“The Path to O6”
Written by: CAPT Lawrence Gaillard, U.S. Coast Guard
My path to O6 has been a long and enjoyable journey and in the next few paragraphs, I would like to share with you a few observations and recommendations from what I have learned on my path to the rank of Captain. I would like to thank God for giving me the opportunity to share this with you and for bringing me this far in my career. Now, before we go into specific details I want to let you know that you can make it! You are closer to O6 than you think and I want to provide you with a few tools to help you realize your goals within your respective organization.
One of guiding principles of NNOA and a critical component of a successful career is active and diverse mentoring. The good news is if you are reading this post, you are probably already member of NNOA and plugged in to one of the most diverse maritime mentoring agency in the world. As a NNOA member you have access to a wealth of career knowledge encompassing multiple services and with information from prior flag officers. As you ascend through the ranks of your career, you should strive to have multiple mentors. Some should look like you, some should not. You want to pick mentors that are within and outside of your career field and mentors that are one rank and two to three ranks above you. A good mentor will look out for you and give you career advice especially at points in your career where broadening assignments can expand your horizons. Evaluations are another critical element of an officer’s career and you should regularly provide your evaluations before and after the submission deadline period to your mentors for feedback and course corrections. This can prevent adverse language or recommendations in your evaluation that can hinder your future promotion potential. Do not be afraid of operational setbacks and making mistakes, we have all made them and that is how we learn. Errors in the line of duty conducting missions are much more forgivable than character and integrity issues encountered off duty.
Work Life Balance is another key component to successfully navigation to the rank of O6. You have not achieved the great success in your current organization without the help of your family and loved ones. Prioritize, recognize and be there for them. One day we will all need to hang up the uniform, but your family will be with you till the end. Be sure to cultivate these relationships along the way and allow them to partake in the amazing experiences you receive during your career in the military.
Maintain honor and Integrity above all else and always take care of your people. Our people are our number one resource and no mission is completed. Whether you are leading a division of three or a crew of 5000, the welfare of your crew should be your top priority.
Be Patience and enjoy the season that you are in. There were times where I was so focused on what was ahead of me that I lost sight of what was right next to me. Keep God first and He will always direct your path. And finally….. be yourself. The organization truly values the unique skills, diversity and talents you bring, so be sure to make the best of it. Be safe out there and Good Luck!