Year of the Captains & Colonels: Kertreck V. Brooks, USN

Year of the Captains & Colonels: Kertreck V. Brooks, USN

Message to NNOA President & Members:

My personal work ethic comes from my parents, two of the hardest working people I know. I had my first job in 6th grade delivering my hometown newspaper after school. During my freshman year of high school, I started working in the circulation department of my hometown newspaper where I worked for five years. My experience working in the newspaper business taught me lifelong lessons about leadership and the value of hard work.

Leadership Philosophy

  • Dignity & Respect – Treat everyone the way you want to be treated regardless of their job title or status in life.
  • Humility – Be humble and remember where you came from. Don’t get caught up in the perks of your job.
  • Integrity – Do the right thing even when no one is watching. Choose the hard right, not the easy wrong.
  • Transparency – Communicate early and often with your team. Be open and honest.
  • Compliance – Follow the rules. If you discover something is not being done in accordance with regulations, fix it. When we make mistakes, own up to them. Ask questions – If you don’t know, ask. Never hesitate to ask questions because this is how we all learn.
  • Relationships Matter – Building professional relationships is important. Don’t burn any bridges because you never know when you may need someone else’s help.
  • Humor – Keep a sense of humor and a thick skin. Choose to have a good attitude. Life is too short not to laugh and smile every day.


Captain Brooks is a native of Mt. Pleasant, TX and he graduated from Saint Louis University in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautics and as a recipient of the distinguished Oliver L. Parks award for outstanding leadership, academic achievement, and service. He earned a Master of Science in Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2004. He was commissioned as a Navy Officer upon completion of Officer Candidate School in December 1995 and was designated a Naval Flight Officer upon completion of Joint Specialized Undergraduate Navigator Training in May 1997. He became a Navy Human Resources Officer in May 2008.

He completed operational assignments with the “Ironmen” of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron Three (VQ-3) from August 1997 to August 2000 as a Naval Flight Officer onboard the E-6B (Mercury) where he qualified as a Navigator, Airborne Communications Officer, and Mission Commander; USS Nimitz (CVN 68) as a Catapult and Arresting Gear Officer from November 2003 to September 2006; and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) as the Training Officer from May 2008 to May 2010.

Ashore, he served two tours of duty at the 562nd Flying Training Squadron as an Instructor Navigator where he trained Navy, Air Force, and International Student Navigators. He also served as the Assistant Director of Operations and was recognized as the squadron’s Company Grade Officer of the Year in 2001 and Flight Commander of the Year in 2002. During his second instructor tour, he served as a staff instructor at the squadron’s Instructor Training School and was recognized as an “Exceptionally Qualified” Instructor in January 2007. He did an induvial augmentee assignment as the Assistant Officer in Charge of the Manpower and Personnel (N1) Individual Augmentation Cell at U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in 2006. He completed a joint assignment as a Division Chief in the Manpower and Personnel Directorate (J1) at U. S. Transportation Command from June 2010 to January 2013 and he was also dual hatted as Executive Officer of the Navy Element. He served as Executive Officer of Recruit Training Command, the Navy’s only boot camp, from February 2013 to June 2015. At Navy Personnel Command, he served as Deputy Director of the Distribution Management Division (PERS-45) from July 2015 to February 2017. Captain Brooks served as the 19th Commanding Officer of the Naval Education and Training Professional Development Center in Pensacola, FL from March 2017 to October 2019. After completing his major command tour, he served as a Navy Fellow in the Global Talent Organization at LinkedIn in San Francisco, CA as part of the Secretary of the Navy Tours with Industry (SNTWI) program from November 2019 to July 2020. Captain Brooks reported to Naval Service Training Command in Great Lakes, IL in August 2020 where he is serving as the Director of Operations until taking over as the Chief of Staff on 1 April 2021.

Year of the Captains & Colonels: CAPT Johnetta C. Thomas, USN

Year of the Captains & Colonels: CAPT Johnetta C. Thomas, USN

The opportunity to share my lessons is an honor. To have lessons to share is a humbling. When I started this journey twenty-four years ago, I had no idea I would still be on it. My journey as an officer is filled with challenges, rewards, doubts, growth, lessons and experiences. All of them contribute to where and who I am.

Grow into understanding

God has been unwavering in his grace and mercy over my life…my career. Growing as a leader, having more responsibility and more expectations (Luke 12:48); faith had to be my cornerstone. Leaders are constantly observed by those around them including aspiring individuals. Each decision, each act, each word says something about you as a person and a leader. The more you believe and grow in your faith, the more your patience and understanding grows. Surround yourself with positive affirmation, keep your moral compass stabilized, and exercise your beliefs to maintain balance.

Aim to achieve more

Always do your best. The Navy is a tough environment. There are times you have to work 5X harder to achieve the same results as your peers. Enjoying what you do, will make you want more, do more and achieve more. New assignment, new environment, learn fast, stay focused and confident. Continuously look for the opportunity to learn and improve. . .as a person, as a Sailor, as a leader.

