The Junior Officers of the Year (JOOYs) for 2018, selected by their squadrons, were accompanied by their significant others for various events, including a meeting with the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and the Washington D.C. area Submarine Birthday Ball. The camaraderie in the group was instant; despite our various backgrounds—688, SSGN and SSBN, in drydock and operational, engineering and weapons and navigation—we shared similar experiences. It was a refreshing time to appreciate the work we had put into a job that can be all-consuming and to step back and see how our individual roles fit with the mission of the Submarine Force and the Navy at large.
Monday morning began with a trip to the Pentagon and a lunchtime briefing by Vice Adm. Merz, Deputy CNO for Warfare Systems (OPNAV N9). He emphasized the need for interoperability and collaboration between the branches of the military as well as coordination with allies as we prepare for potential great power conflict. Cmdr. Gene Severtson, Unmanned Systems & Future Capabilities Branch Head at OPNAV N97, then briefed us on exciting developments in Undersea Unmanned Vehicles (UUVs), upcoming modules for the Virginia-class submarine, and Columbia and SSN(X) development and construction.
On Monday evening CNO Adm. Richardson and his wife, Dana, hosted the JOOYs and significant others for “midrats” and drinks at the historic Tingey House on the Washington Naval Yard. The Richardsons shared their experience of raising five children through a Navy career and prioritizing staying together as a family through 21 moves. They also shared the treasures they have accumulated during their travels, from the submarine warfare insignia of numerous countries to paintings from their tours in Italy. In a final toast in the greenhouse, Adm. Richardson emphasized the need for great leaders within the Navy and recognized the contributions of both Submariners and spouses.
On Tuesday the symbolic architecture and interior design of the Library of Congress reminded the JOOYs of the importance of scholarship and history during a docent-led tour. Thomas Jefferson, recognizing the necessity of continued and wide-ranging learning, donated his library to create this now-indispensable institution. We were reminded of our need to continue learning, starting with the basics of the engineering plant, then how to drive and fight a submarine, and now continuing with strategic plans and preparations for various potential futures in this great power competition.
After the tour, the group walked through the extensive Capitol tunnels to visit with Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut, whose district includes Naval Submarine Base New London and Electric Boat. He congratulated the JOOYs and their significant others on their accomplishments before going to witness a vote on the House floor.
On a crisp Wednesday morning, president of the National Defense University (NDU), Vice Adm. Fritz Roegee and his wife, Julie, welcomed the group to NDU, where the theme of education continued. They explained the role of the university in professional military education and the importance of that education. Though political administrations change and alliances shift over time, military educational institutions maintain a mutual respect for the craft of warfare and for one another. He welcomed questions from the group, which concerned career progression, the role of education in determining assignments, and personal experiences while in the Navy.
Captain Michael Majewski, Nuclear Propulsion Program Manager from N133, hosted a brief discussion to understand the concerns and recommendations of the JOOYs in a format similar to the biannual Junior Officer Symposium. He was receptive to concerns about in-port maintenance requirements and gaining underway experience during extensive drydock periods.
That afternoon Adm. James Caldwell and his wife, Kim, hosted the JOOYs for a delicious lunch at Naval Reactors on the Washington Navy Yard. They candidly explained their long journeys with the Navy, starting from childhood—Kim was the daughter of a SeaBee captain and the Admiral was the son of a submarine captain. They married the same month that he graduated from the Naval Academy, which was followed by his numerous tours at sea and on shore. Kim offered advice on leading the wardroom in coordination with the Ombudsman and how important attitude is in the success of making a home and friend group in various places. They spoke of the disconnect in sources of energy that introverts and extroverts can have in marriage, which resonated with many of the couples present. Both the JOOYs and their significant others appreciate the candor with which they shared their experiences and answered numerous questions that focused more on the life of submarine couples and less on the technical aspects of the job.
That evening many local 1120s gathered in Crystal City for a prime opportunity for submarine officers across all levels of experience—from division officer to retired admiral—to share experiences, seek advice, connect over tours on the same boats, and celebrate this vocation in a low-key venue.
Thursday morning was a unique opportunity for a brief by the Deputy Director, Operational Support for the CNO (N2/N6F21), Cmdr. Greg Crosby, that featured recent deployments in various theaters. The brief came alive with sea stories since several of the JOOYs stood watch on these missions vital to national security.
