Career, mentoring insights from Dewon Chaney, new Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Wing ONE Commodore
BY CAPT. SIMONIA R. BLASSINGAME, USN (RET.) NATIONAL NAVAL OFFICERS ASSOCIATION EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT
Blassingame: What messages do you give yourself as you navigate your career? How do these messages impact where you are today and where you are going?
Capt. Chaney: Do the best you can each day and make your organization better. I’ve tried to serve in the Navy not thinking about myself so I’ve never stressed over “fitreps.” It’s always about the team and taking care of the people I work for…my subordinates. I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to work with amazing people, such as yourself, that have poured their wisdom and lessons learned into me. I never want to let them down.
Integrity, accountability and fairness are at the heart and soul of any command. They are the principles that we as leaders must emulate in both our words and actions. Whether you are a seaman or an admiral, how you conduct yourself in your day to day activities will tell all those around you who you really are, and what you are made of. It will tell them whether or not you are trustworthy, and worthy of following.
Good leaders must be cognizant that they are in a position of trust and that others are always watching their actions. Their actions speak louder than words.
Good leaders hold themselves and others accountable. They don’t ask anyone to do what they wouldn’t do themselves, and they are their own toughest critic.
Good leaders have a “can do” spirit. They can’t wait to move out, to go “engines ahead full.” No one needs to tell them “engines ahead full,” they are already there.
Good leaders have a measure of toughness and resilience. They are the ones that everyone leans on in the darkest of times.
Everything we do as a leader matters. Both our subordinates and peers amplify the signals we send out, so it is incumbent upon us to always take a fix to determine where we are so that we can provide a positive example for others to follow.
Setting the example and maintaining the tenets of good leadership is what has kept our Navy strong for over 250 years. I am proud to have done my part and will rest assured that we will continue to maintain our global maritime superiority, both now and well into the future.
In 1970, Louisville, Kentucky native Dr. Kenneth D. Dunn secured a nomination to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Dr. Dunn’s father had already fought in Korea and he wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps. He found the humidity and rigorous academic standards demanding, but Dunn enjoyed his time there, including serving as a defensive back for the Navy Midshipmen. After graduating in 1974, Dr. Dunn trained to become an artillery officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. Rising through the ranks, Dunn was eventually put in command of 5th Battalion, 10th Marines operating out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in 1993 and the Weapons and Training Battalion out of Quantico, Virginia.
Over the course of his long and distinguished career, Dr. Dunn became a husband and father. In these new roles, he faced major challenges, his three children and the dozens of Marines under his command required him to exercise discipline and show strong leadership. Dr. Dunn said that his training prepared him for those challenges because it taught him that life does not simply plateau at one level of difficulty just because we want it to. Many of the experiences that shaped his outlook on life were detailed in his recently published book “Camp Lejeune Command: Commander’s Notes 1992-1995.” Dunn’s notes includes many of his “rules” or career principles, which include:
Knowing the right thing to do is easy, the hard part is doing it.
Give your family 1st class treatment, they are your lasting legacy.
If you can do nothing else, set a good example…someone IS watching……
NNOA Life Member, Dr. Kenneth Dunn, started writing Camp Lejeune Command: Commander’s Notes 1991-1995 more than 30 years ago with junior officers in mind. Through the eyes of an African American Commanding Officer, Dr. Dunn is “looking to train, coach and mentor more CO’s of color. From raising a family, to seeking command, to navigating the path to leadership” — this is his story.
When asked to explain what the Marine Corps has to offer young people, Dr. Dunn pointed to the many educational and service to Country opportunities it provides to those who join. And how many young people understand that one of the best ways to achieve economic stability is through a college education. The Marine Corps not only teaches people the kind of focus that will empower them throughout the rest of their lives, but it also offers officers, and those who enlist, money for college and careers that can sustain them for a lifetime.
After serving his country for 30 years, Dr. Dunn retired from the Corps in 2004 and pursued his doctorate in education. This allowed him to follow his passion for teaching, and he now serves as an adjunct professor at the College of Distance Education and Training, Marine Corps University. As a college educator, Dr. Dunn still roots for the Navy Midshipmen, and because of his strong ties to Maryland, he will always have a soft spot in his heart for the Baltimore Ravens.