Be the best you, you can be

Be confident in yourself. Recognize your ability, knowledge and experiences brought you where you are. There is not a requirement to fit in or be the same, however teamwork is key. Consistently communicate and continue to gain education.
We are all different, our minds, outlooks, and talents . . . these differences build strong teams, leaders, and accomplishments.

Help others

Be a mentor, be an example. The road was paved but every day there are new trails being blazed. People learn and observe from everyone one around them. These experiences enable them to paint the picture of their future. . .their goals. People often seek out someone with something in common; career paths, life experiences, personality, etc. Be a positive influence. Share your experiences and knowledge. At some point, your representation is no longer about you but those that you encounter and see an opportunity for themselves.

Explore every opportunity.
This speaks for itself.

In all those lessons, this quote by Maya Angelou sums it up my outlook the best, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”


Captain Thomas is the Chief of Staff at Office of Special Projects in Washington, DC.  She is from Riviera Beach, Florida and a graduate of the University of West Florida in Pensacola earning a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting.  She was commissioned in November 1997 through the Officer Candidate School Program.  She earned a Masters of Business Administration from Troy University in 2008 and a Masters of Art in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College, Newport, RI in 2013.

Her shore duty assignments include serving as Executive Officer, NAVSUP FLC Norfolk, VA; Electrical Devices and Nuclear Reactor Programs Division Chief, DLA Land and Maritime in Columbus, OH; Deputy Chief of Logistics Support and Services; US Southern Command in Miami, FL; Afloat Configuration and Force Stock Control Officer, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic, Norfolk, VA; Support and Facilities Department Head, Naval Telecommunications Station, Puerto Rico; and Naval Acquisition and Contracting Officer Intern, Defense Contract Management Agency Atlanta, GA.

Her operational tours include Supply Officer, USS BATAAN (LHD 5); Supply Officer, USS MITSCHER (DDG-57); and Disbursing Officer and Material Stores Officer, USS NASSAU (LHA-4).  She also served as an individual augmentee with Multi National Forces Iraq Contracting Officer in Mosul and Tikrit, Iraq.

Personal decorations include a Defense Meritorious Service Medal (one bronze oak leaf), Meritorious Service Medal (one gold star), Joint Service Commendation Medal (one gold star), Navy and Marine Commendation Medal (one gold star), Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medals (two gold stars), and various service awards.  She is qualified Surface Warfare Supply Corps Officer and Naval Aviation Supply Corps Officer, also a member of the Navy Acquisition Professional community and a Joint Qualified Officer.


Year of the Captains & Colonels: Colonel Seth L. Ocloo, USMC

Year of the Captains & Colonels: Colonel Seth L. Ocloo, USMC

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I’m truly blessed and privileged to add some words of wisdom to what has already been shared by this impressive group of senators from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Marine Corps.

I believe the development of ethical leaders firmly rooted in the Marine Corps’ heritage of selfless service, core values, and warfighting excellence is the life blood of the Marine Corps.  With that, a call to action to dedicate ourselves to our leadership principles that have stood the test of time.

Leadership Principles

  1. Know yourself and seek self-improvementYou are never done growing as a leader.
  2. Be technically and tactically proficientKnow your business.
  3. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actionsBe accountable.
  4. Make sound and timely decisionsBe wise and decisive.
  5. Set the exampleMore is caught than taught.
  6. Know your Marines and Sailors and look out for their well-being – Marines and Sailors don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
  7. Keep your unit informedNo team ever failed because of too much honest and effective communication.
  8. Develop a sense of responsibility in subordinatesYou are responsible for the development of the physical, mental, and moral welfare of the Marines and Sailors in your organization.
  9. Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplishedSet clear expectations and goals, then teach, coach, evaluate, and hold Marines and Sailors accountable.
  10. Train your Marines and Sailors as a team – Organizational Culture is your job.
  11. Employ your team in accordance with its strengths and capabilities – Create an environment in which your Marines and Sailors will succeed.
Year of the Captains & Colonels: Captain Lawrence Gaillard, USCG

Year of the Captains & Colonels: Captain Lawrence Gaillard, USCG

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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!


Year of the Captains & Colonels: CAPT Ulysses S. Mullins, USCG

Year of the Captains & Colonels: CAPT Ulysses S. Mullins, USCG



You are a leader first, last, and always. That extends to your personal life probably more so than your professional life. How you live your personal life is going to largely influence your professional success. Being a leader does not always mean that you are in charge and need to make all decisions. Your career progression should be a perpetual learning process, evolution and honing of your leadership skills. I believe leadership is a continuum of leading, supporting, influencing, and followership that requires a fluctuating balance of discernment, patience, and decisiveness. There are occasions where your leadership will clearly be needed to ensure mission outcomes and effectiveness. On other occasions, you will be supporting your command or your superiors by carrying out their objectives. In these roles, you may not be the key decision maker, but may largely influence decisions. Take this role seriously because senior leaders are relying on you to provide decision support that is sound, well-reasoned and considers associated risks. Do not take it personal if your input is heard, but not taken, as there may be other factors, unknown to you, influencing the final decision. Following or followership simply put means there are occasions you allow your subordinates or counterparts to lead in a situation because they may be better versed, have more expertise or you simply may not have the bandwidth to be fully engaged in the matter at hand, so you have to trust them. However, you should maintain situational awareness to ensure things are headed to a favorable or successful outcome.


