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by Molly Little

The Submarine Force Honors
Their Top Junior Officers

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Lt. Stephen Long answers a question during the interview with UNDERSEA WARFARE Magazine.

Every year the Submarine Force recognizes their best and brightest junior officers. These Junior Officers of the Year (JOOY) are nominated by their commanding officers. Nominations are then submitted to the squadron and each squadron selects one junior officer who best exemplifies the characteristics of a future leader in the submarine community to be their JOOY representative. Both submarine tenders, USS Frank Cable (AS-40) in Guam and USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) in Italy, pick JOOYs as well.

The 18 selected JOOYs had the opportunity to travel to Monterey, Calif., to visit the Naval Postgraduate School and learn about the advances being made in undersea warfare. The JOOYs then traveled to Washington, D.C. Their visit to the nation’s capital gave them the chance to sit down and talk with some of the top leaders of the Department of Defense and the Navy, including Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, then-Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; Adm. Mike Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations; Adm. Bob Willard, then-Vice Chief of Naval Operations; Adm. Kirkland Donald, Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion; Rear Adm. Van Mauney, Director, Submarine Warfare (OPNAV N87); and Rear Adm. William Hilarides, Program Executive Officer for Submarines. The JOOYs also spent time touring the Navy Museum, the White House, the Capitol and the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon.

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Lt. j.g. Christopher Grubb shares some of the experiences he had during his junior officer tour. Photos by Molly Little.

In the midst of their busy schedule, UNDERSEA WARFARE Magazine had the opportunity to sit down and talk to the 14 JOOYs that made the trip to Washington, D.C. The majority of them said that the meetings with the flag officers were the most influential part of the tour. These provided them the big picture and emphasized the importance of what they are doing daily on board their ships, things that can get lost in the day-to-day operations of a boat. Lt. Phillip Emery, of USS Kentucky (SSBN-737)(G), said, “When we are out on our boats, it is hard to see the big picture. But coming here and being in the midst of the ‘big picture,’ you get to see where your boat fits into it and how important it is. Being out on deployment or being in the shipyard, putting a system together and trying to figure out how it all fits into the Navy’s plan for things is hard, but you come here and you see how vital your boat is to national defense and how it all fits together.” Lt. j.g. Anthony Wilson, USS Florida (SSGN-728), notes the importance of “bringing back a sense of where the Submarine Force is going and what the missions are. I’ve spent a majority of my time in the shipyard, as most of the JOs [junior officers] on my boat have, so it’s important to bring back a sense of where the Force is headed.”

Another reason the JOOYs enjoyed talking to the top Naval leaders was to get advice from those who have been where they are hoping to go. Lt. Ben Grant said, “I’m looking forward to getting leadership advice from the admirals who have been through the ranks and in the Submarine Force. I would say that about 90 percent of what we do as JOs is managing people, and, if we stay in, we are going to go to even more important leadership roles. People depend on us for that quality—leadership. And they suffer if we aren’t good at it. Obviously, all of the people we are going to meet during our time in Washington, D.C. have been successful at that to a large degree. Their words are useful to us right now and this is the perfect time in our career to benefit from what they say and to be better officers because of it.”

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The Junior Officers of the Year listen intently to the advice offered by Rear Adm. Van Mauney,
Director, Submarine Warfare (N87), during an office call at the Pentagon. Photo by Molly Little.

Over the course of their entire junior officer tour, the majority of the JOOYs said they learned the most from deployment, the part some of them were least looking forward to initially. It was on deployment that they learned some of the most valuable lessons of their career to date and grew the most as submariners. They were able to apply all the training they had to real life situations. Lt. Jon Ahlstrom began his tour at the General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) shipyard before going out for deployment on USS Seawolf (SSN-21). He said, “When you are spending your time in the shipyard, you start to question what you are doing there, what the purpose is, and if you are really effective as you see things that are broken and need to be repaired. Then we got to go out there with the Kitty Hawk Strike Group and really got to see and prove how effective we are as a single submarine against a whole carrier strike group. You realize that we definitely would be useful in large-scale situations, not just the Global War on Terrorism, but if the event ever came up and we need to take control of the seas again.”

