Photo caption follows.

The Submarine Force Junior Officers of the Year take time on their visit to Washington, D.C. to tour the U.S. Capitol.

Submarine Force's
Best Junior Officers

Embark on a
Unique Journey

by Mike Smith

They are not only the best and brightest junior officers on their respective boats; they are the most promising junior officers in their squadrons. Eighteen junior officers were chosen this past January to represent the Submarine Force as the 2005 Junior Officers of the Year (JOOY).

Being chosen as a Junior Officer of the Year has afforded these Sailors with a unique opportunity to learn about the advances in the area of undersea warfare at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. and engage in frank discussions with some of the Navy and the Department of Defense’s top leaders during office calls at the Pentagon and the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. These office calls included Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; Adm. Kirk Donald, Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion; Adm. Robert Willard, Vice Chief of Naval Operations; and Rear Adm. Joseph Walsh, Director, Submarine Warfare. Their time in Washington, D.C. also included a tour of the U.S. Capitol and a behind-the-scenes tour of the West Wing of the White House. Of the eighteen submariners chosen, thirteen were able to make the trip.

The following interview was conducted with several of those JOOYs near the conclusion of their time in Washington, D.C.

What has been the highlight of your JOOY experience thus far?

Lt. John Waterston: On the D.C. leg of this trip, it was getting a behind-the-scenes-tour of the West Wing of the White House and where the real work of the world goes on.

Lt. j.g. Cameron Aljilani: The West Wing tour was by far my favorite part of the trip because it is not something many people get to see. Another great part of the trip has been the access we’ve had to the senior Navy officers. We have had the opportunity to talk with the people that make the important decisions and got their “top down” perspective on what we, as junior officers, should be doing. We then had the chance to provide the “bottom up” perspective of what we’re actually doing and what we perceive as the problem because sometimes there is a disconnect.

Lt. j.g. John Babick: Touring the Pentagon has been the highlight of the trip for me. Seeing how all these different components and agencies work together. Another highlight has been having the opportunity to listen to the senior Naval leadership and get their take on the future of the Submarine Force as well as the future of the Navy in general.

Lt. j.g. Ronald Hatt: The highlight of my trip to Washington, D.C., so far, has been the interaction amongst all the junior officers. Learning that my peer group, these junior officers, are pretty locked on target and overall a fantastic group of guys. Another great part of this experience has been the opportunity to speak, shake hands, and look eye to eye with the Navy’s senior leadership on a very “deck plate” level.

What kinds of lessons and experiences will you bring back to your respective boats from your JOOY experience?

Lt. j.g. Aljilani: After talking with Adm. [Kirk] Donald [Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion] and learning his perception on how monitoring programs should be run and then comparing that to what we actually do on the deck plate level, there is a definite disconnect. Adm. Donald sees that the program should be run a certain way and then on the bottom side, we administrate our way out of the actual intent of the program. So when I go back to my boat, I’m going to talk to my other junior officers and say, “This is what we’re really supposed to be doing and I agree with that point of view. And – oh by the way – the brass realize there are some flaws in the system.” The expectation and the follow through aren’t synched up.

Lt. Nicholas Crain: There are a lot of great things about the Submarine Force that I get to impart on my students [Lt. Crain is currently the assistant professor of military science at the University of Idaho]; all the opportunities, the standards, and all the exciting things as a junior officer you get to do. What I think I got to see here was more of the opportunities there are outside the Submarine Force for submariners. I also saw first hand the camaraderie that exists throughout the Submarine Force, even outside the homeport.

Lt. Thomas McDermott: Everything fits into the larger picture. It is a much different view from the deck plate as opposed to at the higher levels of the Navy. When you get that “10,000 foot view” you begin to understand the “big picture Navy.”

Lt. Waterston: Learning about the “joint side of the house” and how it is so separate from the operational side of the Navy. I didn’t really realize the level of cooperation to plan operations and procure the funding for boats, bullets, etc.

Lt. Aljilani: I didn’t realize that submariners were involved in so many different aspects of both the military and the government. We see submariners involved in homeland security, counterterrorism operations; you see ‘dolphins’ everywhere and I think it is because of our training. We integrate so well and we can go into a situation we don’t know much about, read the requirements, and very quickly contribute to that organization.

Lt. Crain: I think the most surprising aspect is that they give junior officers an opportunity to do something like this. I thought that we would just kind of shuffle around, pose for a few photos, and not get anything of value added out of this trip. It has been very enlightening because of the opportunities we’ve been given to talk to the senior leadership.

Photo of junior officers. Photo of junior officers.

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