by Izumi Morine, NAVFAC Far East Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan (Feb. 22, 2019) - Junior officers from seven field offices within Naval Facilities Engineering Command Far East (NAVFAC) attended a leadership conference in Yokosuka Feb. 19 to 25.
More than 20 junior officers between the ranks of ensign and lieutenant said they bonded over leadership classes, a field trip to nearby Tokyo, and small-group problem-solving discussions.
Because the 10 NAVFAC Far East field offices are dotted throughout Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Diego Garcia, it can be difficult for the officers to meet or get to know each other.
“The most valuable aspect of the conference for me was putting a face with a name so we could ask other junior officers questions without fear,” said Facility Engineering Acquisition Division (FEAD) Camp Butler Officer Ens. Leighann Mehs, stating she is fairly new to the Navy. “Just getting together, building camaraderie, and removing the office from the equation helped me really get to know the other officers whom I email daily, but have never met.”
The officers, who all come from various engineering backgrounds, spent time in small groups solving common problems they encounter in their daily work. While discussing problem solving techniques, they were asked by training facilitators to consider the risks versus the benefits of various solutions proposed as they collectively decided their small group’s solution to present to the larger group.
“The hardest thing often for junior officers is understanding risk,” said Lt. Cmdr. Benjamin Waite, NAVFAC Far East assistant operations officer, as he advised the junior officers as part of a leadership panel. “Talk to someone with experience and understand the risks you face before you make big decisions."
Junior officers might feel compelled to make big decisions without fully understanding second and third order effects of those decisions, Waite said. As such, he advised the junior officers to find a variety of mentors they trust over the span of their careers who can help guide them through problem solving and develop confidence in the decisions they make.
“You are the next generation of lieutenant commanders and commanders,” said Cmdr. Allen Willey, NAVFAC Far East operations officer, speaking to the junior officers as part of the leadership panel. “We (senior leadership) are going to fade away behind the retirement curtain soon and you will be sitting at this table advising the next generation of leaders.”
While many of the junior officers voiced excitement about meeting their peers and said learning to problem solve was the most valuable aspect of the training, others said they felt inspired by the end of the week to become a better leader.
“The conference has made me a better manager and communicator and will enable me to better lead people,” said Lt. Andrew Cotherman, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni FEAD director. “I want to take back things I know I can improve upon to make things better for my team. I really want to apply these skills I’ve learned to use my time more efficiently; I have a more clear vision for my team and that will help me give more clear directives.”
Several junior officers also said the conference gave them a renewed perspective regarding their future career path as a result of the mentorship advice they received from senior officers.
“Make sure you are tracking where you are going and where the Navy is going,” Cmdr. Jason Woods, Public Works Department Yokosuka, public works officer, said to the attendees when asked about how they should use this training to help them focus their long-term goals. “Make sure you are tracking your family’s needs balanced with the needs of the Navy, and turn this opportunity into an eventful career.”