MARCH 14, 2017 – Each year the senior leaders from all over the service come to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy to discuss, debate and learn about the problems facing the cutters. The four-day Commanding Officer Conference, which ended March 3, 2017, was packed with classes on topics such as cyber strategy, logistics and fleet priorities, but by far the most important lessons the cuttermen learned are comradery and networking.
The conference is attended by not only commanding officers (COs), but every major command; from the commandant of the Coast Guard to Pacific Area staff members, from deputy commandant for mission support to deputy commandant for operations. The attendees spent time with cadets and officer candidates during mealtimes to answer their questions and learn about the concerns of their future junior officers.
Capt. Darran McLenon just attended his eighth commanding officer conference and one of his goals is always the same: “to make the day to day lives of our sailors better and meet the objectives of the fleet.” Our commanding officers take this opportunity to do just that. If you have never been to a CO conference you might be taken aback. When you step outside a room small groups of people are talking, debating and enthusiastically defending their positions on a range of issues, but most of all they are addressing the fleet’s problems. According to McLenon, these breakout sessions are when the real business of solving the fleets problems gets done and comradery is built.
Capt. Jose Jimenez, who will be retiring this summer after 29 years of service, gave this advice to anyone who is or will one day attend the CO conference. He urged everyone to, “make connections, build comradery and immerse yourself in what is going on in the fleet.” Jimenez urges those in the breakout sessions to bring up what issues you are having at work and often times you will find that your shipmates have had the same issues, but now you can also hear what others have done to resolve them. According to Jimenez this is the time when you learn who’s who and who you can call when you need help.
Many believe this conference is the springboard for developing solutions that will be implemented into the fleet. For example operation specialist rating force Master Chief Petty Officers Luke Cutburth and Sean Smith, spoke of how conference attendees were “in violent agreement,” that it is time to review the process for enlisted personnel advancement.
In conclusion, Cmdr. Robert Mohr, who was attending his first CO conference, summed up the purpose perfectly. “Networking is my big takeaway. There are people here to help you. You learn what is happening and you can take that information back to the crew. I learn what I am doing well and what I should change. You get a deeper understanding of the needs of the Coast Guard and our focus is aligned and precise. When I am at the CO conference, I can shape and develop my command philosophy.”
by Lt. j.g. Alexis A. Davis