The JOOYs then shared lunch with Vice Adm. Richard, Commander Submarine Forces, in the Marine Corps Dining Room in the Pentagon. With the backdrop of bullet-scarred helmets and historic swords, Vice Adm. Richard emphasized the need for warfighters in the Submarine Force and his belief that there may be a shooting war during the time that the officers who sat with him returned to submarines as department heads. He listened to recent developments on the waterfronts, such as competition training that pit one crew against another in attack center simulators, and he discussed his philosophy concerning tactical nuclear weapons. His inspirational tone was refreshing, reminding us that we do indeed prepare for battle, though that often has taken the form of signing hundreds of maintenance forms and slogging through yet another day at the simulator.
After piling into two vans, we spent the hour drive to the Lockheed Martin facility in Manassas, Va., talking submarines. We compared our times aboard and shared stories ranging from intrepid actions while on mission to mundane maintenance to shore tour detailing challenges to the loneliness of not hearing from loved ones for weeks or months. I realized about halfway through the week that, although many of our stories were ostensibly about tedious, challenging, boring, or frustrating situations, we obviously love what we do. Once we arrived in Manassas, we walked through the development bays for the newest sonar and fire control systems for both submarines and surface ships. We saw them in action as testing progressed, and marveled at future photonics masts. We also toured the production bays where current systems are tested and sent to the fleet. It was an eye-opening experience, particularly for officers serving on boats with older systems, and an occasion to provide feedback from real users.
In a rare opportunity on Friday afternoon, the group toured the East Wing of the White House, to include the Diplomatic Room. Two Secret Service officers, as well as Submariners Cmdr. Matt Thatcher and Lt. Andrea Weiss, offered historical and humorous facts about the various rooms, their décor, and their functions over the years as they guided the group through the building. The President’s butler, a retired Navy Master Chief who served aboard both surface ships and submarines, provided the group with presidential chocolates.
The week concluded at the Washington, D.C. area Submarine Birthday Ball. Adm. Richardson remarked on what a tight community the Submarine Force is, citing JOOY Lt. Brian Davenport who served aboard the same boat that Adm. Caldwell previously commanded. He remembered the many boats and Sailors who gave their lives in service, as honored in the Tolling of the Boats. He then looked forward to the continued success of the fleet, which now includes female Sailors and officers, such as JOOY Lt. Erica Leinmiller, and teased her husband, Lt. Micah Dose, for continuing in the submarine tradition of marrying up. He described with vigor the vital role that the Submarine Force plays in national security today and the continued need for high-quality officers and Sailors to continue performing the hard missions, “alone and unafraid.” The dancing commenced with notable contributions from Vice Adm. Richard’s wife, Lisa, Adm. and Mrs. Caldwell, Norwegian Naval officers, and the JOOYs.
The week provided an opportunity to celebrate excellence in our division officers, to meet and discuss both work and home life with several of the most senior officers in the force, and to recognize both the challenges and the opportunities that face the Submarine Force and the Navy as a whole. We departed at the end of the week with new friendships and a renewed appreciation for the important role the Submarine Force plays in national defense.
2018 Junior Officers of the Year
CSS 4 - Louis Kjerstad
USS Montpelier (SSN 765)
CSS 6 - Jordan Rettie
USS Newport News (SSN 750)
CSS 12 - Justin Liedel
USS San Juan (SSN 751)
CSS 16 - Erica Leinmiller
USS Florida (SSGN 728) (B)
CSS 20 - Michael Naclerio
USS Alaska (SSBN 732) (G)
CSS 1 - William Chilton
USS Greeneville (SSN 772)
CSDS 5 - Gregory Poser
USS Connecticut (SSN 22)
CSS 7 - Benjamin Canfield
USS Columbia (SSN 771)
CSS 11 - Thomas Dowd
USS Alexandria (SSN 757)
CSS 15 - Ryan P. Keyes
USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723)
CSS 17 - Jason Koncsol
USS Pennsylvania (SSBN 735) (G)
CSS 19 - Brian Davenport
USS Jacksonville (SSN 699)
CSP - Michael Park
USS Emory S. Land (AS 39)