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U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) Command hosted the 2019 Senior Enlisted Executive Leadership Symposium (ELS) on Naval Support Activity (NSA) Hampton Roads in Norfolk, Virginia, March 18-20.
The USFF Fleet Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Training Team, together with USFF's Fleet Master Chief Rick O'Rawe, hosted 20 command master chief petty officers and senior enlisted leaders (SELs) for a three-day seminar designed to introduce unit-level command master chiefs to the knowledge and expertise needed to integrate into a flag or general officer's staff.
The group had an opportunity to engage in discussions with some of our Navy's most senior leaders, including Adm. Christopher W. Grady, USFF's commander, and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith.
O'Rawe and Smith held group and individual mentorship meetings with attendees, emphasizing the importance of understanding resources, and sharing knowledge and experience as a way to positively impact the fleet.
"This week was about an open dialogue, an exchange of ideas, and an opportunity for these senior enlisted leaders to gain valuable insight and engage with Navy leadership," said O'Rawe. "Many of these CMCs will transition to flag-level jobs that will provide some unique challenges, but the goal of supporting the center of the universe - our Sailors and Navy civilians - while driving operational and warfighting success is exactly the same."
The USFF Fleet CPO Training Team (FCPOTT) supplied a lineup of guest speakers that provided in-depth knowledge on flag-level organizations and functions, and an understanding of commander's perspectives.
In addition to Grady, Smith and O'Rawe, attendees participated in a wide-range of open discussions with Vice Adm. Bruce Lindsay, USFF's deputy commander, Mark Honecker, USFF's chief of staff and executive director, and Al Gonzalez, USFF's director of fleet personnel, development and allocation.
Retired Fleet Master Chiefs Tom Howard, Susan Whitman, and Chuck Clarke, along with a number of other flag-level CMCs, offered guidance and mentorship on everything from work-life balance to building a culture of excellence.
Command Master Chief Dennis Hathorn, assigned to U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, expressed his appreciation for the chance to participate in the ELS and his desire to bring the knowledge he learned back to his command.
"This is a huge opportunity to be able to do something like this; never in a million years would I have thought that I would have the opportunity to do this, so to be honest I am actually just humbled."
He emphasized how collective engagements such as the ELS are a necessity to the Navy's progression and success.
"This is so important because the Navy has to continue to grow," said Hathorn. "We don't want to stall out our Sailors or our will to push forward and lead, in a time of war or when we are needed most."
The USFF FCPOTT plans to continue the conversation throughout the year with follow-up roundtable discussions and training opportunities.
USFF's mission includes training, certifying and providing combat-ready Navy forces to combatant commanders in support of prompt, sustained naval, joint, and combined operations in support of U.S. national interests. USFF is responsible for command and control of subordinate Navy forces and shore activities during the planning and execution stages of assigned service functions in support of the Chief of Naval Operations.