PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The National Naval Officers Association (NNOA) met July 23-25 in Portsmouth, Va., for their 36th annual conference, which focused on the strengthening of a diverse officer corps to enhance operational readiness in the sea services.
The NNOA is a diverse group of military and civilian leaders who actively support the sea services in recruiting, retaining, and developing the careers of minority officers. The NNOA provides professional development and mentoring for all of its members and the annual conference provided the perfect opportunity for establishing and building on those mentorship roles.
The theme for this year's conference was "Developing America’s Future Leaders to Enhance Mission Readiness and Cultural Awareness." The event coincided with the 60th anniversary of President Truman’s Executive Order 9981 – The Desegregation of the Armed Forces – which was signed July 26, 1948.
The officers gathered for the ceremony clearly demonstrated how far the sea services have come since 1948, however, as the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Gary Roughead, alluded, there are still higher standards to reach.
“The time for talk is over,” said Roughead, who spoke at a luncheon for the entire group and later at a Navy specific gathering. “It is now time for action.”
In addition to Roughead, Vice Adm. Harold Starling, Commander, Naval Network Warfare Command; Vice Adm. Thomas Kilcline, Commander, Naval Air Forces; Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn, Commander, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic; Rear Adm. Cecil Haney, Director, Submarine Warfare Division OPNAV N87; and Rear Admiral Michael Tillotson, Commander, Naval Expeditionary Combat Command, were all in attendance, representing each of the five Naval Warfare Enterprises. Attendees were able to listen to these leaders in a panel discussion on diversity trends, programs and initiatives in the individual enterprises.
The conference had eight close interaction panels with senior leaders discussing relevant topics including recruitment challenges, service academy updates, impact of diversity on the maritime strategy, ethics, accountability, leadership development, senior enlisted views on leadership, individual augmentations, and career mentorship.
A cornerstone of the NNOA is its mentorship focus. It is often remarked that minorities in the military look at there leadership and do not see examples from their own ethnicity or gender in high position. At NNOA more than 400 attendees were able to see examples of the Navy’s true diversity with a large number of the highest ranking minorities in the service being present. Attendees also saw the dedication and importance the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard has put on diversity and equal opportunity with more than 30 flag officers present and engaged from those services.
With surface warfare officers representing the majority of the officers present, Quinn’s discussion on the status of the Surface Forces’ efforts in diversity drew much interest. In his opening remarks, he stated: “Our Navy is in a war for the nation’s best and brightest talent. To win, we must communicate a strong and clear message: that no matter where you came from, no matter what color you are, no matter what sex you are, or what religious beliefs you hold, the surface Navy will help you reach your fullest potential.”