2004 Submarine Force Junior Officers of the Year on the west steps of the U.S. Capitol.

Junior Officers of the Year Storm Washington, D.C.
by Jen Zeldis

With visits to the Capitol, the White House, and the Pentagon, you might think the pack of 18 submariners who came to Washington, Mar. 2 was just a standard group of tourists. However, these were VIPs, here for a series of insider tours and meetings with top-level officers in recognition of their designation as the Submarine Force’s 2004 Junior Officers of the Year (JOOY). Using a series of professional boards and competitions, each squadron and submarine tender selected its own JOOY based on shiphandling, tactical, navigation, and casualty-control skills.

During their three-day visit to the nation’s capital, the young officers met and discussed the future of the Submarine Force with Senator Richard Burr (R-NC); Adm. John B. Nathman, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command (then Vice Chief of Naval Operations); Adm. Kirkland H. Donald, Director, Naval Nuclear Reactors; and Rear Adm. Joseph A. Walsh, Director, Submarine Warfare Division (OPNAV N77). They also had an evening tour of the White House, a chance to explore the halls of the Pentagon, and time to rub elbows with members of Congress at the U.S. Capitol.

Selection to this elite group marks each individual as an officer whose career will be subject to high expectations for years to come, according to Lt. Cmdr. Scott Young, the N77 Congressional Liaison and the JOOY liaison in D.C. However, he believes these Sailors can handle the publicity and the Submarine Force is more than proud to identify its 2004 Junior Officers of the Year. (See sidebar.)
UNDERSEA WARFARE Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with these junior officers while they were in the D.C. area to talk about their visit, their careers, and their perspective on the future of the Submarine Force.

Photo caption follows
(left to right) Lt. Tom Jones, Lt. Alex Baerg, Lt. Pratik Joshi, and Lt. Ben Britt during a presentation at the Pentagon.

USW: Tell us about your visit to D.C.

Lt. Eric Hardisty: Going to the White House was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We were allowed to go into the West Wing and see the Cabinet Room and the Oval Office. These are places I wouldn’t normally get to see if it weren’t for the JOOY program. So I really appreciate our hosts [retired Navy Capt. Bruce Miller, USN, Deputy Assistant for Homeland Security, Office of the Vice President, and Capt. Jim Howe, USCG, Office of the Vice President] for taking the trouble to show us around at 10 o’clock at night on their own time. It was a humbling experience.

Lt. Robert Rose: I think my favorite part of the trip was being able to learn a little more about the workings of the Navy as a whole, especially seeing the White House and Capitol Hill with two retired Navy captains. Sometimes on the boat it seems that we’ve got blinders on and all we see is our little submarine world. Now, I’ve seen a lot more about how the Navy works and can understand it all better.

Lt. Aaron Peterson: I would say one of my favorite parts was realizing just how small our community is. I think every one of us ran into somebody here that we had known before. We ran into our old commodores. The retired captain that gave us the White House tour was the guy who interviewed me when I was a Midshipman!

Lt. William Wiley: I did graduate work at Georgetown and did my internship on the Hill, so I know this area. What I liked best was just being able to hang out with all the guys. We had known each other a little bit in the pipeline, but we haven’t seen much of each other in the last three years. A lot of us hadn’t met since we graduated from the Naval Academy! It was a great opportunity to hear different opinions and learn about experiences on other boats.

Lt. Travis Haire: I’m from Parche, which is decommissioning and will no longer go to sea, so it’s been great to talk to these guys and see what everyone else is doing in the Navy.

Lt. Thomas O’Donnell: Something that intrigued me while we were here was seeing the financial aspects of keeping the Submarine Force viable into the future. We talked with several admirals who have a few years left in their career – they’ve probably already done more than 25 – and they were talking about the future of the force. They seemed to say that at our level, we don’t really need to worry about stuff that’s way down the road. But we started looking at some time lines and realized that if we were in their shoes 20 years from now, it is going to affect us. Some of us are going to be COs in 15 years; some of us will be admirals in 20. The stuff that we’re talking about today is really what we’re going to be working with in the future. Not all of us will stay in – but those who do have seen a snapshot of what our future will look like and what the possibilities are.

