay competitive. After my EOD XO ride I took a second XO ride, then a 3rd XO ride, and then even a 4th XO ride; probably making me the longest continually serving XO in the Navy.  While I new the chances were slim I did my best to stay competitive.

Even with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th executive officer rides were not enough to get me over the top. And while the results are disappointing, it is good to have closure on that aspect of my life. My end game has now gone from fuzzy to focused, and it is now very unlikely I will be serve to make Captain.

While one pathway is closed, other have now opened. Namely, I can now focus on my new job as the CO of A Mine Warfare Command. I can also focus on on my end game. I can focus on finishing strong, making an impact where I am and developing those under me.

In addition to my focus on the Navy, I can start to focus on the process of getting out. Whether that is in 2, 4 or 6 years from now

Over the next few years I will be writing weekly and to record lessons learned as I transition from a Naval Officer to my next career. Hope you follow along.