“May you live in interesting times.”
 – Frederic R. Coudert, 1939

The NNOA is needed more today than ever!

To say we are living in “interesting times” is an understatement for sure but captures what many feel about 2020.  Deaths and economic impacts from COVID-19, protests over racial inequality, wildfires across the western states, hurricanes so numerous that NOAA ran out of names, and all of this during a national election year.  “Unprecedented” and “exhausting” are two words that seem to come up when thinking about this year.  However, daunting these situations may be, this has been a year of great success for our National Naval Officers Association (NNOA).  Members of NNOA are in the middle of so much good that is happening to make our Sea Services and our Nation better.  It is impossible to list everything that we should be proud of in our organization.  Now is the time for NNOA to have even deeper and wider impact as a leadership resource for the maritime services and nation.  In this short message, I want to highlight a few of the key ideas and major concepts that I see for NNOA coming over the next year or so.

Relevance of NNOA Could Not Be Greater

Our own RADM Alvin “Bull” Holsey, USN, is leading TF ONE, and several senior members of NNOA are working in advisory capacities. U.S. Coast Guard NNOA members are currently serving as Diversity and Inclusion Change Agents and Action Officers for the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI) recruiting at Minority Servicing Institutions and serving as critical mentors throughout the ranks to provide career guidance to junior members. They are also taking a leadership role within the Commandant’s Affinity Group Council, aligning the strategic priorities of 10 affinity group organizations to improve policies that impact the entire workforce.  The Secretary of Defense Task Force on Race, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO)’s Task Force ONE (TF ONE), CCG Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, CMC’s Diversity and Inclusion Discussion Forum, CMC’s Talent Management Executive Council, and the Chief of Naval Research’s STEM Diversity Initiative are just a few of the major projects where NNOA members have been essential.

NNOA’s First Virtual Leadership and Career Development Symposium

Nearly 600 people signed up and attended our first virtual Annual Symposium.  Thanks to the incredible leadership and drive of our NNOA IT Chair – LCDR Marlon Heron, USCG – NNOA was able to seamlessly bring leadership from each of our Sea Services into a stimulating exchange with our members.  Headlined by the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC), Commandant of the Coast Guard (CCG), Commander of Fleet Forces Command, and many other Flag and General Officers, it was a professional development event like no other.  Our National Executive Vice President – CAPT Simonia Blassingame, USN (Ret) “Queen of ZOOM” – provided leadership throughout the Symposium that made each session engaging and stimulating to the audience.  Subject to pandemic restrictions, we will initially plan to return to a live/face-to-face or hybrid Annual Symposium next year, given the success of our 2020 all virtual event.

The Way Ahead for 2021

With the wind filling our sails from our recent Symposium, the ship of NNOA is set to sail at full speed through the rest of 2020 and 2021 on our way to the 50th anniversary in 2022.  We will adjust course and speed as is prudent and ensure our charts are updated regularly in order to deal what the realities of the time.  There are many projects and programs that are vital to keeping on course and speed. Specifically:

  1. Implementation of the NNOA Diversity Strategy (NDS) – Led by RDML Frank Ponds, USN (Ret), Dr./CAPT Bernard Jackson, USN (Ret), and CAPT Syd Abernethy, USN (Ret), the NDS will help guide NNOA to the next level of effectiveness.
  2. Establishing our NNOA Veteran’s Action Group – Led by CDR Ernie Taylor, USN (Ret), we have many outstanding leaders in NNOA who have transitioned out of active service but have a passion for supporting our members and chapters.
  3. NNOA 2021 Annual Symposium – LtCol Misca Geter, USMC is our new Eastern Regional Vice-President and leading our way to our next great Symposium in Portsmouth, VA.
  4. NNOA at 50 – Dr./CAPT Rick Wright, USN (Ret) our NNOA Historian, has the wheels in motion to make our 50TH anniversary celebration grand and set the stage for the future of NNOA.
  5. Establishing the Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely, Jr. Award for high school students in the NJROTC programs. This award will be presented beginning in the spring of 2021 and recognizes leadership, mentoring, inclusion, and diversity displayed by our future leaders.  Our Regional VPs will seek your participation in the upcoming months as NNOA makes in-person presentations of this award once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

 The Year of the Captain and Colonel

For NNOA to live up to its potential, we need ALL HANDS ON DECK.  Every member of NNOA has an important role to play in fulfilling our mission. This year, I want to especially call on those officers who have successfully navigated their way to the highest level of senior officer our Captains and Colonels.  NNOA wants everyone to know more about your personal story.  I want you to share your wisdom regarding leadership, intelligence, passion, and strength with our members. I ask that each of you consider sharing your thoughts in our monthly post to our membership via our website and social media.  NNOA will recognize your courage and integrity in a world showcasing so few examples of these traits.   We know our members will find inspiration and encouragement from your experiences. Please email Dr./CAPT Mary E. McAdams, USN (Ret) at careers@nnoa.org, with your inputs. If you are not a Colonel or Captain but want to send your recommendation, please do.   Finally, I ask that each of our Colonels and Captains take on greater leadership positions in NNOA at the chapter or national level.  We need you now more than ever!

As Vice Admiral D.C. Curtis, USN (Ret) would often say, “KEEP CHARGING!”


RADM Sinclair M. Harris, USN (Ret)
President, NNOA