Photo caption follows
Lt. Will Wiley and Lt. Travis Haire listen to a presentation given by Lt. Cmdr. Scott Young, Plans Assistant and Congressional Liaison, N77.

USW: Looking toward your future in the Navy, what do you see as your career path?

Lt. Wiley: It doesn’t matter where you do your JO tour. You just have to get a lot of good experience, a lot of time learning how to drive the boat, learning how to do your job, and learning how a submarine runs. But for your department head tour, I’ve been told you want to be an engineer on a boomer or a fast-attack – or a navigator on a fast-attack. You need that to be competitive for XO and CO.

Lt. Thomas Jones: The detailers try to spread your experience over fast-attacks and SSBNs. They don’t want separate SSN and SSBN navies, so throughout your tours, they intentionally try to give you experience on both platforms. Also, it doesn’t matter on your department-head tour if you’re the weapons officer, the navigator, or the engineer, as far as making XO or CO is concerned. My last CO had been “weps.” There are very good weapons officers and very good navigators. Often, good guys are deliberately made weapons officers and navigators – so it’s not just the best guy who gets to be an engineer.

Lt. John Augenblick: Think about what’s important to the officer corps. You can know every step, point, and procedure, but if you don’t understand the human and social dynamics that underlie submarining – you don’t know anything at all. And that’s not specific to the boomer or the fast-attack. That is the crux of what a JO tour is supposed to teach you to understand.

Lt. Kevin Millslagle: I just want to add to the discussion here that there are certain jobs that are more sought after because they provide a better opportunity to excel.

Lt. Ronald Ibbetson: I see too many people in the Navy going after their career. We’re warfighters, and as warfighters, we have a specific mission to accomplish. Sometimes what really turns me off are people who are in the Navy only for themselves and their careers. I can’t say I’m entirely innocent – because I enjoy the money and the leadership experience, too. But I will say I’m doing it for a lot of other reasons and that’s why I came back into the service. I think you are going to be successful as a CO if you care about your people and care about the mission you are performing. You should want to be the best CO, because you want to be a successful submarine warfighter, and not because you want to make admiral someday or be the next commodore.

Lt. Jones: I’ve been in the Navy for 17 years – and this may sound like a cliché – but when people are willing to do the tougher jobs and do them well, their careers take care of themselves. You may not be ecstatic about the job opportunities you’re presented with, but the detailers are making a concerted effort to put you in the best position to excel, so you screen for O-4 on the first look, you screen for O-5, and then you screen for command. If you’re willing to accept those things and move on, your career takes care of itself. You don’t have to be out seeking opportunities to make your career, because there are people looking out for you.

Ens. Donovan Ayer: I think he’s absolutely right. We’re all here to do our jobs. We all enjoy pay raises, but you have to take the hard jobs, too. Most of us are type “A” personalities, so we’re the guys that want to do the hard jobs the best we can and be as successful as we can. That’s what causes your career to progress. In a natural career progression as JOs of the Year, next you will go to shore tour – maybe some to post-graduate school – then on to a department-head tour, sprinkle another shore tour in there, and then you screen for XO and CO.

USW: Tell us about what you, as junior officers, are looking forward to in the future of the Submarine Force.

Lt. Timothy Newberry: I’m a little biased toward one new possibility – the SSGN. Ohio is the first of these, and it’s supposed to be done later this year. I would like to get into that program, because there’s no other ship like it. There’s the capability to do all kinds of stuff like Tomahawk missions and special operations.

Lt. Joseph Root: I’m very interested in making every platform the most capable it can be. We see the numbers of submarines drawing down, but we’re facing higher numerical odds against us from potential advisories. So what do we do? We have to increase the capabilities of each of our own platforms to counter that threat. Every time I read something about numbers I think: How are we going to accomplish the mission with fewer platforms? The expanding capabilities introduced by new technology, especially with UUVs and the SSGN, will make every submarine even more devastating against numerically superior foes.