2006 Junior Officers of the Year

Lt. Jonathan Ahlstrom
USS Seawolf (SSN-21)

Lt. David Campbell
USS Augusta (SSN-720)

Lt. Anthony Castle
USS Houston (SSN-713)

Lt. William Dennis
USS Emory S. Land (AS-39)

Lt. Phillip Emery
USS Kentucky (SSBN-737)(G)

Lt. Benjamin Grant
USS Albuquerque (SSN-706)

Lt. j.g. Christopher Grubb
USS Buffalo (SSN-715)

Lt. Homer Hensey
USS Frank Cable (AS-40)

Lt. Stephen Long
USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-709)

Lt. Ryan Martin
USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23)

Lt. Carlos Martinez
USS Chicago (SSN-721)

Lt. j.g. Robert Mcelhose
USS Pasadena (SSN-752)

Lt. j.g. Reginald Preston
USS Helena (SSN-725)

Lt. j.g. Steven Roberts
USS Albany (SSN-753)

Lt. Scott Smith
USS Maryland (SSBN-738)(B)

Lt. Matthew Sweeney
USS Jacksonville (SSN-699)

Lt. j.g. Anthony Wilson
USS Florida (SSGN-728)

Lt. j.g. Bryan Wooldridge
USS Ohio (SSGN-726)(G)

Lt. Grant spent his junior officer tour as a on USS Albuquerque (SSN-706) and is now attending the Naval Postgraduate School. He also felt he learned the most from the time spent on deployment. “When deciding to join the Navy and then go submarines, I thought I would endure the deployment in exchange for a good career and things like that. In hindsight, the deployment is where I grew the most with the people I worked with and got the chance to actually do the things that I had been training for and to see the parts of the world that everyone who joins the Navy hopes they get to see.”

Lt. Stephen Long, a crewmember on USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-709), found he learned the most after his ship’s return from deployment. For him, his boat’s purpose and place in the Navy became clearer when he accompanied his commanding officer (CO) to debrief the ship’s deployment. “I don’t think as JOs we get to see where our submarines and our missions fit into the overall realm of the Navy and what is going on in the global situation. We did a deployment that was little bit non-traditional in that it wasn’t your usual Global War on Terrorism or TOMAHAWK support mission. So I really didn’t understand the importance of what we were doing until I went around and saw my CO brief the commanders and admirals and saw that everything each submarine is doing plays a much larger role in what’s going on, and there is a lot more going on than we realize when we are out there day to day.”

One of the most impressive things about these JOOYs was their awareness of their responsibility to the Submarine Force. They were focused on the way their actions affected everyone on board their boats and how they could be constantly improving their own performance as well as that of those under or around them. Lt. j.g. Christopher Grubb, USS Buffalo (SSN-715), said “Our job is to help our guys who work under us to succeed. If they are successful, then the boat as a whole is going to be successful. We have other things on the side as our secondary job. But the success of the guys under us and the boat as a whole comes first.”

Lt. Carlos Martinez, a crewmember of USS Chicago (SSN-721), followed up on Lt. j.g. Grubb’s statement by adding, “And not even just the junior enlisted guys, we are talking about other junior officers. JOs train JOs, they are the backbone of the wardroom. I have no doubt that as we continue to move forward in the Force with the number of manning issues we have and the number of guys we have on board, we need to push the experience down to the junior guys—the opportunities to drive, stand under instruction and standing the watches.”

Lt. Matthew Sweeney, USS Jacksonville (SSN-609), continued, “When I envisioned my job on the boat, it was either technical in nature or tactical in nature. But I think our real job is interacting with the junior guys. Ensuring they have to tools they need to get the job done, as they have the greatest impact on the success of the ship. We rely on them to do about 90 percent of the work on the ship, so doing what we can to help them to do their job is vital.”

These JOOYs were confident of the importance of their job and the security it has in the Navy’s future, but they were still able to see that the Submarine Force is constantly evolving as capabilities improve and missions become more diverse. They are aware of the heavy demands and expectations placed on them and are willing to work to continue setting the highest possible standards for the officers and Sailors of the Force.

Lt. Grant noted, “The only thing that stays the same about our mission is that it is constantly changing. We need to recognize that and drive that to everyone in the Force, or else we are doing the public a disservice. We will never fight a war that was like the last one we fought, so if we all accept that and learn to be more creative with the versatile capabilities of these ‘sinkable’ boats, we can be an even more powerful force to face in the future.”

Molly Little is the Managing Editor of UNDERSEA WARFARE Magazine and a defense analyst in Washington, D.C.

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The Junior Officers of the Year pose for a photograph with Adm. Mike Mullen, Chief of Naval Operations. U.S. Navy Photo.