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NNOA 2018 Symposium – “A Tremendous Experience of Discovering Leadership, Professional Development, Training Opportunities, and Teamwork Within the Ranks of the Sea Services.”

By Roosevelt “Rick” Wright, Jr., Ph.D., CAPT., USNR(ret)
NNOA Historian

On the Banks of the Elizabeth River, and The Main Ship Channel for Ships of the Atlantic Fleet, sits the Renaissance Portsmouth/Norfolk Waterfront Hotel, where on the 8th and 9th of August 2018, The National Naval Officers Association held its’ 46th Annual Symposium. This gathering of very impressive, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corp., and U.S. Coast Guard Officers, plus civilian personnel, was a “fantastic, spirited, and most productive event.” This years’ theme, “Embracing Diversity to Strengthen the Sea Services,” was supported by an array of notables, such as Sea Services Chiefs, ADM John M. Richardson, USN, Chief of Naval Operations, and ADM Karl L. Schultz, USCG, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. This years’ 2018 Symposium was blessed with the attendance of “Living Founders and Incorporators of NNOA,” Capt. Claude Williams, USN(ret), The Honorable Buddie Penn, Former Acting Secretary of the U.S. Navy, and LCDR Richard West, USN(ret). Congressman Robert C. Scott, who represents the third congressional district of Virginia, was a wonderful luncheon speaker, and his remarks were most delightful and stimulating for his support of the Sea Services. Mr. John Rowe, Mayor of Portsmouth, Va., presented words of further support for the work of NNOA, during the opening ceremonies.

A major opening activity for the NNOA 2018 Symposium was the annual Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Program (STEM) that was held at U.S. Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, Va. At this event, 58 local tidewater youth were treated and participated with some of the latest technology used in the carrying out the various missions of the Sea Services. Dr. Melvin T. Stith, Interim President of Norfolk State University, presented a “most powerful, opening presentation,” on the excellence of obtaining an education in the field of technology. The luncheon Keynote speaker was CAPT. Donnie Cochran, USN (ret), Naval Aviator and former Commanding Officer of the Elite Naval Flight Demonstration Team- “The Blue Angels.” His presentation on developing “leadership qualities and productivity in STEM fields,” was shown to this group of exceptional youth, by his management skills in commanding, and flying with the Blue Angels Flight Team. RADM William Kelly, USCG, Assistant Commandant for Human Resources presented his message about the importance of a STEM based education for tomorrow’s work force.

During this Seven Hour NNOA STEM event, the students representing 37 local tidewater schools, grades 8-12 had the opportunity to see Two Navy Helicopters, a H-53 from HM-15, and an H-60 from HSC-22, from NAS Norfolk. These assess along with various operational demonstrations, and Q&A discussions, plus an introduction to the overall relationships to STEM based education careers, and opportunities was presented. Towards the end of this event, and after a strong “Life Skills Session,” was held, one rising high school senior received the CAPT Donald Flowers, USN, Scholarship Award. This $500 Award was presented to the NNOA STEM participant who “demonstrated superior knowledge and performance in the related activity competition.”

The Attendance at NNOA 2018 included 235 fully registered attendees, and 21 speakers from all sea services families. Representation was as follows, 97, U.S. Navy; 89, U.S. Coast Guard; 39, U.S. Marine Corp; 1, U.S. Army; 3, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association; 2, U.S. Public Health Service, 4, Civilians. The full spectrum of rank, 7, Midshipmen, to Flag was present with many junior officers, 0-3 and below, attending one or more informational sessions. NNOA’s efforts to increase junior officer membership, resulted in an increase of 53% attending this years’ symposium. LtCol Jason Davis, USMC, and membership director of NNOA is “spearheading major efforts in increasing the membership of NNOA.”

The Renaissance Waterfront Hotel was a most efficacious location, with the aesthetics of Naval, Coast Guard Vessels, Water taxi’s, Yachts, Tugboats, and barges plying outside on the river conducting their missions. While inside the hallways, conference/meeting rooms, auditorium, patios, and ballrooms, NNOA’s 2018 Symposium was in a mode of celerity with an array of notable and illustrious participants. This years’ theme, “Embracing Diversity to Strengthen the Sea Services,” set the cognitive tone for the message content presented in the various panel discussions, and keynote speakers. Highlights of these most impressive content providers and sessions are as follows for those in attendance.

Setting the atmosphere for the symposium were Two Life Skills seminars, one entitled, “Financial Planning,” and the other, “Building Wealth in Real Estate,” were presented on Tuesday night, which was prior to the official opening sermon on Wednesday morning. The sessions were most informative, and well attended by the membership.