Lt. Alexander Baerg: During exercise Silent Hammer, it was really amazing – particularly in performing the SSGN mission. The exercise gave us a bit of an SSN mission and extended that to what the SSGN is going to do. We embarked over 150 riders in addition to ship’s crew. Fifty of those people were SEALs. We launched SEALs at least once a day. We were simulating Tomahawk missions. We were controlling UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles] and UUVs [Unmanned Undersea Vehicles] and all these brand new technologies. It was really exciting. Right now, I work with the ASDS [Advanced SEAL Delivery System], and this fall we’re going to be deploying it on the Ohio when she comes out of the yards. It is amazing to see how quickly it has moved through from concept to actual operations.

Lt. Pratik Joshi: It’s good to see more focus on special operations. Those missions are actually fun to do on a submarine. It is sometimes hard, because we have 175 people underway on a boat that is designed to carry 110. However, not many submarines have done what we did on the practice runs. It’s a great direction to be moving in.

Lt. Ibbetson: During our visit here, we’ve never had a specific brief about Sea Power 21, but everyone we’ve met has talked about it. There are a lot of revolutionary things going on in the Navy with Sea Shield and Sea Strike. I’m excited about how the Submarine Force is going to work with the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). A lot of our new missions are going to be in the littoral, and it seems like it’s going to be very dynamic working with the SWOs [surface warfare officers] and the aviators. There’s an exciting shift in focus.

Lt. Hardisty: I think the two things that I’m excited about are the new Virginia-class submarines and the Block IV Tomahawk. Think of a warfare commander being able to say, “OK, where is my closest
submarine? I have a building right here – at these coordinates – take it out right now.” The ability of a submarine to be able to plan and execute a mission autonomously gives quite a bit of flexibility to the strike commander.

Lt. Wiley: It’s nice to have the opportunity to employ a submarine in the littoral for providing what amounts to gunfire support ashore. That hasn’t really been our mission or our capability in the past, but it’s where we’re going now. I think it’s what the Submarine Force has got to do to fit in with what the CNO is talking about in Sea Power 21.

Lt. Charles Centore: I’m really happy that the Submarine Force is getting better communication suites. Now we can see how our mission is affecting what’s happening in the world by watching it on CNN. We are getting networked with FORCENet.

USW: Any final comments to sum up your trip?

Lt. Root: The personalities of the admirals we met left me very impressed. They have a level-headed understanding of the problems that the Navy faces, and even though they look at things from a budgetary point of view – which they need to do – they have a good handle on the warfighting aspect.

Ms. Zeldis is the Senior Editor of UNDERSEA WAREFARE Magazine and an analyst with Anteon Corporation in Washington, D.C.

Group photo of 2004 Submarine Force Junior Officers of the Year

2004 Submarine Force Junior Officers of the Year

Lt. Matthew S. Valle, USS Philadelphia (SSN-690)
Lt. Robert W. Rose, USS Miami (SSN-755)
Lt. Kevin J. Millslagle, USS Alexandria (SSN-757)
Lt. Aaron C. Peterson, USS Springfield (SSN-761)
Lt. William H. Wiley, USS Providence (SSN-719)
Lt. Thomas M. Jones, USS Scranton (SSN-756)
Lt. Eric A. Hardisty, USS Newport News (SSN-750)
Lt. John R. Augenblick, USS Maine (SSBN-741) (BLUE)
Lt. Thomas P. O’Donnell, USS Maryland (SSBN-738) (GOLD)
Lt. Daniel D. Maloney, USS Emory S. Land (AS-39)
Lt. Pratik Joshi, USS La Jolla (SSN-701)
Lt. Joseph A. Root, USS Columbia (SSN-771)
Lt. Travis W. Haire, USS Parche (SSN-683)
Lt j.g. Christopher A. Hedrick, USS Cheyenne (SSN-773)
Lt. Ronald M. Ibbetson, USS Jefferson City (SSN-759)
Lt. Charles F. Centore, USS City of Corpus Christi (SSN-705)
Ens. Donovan J. Ayer, USS Frank Cable (AS-40)
Lt. Benjamin N. Britt, USS Pennsylvania (SSBN-735) (BLUE)
Lt. Alexander T. Baerg, USS Georgia (SSGN-729)
Lt. Timothy W. Newberry, USS Ohio (SSGN-726)


Cover of Undersea Warfare Magazine Winter 2005