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q a: The Push to Keep the Best and Brightest in the Submarine Force
(above)Sailors “man the ship” and officially bring the newest Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine USS North Carolina (SSN-777) to life during her commissioning ceremony.
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by Molly Little

Lt. Cmdr. Eric Mason is the Submarine Force Diversity Officer. He took some time to share some insight into his unique new position in the Force.

As the diversity officer, how do you use the diversity statement in your daily tasks?

When I was working on the diversity policy, I was really working on my job description. Coming into a new job, there are a lot of “firsts” and a lot of new ideas tossed around. As long as everything contributes to the core idea of attracting, training and retaining the best our nation has to offer, I know I am doing my job.

Was there a previous diversity statement? If so, what is different about this one?

No, there was no previous statement. The Undersea Enterprise Diversity Office was established in August, 2007. Since its foundation, the first Submarine Force diversity policy statement was released. I know it may seem redundant for there to be so many trickle-down statements out there, but it really gives us an opportunity to demonstrate that we understand what diversity means to the Submarine Force and the Navy, as a whole.

The changing demographics of the American population and the diversity of our missions in the world demand Navy take proactive steps to ensure it has access to the full range of the nation’s talent. Leveraging the strength of the nation’s diversity creates an environment of excellence and continuous improvement, in which artificial barriers to achievement are removed and the contributions of all participants are valued.
—Adm. Michael Mullen
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

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What initiatives were in place before the current diversity statement was released?

Prior to releasing the policy statement and establishing the Diversity Office, diversity efforts were performed by the Equal Opportunity office. They were responsible for updating the Force on upcoming affinity group conferences and eligible citizenship and engineering awards. Equal Opportunity was more about compliance — the Diversity Office is about supporting an active cultural shift.

What new initiatives have been implemented since Vice Adm. Donnelly released this statement?

The military has known for a long time that great officers are not self-made; they are the product of all the interactions and mentorship they accrue in their careers. While it is difficult to force someone to mentor or be mentored, our efforts are geared towards providing the opportunities and culture that are supportive.

The Submarine Force (SUBFOR), Navy Recruiting Command (NRC), and Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) have recently combined their efforts to attract qualified individuals from all walks of life into the Submarine Force. Submarine Commanding Officers coordinate their trips with local Naval Recruiting Districts to visit Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) units across the country. The desired effect is an increase in awareness of the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate (NUPOC) program with local university faculty and staff and affinity groups {National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), etc}. Since the nodal visit concept was introduced we’ve visited schools throughout Georgia, California, Florida, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, New Mexico, and North Carolina.

Two outstanding affinity organizations are holding their annual conferences in Hampton Roads. The Association of Naval Services Officers (ANSO) and the National Naval Officers Association (NNOA), both sharing the missions of fostering the professional growth and development of Sea Services personnel through mentoring, networking, training, and educational programs, held annual conferences during the weeks of April 28, 2008 and July 23 – 25, 2008 respectively. The Submarine Force sent Submarine Officers and Sailors to both.

Another initiative was the development of a mentoring Web site aimed at increasing the development, education, and retention of our junior officers. The Web site allows mentors not located in one central area to evaluate their protégés remotely. This tool enables leadership to ensure no one slips through the cracks or gets too far off course without a rudder-check.

Does the Diversity Office have goals to meet? If so, what are they and how do the previous mentioned initiatives fit into those goals?

While most people would think there are monthly quotas to meet, there are not. It all goes back to our vision statement. It is hard to have a metric that tracks how well a community embraces diversity. The goal—attract, train, and retain the best our nation has to offer—provides robust and focused marching orders for the long term. We are not waiting to declare “mission accomplished,” when we have accessed a certain number of minority officers. Rather, twenty years from now when we are still the world’s most powerful Navy and the premier Submarine Force, I will know I’ve done my job.

Ms. Little is the managing editor of UNDERSEA WARFARE Magazine.

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