By MC1 Sarah Villegas, Office of the MCPON
Known for its sprawling mountains, pine forests, and rivers of coffee, the Pacific Northwest (PNW) is a picturesque tourist destination.
It’s also home to several navy bases — serving critical warfare areas and providing an environment for the fleet to train, repair and replenish.
MyNavyHr recently brought Navy leadership and detailers to meet with PNW Sailors to share more on current and upcoming initiatives while giving attendees the chance to share feedback during a Career Development Symposium.
The forum was about practicing radical candor on both ends: admirals and seamen alike, being transparent about limitations and opinions respectively. Imagine having the chance to tell “them” how much you dislike a policy or have a bone to pick with the process of picking orders? Sailors were able to do just that. Rather than being penalized for criticism, they were encouraged to speak up and offer solutions as to how we can work to fix issues and improve the Navy.
This is where the whole process starts. Leaders like MCPON, the Chief of Naval Personnel, and the commander of Navy Personnel Command hit the road to find out what you need most. They visit ships, submarines and air squadrons to see what our folks need in order to accomplish the mission, while taking care of themselves and their families.
Fulfilling those needs may involve various types of actions such as requesting increased funding in the budget, mining for innovative ideas, to finding compromises that work best for the Sailor and the Navy at large. From their visit to the deckplates, leadership then takes feedback and new ideas back to Washington D.C. to discuss with other senior leaders, such as the Chief of Naval Operations, Secretary of the Navy, and, as necessary, congressional members.
Admittedly, positive change and addressing some of our most vexing challenges can be a slow moving process, often requiring additional funding, approval at various levels, and congressional support.
Some issues are easier to identify and solve than others. The feedback we get from Sailors on the deck plates is only part of the equation. Other parts include Facebook Live events, questions and comments on command social media pages, external media coverage, and other types of events, for instance, the National Discussion on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at America’s Colleges, Universities and Service Academies.
From these multiple sources, themes start to emerge, priorities determined, and perspective solutions become clearer. This all results in the wheels of positive change in the Navy to begin turning internally — and the wheels are always turning whether you seem them or not.
This is why it’s crucial that you speak up — in a constructive manner — and share your insights. More than saying “it sucks,” share your ideas on how we can make it better for you, your Sailors, your family, and everyone that follows. After all, it’s your Navy. We are fortunate to live in an era where leadership believes that your voice is critical in solving the issues at hand. And, increasingly, there a multiple avenues of communication that are easier and more direct. Sure, it might seem intimidating to stand up and ask MCPON or an admiral a question, but remember, these leaders come to listen.
The purpose of the many efforts discussed at CDS is to remove distractions that stand in the way of readiness. “Instead of standing in line at PSD or wasting your time trying to fix your pay, we want you to be able to perfect your craft while knowing that you and your family are well cared for.” -MCPON Smith
The Navy is home to tremendous opportunities. As with any organization, it must continuously evolve and remedy issues in order to make it better for those who are a part of it. In order to reduce administrative distractions, there are projects underway to consolidate and improve communication between databases, so that a Sailor has to input one piece of information one time. Some of these creaky databases date back decades! That’s just one example that shows the mountains we’re climbing to modernize our personnel systems.
Commonly Asked Questions from CDS PNW:
Q: How does the Meritorious Advancement Program affect quotas?
Q: What’s the latest on Tuition Assistance?
A: Beginning Oct. 1, 2019, enlisted Sailors and officers must complete a minimum of two years of service before becoming eligible to use TA or NCPACE instructor-led or Distance Learning (DL) courses. This requirement may not be waived. In addition, TA and NCPACE (DL) funding is capped at 12 semester hours (or equivalent quarter hours) per fiscal year (FY) and a total of 120 semester hours (or equivalent quarter hours) in a career. Most Sailors in recent years have only used up to an average of nine semester hours annually. NAVADMIN 114/19
Q: What is the Navy doing about increasing the availability of child care?
A: The Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC), which oversees the CDCs and MCCYN, is working hard to address the child care capacity shortfalls issue. While the Navy has made significant headway to meet the demand for child care Navy-wide through the combination of military-operated and approved community-based programs, there is more work to do. In FY20, Navy has budgeted increased funding for child care to add 1,000 new spaces through community partnerships.
Q: Why is the Navy including planks to the Navy PRT?
A: The plank is a better test of core strength and endurance and will likely reduce lower back injuries or strain due to poor form when doing the curl-up. The plank will be a timed event with scoring based on the amount of time a Sailor can maintain the plank position. Currently, the goal is to release these changes in calendar year 2020.
Q: What about beards?
A: No changes to the current policy are being considered. Safety continues to be the primary concern. In March 2016, the Naval Safety Center conducted a study to consider how facial hair affects the proper fit of respirators worn to conduct many duties in the Navy. The results showed that in general, the presence of beards and wide sideburns had a detrimental effect on the performance of the respirators. The study concluded that facial hair interferes with the seal and degrades respirator performance.
Obviously some of these are of much greater importance than others — depending on your circumstances both professionally and personally. These issues aren’t to be taken lightly, because they directly correlate to the livelihood, well-being, and retention of skilled Sailors.
Even if you don’t have a CDS coming to you anytime soon, you’re encouraged to reach out and reach up. Write a point paper, send an email to (email@example.com), or connect with the Navy on social media to shape the future of our Navy. Not only are you allowed, but you’re encouraged to do so.
Just as the PNW is riddled with rugged terrain and obstacles to overcome, so is your service. Anything worth doing will have its challenges — but it’s better to be equipped with the gear and resources you need to get to the top of that mountain.