DECEMBER 14, 2016, INDIAN OCEAN (NNS) – It’s 0630 when Petty Officer 2nd Class Jordan Gardner makes his way into the chart room, hearing the click of the cipher lock behind him as he closes the door. The voices of the pilothouse muffle as he welcomes the hum of his computer starting up. As he steels his eyes against the bright light of the monitor, Gardner opens up the plan of the day. Reveille, flight operations, chief petty officer and wardroom training in the afternoon, and the first classes will have CPO 365 in the evening. A normal day. Gardner continues to scroll with anticipation building each click of the mouse wheel as he moves down the page. A hint of scarlet splashes across his face as the light from a POD note appears detailing his new project. He smiles triumphantly, taking in that red text before logging off and proceeding to morning quarters.
A new course was launched on board the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) by a committee of four second class petty officers, Nov. 28, called the Navy Future Leadership Course (NFLC).
“When you look across the brow, officers have wardroom training, chiefs hold their training weekly in the chief’s mess, and the first classes have CPO 365,” said Gardner, the assistant leading petty officer in the ship’s Navigation Department. “Even Marines start their leadership training at the rank of E-4 with Corporal’s Course.”
When Sailors advance, they attend a petty officer indoctrination course specific to their rank. These courses generally include discussions on expectations that come with the Sailors’ new rank, responsibilities and programs they will be expected to take charge of, but no in-depth training is held.
“When I was promoted to second class [petty officer], I went through a one week indoctrination course and was expected to know how to lead a work center, write their evaluations and other tasks handled by a seasoned E-5,” said Gardner. “Truth is, I didn’t have all the tools I needed and, after talking to some of my fellow seconds, I knew that a change had to be made.”
After meeting with a small group of second class petty officers representing other departments across the ship, Petty Officers Danielle Davis, Dionndria Addison and Dennis Grube, Gardner wrote a proposal for the NFLC and caught the attention of Master Chief Petty Officer Robert Flowers, the Command Climate Specialist.
“I had a couple Sailors approach me with the idea of creating a program where second class petty officers could learn about evaluation and award writing, conflict resolution, deck plate leadership and embodying the desire to be more dynamic leaders to their junior Sailors,” said Flowers, the program’s sponsor. “You had seconds who were hungry for knowledge, displayed a true willingness to learn and it took off from there.”
After many meetings, a foundation was laid out for the course to include face-to-face classes taught by subject matter experts (SME) from the wardroom, chief’s mess and first class mess. Some of the topics include evaluation and award writing, mentoring, conflict resolution, and Robert’s Rules of Order (how to conduct a meeting).
“With E-5 being the rank that Sailors are expected to become leaders, we wanted to develop a program that would deliver the training in a way that a power point or NKO wouldn’t,” said Gardner. “We wanted to put Sailors in front of Sailors, using a discussion format led by a SME with pre-approved topics, such as conflict resolution, where we could look each other in the eye and talk about situations, hypothetical or from experience, and how to handle them appropriately.”
Flowers described this is a golden opportunity for second class petty officers across the deck plates to show initiative in their career and personal development.
“This program is about grooming our seconds to become better leaders as they evolve into first class and chief petty officers,” said Flowers. “The Navy has recently placed a lot of emphasis on CPO 365 training, but the opportunity to assist our seconds by building a foundation of leadership early will only be an added benefit to our Sailors as they rank up.”
The board members of NFLC designed a program that allows our second class petty officers to become mission readiness force multipliers, added Flowers. Second class petty officers with the desire to better themselves as leaders can show up to expand their knowledge of navy programs offered to them and forge themselves into a better asset for their leadership as well as the junior Sailors that they lead.
“Long term, I want this program to be here long after we leave and for the Navy to take notice of what we are striving for as a link in the chain,” said Gardner. “As an E-5, we are considered subject matter experts. However, we are still an unfinished product; hot steel waiting to be tempered. We need to start today and make ourselves better than the status quo.”
At the conclusion of the first class, Gardner stands in front of nearly 100 of his peers, each face reaffirming the hard work that he and the NFLC committee put in to the program. As he thanks everyone attending the initial class and briefs his shipmates on the upcoming schedule, his powerful, exuberant tone expels confidence, but also determination knowing that the journey to keep this program afloat has only just begun.
By Petty Officer 2nd Class Dennis Grube, Makin Island Public Affairs