With each new assignment, quickly ascertain your sphere of influence by understanding your responsibilities, authorities and senior leadership’s objectives and goals. Ensure that your actions, decisions, and performance are aligned with senior leadership’s goals and objectives. Once you understand the boundaries of your influence you can work to expand the sphere. Expanding your sphere of influence will come as you establish your reputation through performance of duties, broadening your knowledge, and demonstrating competency and sustained credibility. Take advantage of opportunities to excel that are above your paygrade or assigned responsibilities. Definitely find out beforehand what is expected, so you are certain that you can execute.


Aim to make your bosses’ day easier, not harder. When presenting problems, provide well-rationed and defendable solutions. If it is within the scope of your authority, make the decision, but keep your supervisor informed. Every supervisor will not be the same, some may proffer a wide berth to allow you to execute and perform to the best of your ability and others depending upon their leadership style may proffer a narrow berth. Be humble in both situations and do your best to meet their expectations. If expectations are not clear seek additional guidance and/or clarity.

Leadership is a constant, while situations are fluid and require the right type of leadership at the right time to achieve the best outcome. Enjoy your career and the leadership journey!

Year of the Captains & Colonels: CAPT Tasya Lacy, USN

Year of the Captains & Colonels: CAPT Tasya Lacy, USN


Message to NNOA President & Members:

Thank you for affording me the opportunity to share some of the leadership lessons learned from nearly three decades of service.  I am here today because of the Sailors who entrusted me to lead them and who worked tirelessly to realize my vision no matter where I served.  It is also important to acknowledge the role of the many mentors and sponsors who not only helped me to get here but helped me to stay here. 

These lessons are not just words that I say but reflect how I try to live.  This is what worked for me and I hope that you will find some nuggets that work for you also.

Know what you value and then live like its valuable.  Believe it or not, I did not plan to be a Navy captain.  My motto is, “I’ll stay in the Navy as long as I am able to make a difference in the lives of Sailors and this lifestyle continues to be compatible with my family.”  I value family, so my family was at the heart of every career decision.  As much as possible, I wanted to make sure that my service was for them and with them rather than at their expense.  To the best of my ability, I not only tried to stay focused on my own family, but I tried to create an environment where my Sailors were able to do the same with their families.  While in command, I did not turn my office into an “I love me” wall but rather covered the walls with pictures of my family.  It was more important for me that my Sailors could see that I valued my family more than my military accomplishments.  In so doing, it made it easier for them to talk to me about the real issues affecting them.  As you move forward in your career, I also urge you to keep the following in mind:  

Be capable and competent.  Nobody wants to follow someone who is incapable and incompetent. 

Be humble.  Everyone will know that you are the boss, so you don’t have to be bossy.

Be willing to fail.  The mistakes you make today will prepare you to be better tomorrow only if you take note of what you learned and do not repeat what you did wrong today.

Don’t burn bridges.  You never know when you will have to walk that way again.  Rather than burning bridges, build them instead.  These bridges will reach far and wide and come in handy when needed.

Never mistake kindness for weakness.  Everyone has two sides. You would rather see the side of me that smiles, trust me.  The same is true for other kind leaders who demonstrate that is possible to be kind and firm at the same time.

Resist the urge to be the best at everything!  As a leader, you don’t have to be the best person on the team, your job is to get the best from your people. 

Not everyone who speaks well to you will speak well about you.  When you learn who those people are, treat them well anyway.  Just know that you can’t trust them, be wary of their motives, and keep it moving.  Yes, I even smile at my enemies and I challenge you to do the same.

An open-door policy is no good if it leads to a closed mind.  You must be willing to be open – open minded, approachable, and receptive. 

You will be wrong sometimes.  Own it and make it right as fast as you can.

You can’t build anything lasting on a broken foundation. Trust is the foundation, build that first.

Don’t ignore bad leaders.  Learn from them or you risk being them.

Lawful doesn’t mean it isn’t awful.  Not every adverse situation warrants a severe response.  Just because you can take certain actions doesn’t mean you should.  A good leader discerns when and how to use power.

Be committed to excellence.  At the core of the word excellence is the verb, EXCEL. You must first EXCEL to be excellent or to attain excellence.  Excel is an action word, so it inherently implies that you are going to have to do some work, and not just do it, but do it to the best of your ability. To excel takes practice. It is not achieved by a one-time good effort, instead, you must repeat that good effort until you become great. Talent alone is not enough to make a winning team – leadership always matters.