Reflecting on the many life lessons he received from his time as a Marine, Dr. Dunn related the story of how important it was for him to be allowed to join a recreational football team as a 12-year-old. The first time he felt what it was like to be part of something greater than himself, was when he was playing football. He now views his time in the Corps as an extension of that formative experience because being in the Marines is all about selfless service and pursuing goals that no one individual can achieve by themselves. “My motivation as a young man, pretty much as a high school student, as a college student, as a junior officer, and then finally as a senior officer, has pretty much remained the same; doing the very best I can with what God has given me,” said Dunn.
Major General Linda Urrutia-Varhall, U. S. Air Force
General Reflects on Hispanic Heritage, Credits Mentors with Success
By Shannon Collins DoD News Features, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON September 21, 2015 —
Education and mentorship helped a young Hispanic girl who dreamed of going to the U.S. Air Force Academy not only achieve her dreams, but earn the rank of major general and the position of deputy A2, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance for Air Force Headquarters at the Pentagon.
In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, Air Force Maj. Gen. Linda Urrutia-Varhall shares her lessons learned at the U.S. Air Force Academy, at luncheons and at other events, hoping to pay it forward to junior enlisted and officers, especially those in the Hispanic community.
Growing up in Pueblo, Colorado, Urrutia-Varhall said her biggest role models were her parents.
“My mom was a stay-at-home mom, and my father worked at the Pepsi Cola plant,” she said. “My dad, I’m proud to say, came in as a janitor and by the time he retired in 39 years, he was running the plant in Pueblo.”
She said she got her work ethic from her hard-working parents, adding that her mother is the smartest person she knows. Her relatives didn’t really leave Pueblo but she wanted more. When she was 13 in 1974, she and her uncle went to visit the academy.
“I told my uncle, even though there were no women there, I would graduate from there,” she said. “He said, ‘Oh hija [little one], I know you say that, but they don’t let women in here.’ Little did I know I would graduate from there in 1984.”
She said her parents told her she could be anything she wanted to be. Her other role model was Lt. Gen. Norma Brown, the first woman to command an Air Force wing in 1974.
Culture and Education
Urrutia-Varhall said her ancestors came up from Mexico after arriving from the Basque region of Spain, settling in Colorado for a generation as pickers at a farm and then working long hours at the steel mill in Pueblo. She said the Air Force was an easy transition for her because the Spanish culture is all about family, and she gets that feeling with the military. The biggest challenge in the military is obtaining the balance of family and career, she said.
“I’ve been blessed to have met a great man who said he would follow me wherever I went and support me and my career,” Urrutia-Varhall said.
The general encourages all Hispanics, as well as all children of all ethnicities, to stay in school and get their education.
“You’ve got to stay in school to at least have a chance at becoming an enlisted or an officer in the military and doing great things,” she said. “Get your secondary education. Some way, you’ll make it. Whether you work a job, your mom and dad work, whether you get scholarships or grants, somehow, if you want to go to school bad enough, you can get there, and then all you need is somebody to open the door just once. And for each of us that is in some way successful or helpful, help that one person, just get one person’s foot in the door and pay it forward.”
The general said she wouldn’t be in the position she’s in today if it hadn’t been for mentors such as her parents, third grade teacher, air officer commander or husband.
To junior service members and civilians working their way toward leadership positions, she offered this advice: “You never know who you’ll meet, where you’ll get to go or what you’ll get to do or see,” Urrutia-Varhall said. “It really helped expand my horizons. Also, if you’re an officer or senior enlisted, always look people in the eye and ask them how they’re doing. Have empathy and don’t become a non-person.”
Finally, she said, “You belong in every room; learn to be comfortable in any room you walk in. You belong because of your hard work and everything you do. You belong there just as much as anybody else. And you can be whatever you want to be. The only one holding you back is you.”
(Follow Shannon Collins on Twitter @CollinsDoDNews)
Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, 25th Commandant of the U. S. Coast Guard
Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, 25th Commandant of the U. S. Coast Guard
Every passageway I walk down, whether on a ship or in an office, I am reminded of a phrase I once heard: the standards you walk past are the standards you accept. As a Coast Guardsman, Sailor, or Marine, embracing your organization’s standards and values advances a culture befitting the Nation’s trust.
You are faced with decisions countless times a day. In making these decisions, whether big or small, you must ask yourself “Are my actions consistent with my values and the values of my organization?” If your response is no – ask why?
Refuse to accept, “We’ve always done it that way,” as an answer and challenge the status quo. Your decisions and behavior create the culture in which those you lead will live and work. You are the critical link; take the high ground.
As a leader you must embrace your responsibility in shaping culture. Own your organization’s standards. Communicate your expectations and empower people to succeed.