Representation from our Sea Services, had many notable VIP’s in attendance, some of our U.S. Navy Family members, were The Honorable Buddie Penn, Former Acting Secretary of the Navy; ADM John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations; ADM(ret) Cecil Haney; VADM Kevin Scott, Director, Joint Force Development; Ms. Steffanie Easter, Director, Navy Staff; RADM(ret) Sinclair Harris, President, National Naval Officers Association; RDML Stephen Evans, Commander, Carrier Strike Group TWO; RDML Jesse Wilson, Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic; RDML(ret) Annie Andrews, Assistant Administrator for Human Resources Management, Federal Aviation Administration; CAPT Donald Nisbett, Deputy Commander for NROTC Operations; CAPT Tara McArthur-Milton, Former Director for U.S. Naval Academy; CAPT Robert Dews, Safety Officer, U.S. Naval Academy; CAPT(ret) Donnie Cochran, Former Commanding Officer, U.S. Navy Blue Angels; COL Arthur Athens, USMC, Director, Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership; and CDR Michael Files, OPNAV N1, NNOA Navy Service Affiliate.

The U. S. Marine Corp, also had major representation, and “Semper Fidelis” to these notables, LTGEN Mark Brilakis, CG, Marine Forces Command; MAJGEN Craig Crenshaw, Director, Manpower and Reserve Affairs; BGEN Wiliam Seely III, Director Office of U.S. Marine Corps Communications; BGEN William Swan, Director, Manpower and Reserve Affairs; COL DeWayne Whiteside, Branch Head, LPO, I&L; COL David Everly, Commanding Officer, The Basic School; COL Reginald Hairston, G1, Marine Forces Command; LtCOL Quintin Jones, J3, NATO; COL Christopher Shaw, SJA, MCCD&I; LtCOL Jefferey Godfrey, OPSO, The Basic School, and COL Anthony M. Henderson, Branch Head, PP&O, Marine Corp Affiliate NNOA.

The “Pea Island U. S. Coast Guard Life Saving Surfmen of the Mid-1800’s, on the North Carolina Coast,” were probably beaming in “heaven,” as they watched the Coast Guard Family notables on board for NNOA 2018. ADM Karl Schultz, Commandant, USCG; VADM Charles Ray, Vice Commandant, USCG; RADM Meredith Austin, CO, District 5; CAPT Tom Walsh, Coast Guard Recruiting Command, USCG; CDR Shameen Anthanio-Williams, Pentagon Liaison, USCG; CDR Kristina Lewis, Office of Personnel Management, USCG; and LCDR Paul Green, Reserve Affairs, USCG.

Serving as Keynote Breakfast and luncheon speakers, plus panelist, these Senior Sea Service Leaders presented “information and guidance on a myriad of enlightening topics, including; honing leadership skills, joint service, career management, operational competence, life skills, mentoring, and recruiting.” Further our professional and experienced VIP’s, emphasized, “how the Naval Services must lead by measurable actions, that will increase professional competence, inclusion, and maximizing the talent recruited and within the ranks.”

Two Notable VIP’s, Congressman Bobby Scott, representing the Third Congressional District of the State of Virginia, was the Keynote Speaker for the opening of NNOA 2018 Symposium. And for the first time in the History of the National Naval Officers Association Conferences/Symposium, a President of a Historically Black College and University, Dr. Melvin T. Stith, Interim President of Norfolk State University, and Home of an outstanding NROTC unit was our “Gala Keynote Speaker for Our Awards Banquet and Dinner.” Also, the list of notables attending at various stages, were Mr. John Rowe, Mayor of Portsmouth, Va.; RADM(ret) Mark Buzby, Administrator, Maritime Administration; RADM Syvia Trent-Adams, Deputy Surgeon General, U.S. Public Health Service; RDML Nancy Hann, Deputy Director, NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations; and COL(ret) Brian Anderson, USAF, Director, Career Transition & Member Services.

NNOA 2018 culminated with the presentation of annual awards at the Gala Banquet Dinner, “The Dorie Miller Award” for Excelling in the accomplishments of NNOA goals was presented to LCDR Desmond Walker, USN, (OPNAV N00Z). “The Captain John G. Witherspoon Award,” for Excellence in Leadership and Mentoring was presented to CDR Michael Files, USN, (OPNAV N122R). Receiving the “Lifetime Achievement Award, was CAPT Robert Dews, USN, (USNA), who 34 years ago received a scholarship from the DC Chapter of NNOA. This award lead to a “fantastic Naval Career as an Aviator,” which started after receiving his B.S. Degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. Upon completion of undergraduate studies at Southern University, CAPT Robert Dews, USN, was one of the “Navy Pioneers of the Baccalaureate Degree Completion Program(BDCP),” and received his Naval Commission as an Ensign, after graduating from Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School in 1989.

The use of Social Media technology and Mass Media tools were widely used in telling the NNOA 2018 Symposium Story. WAVY-TV, Channel 10, NBC affiliate, Portsmouth, Va. and Broadcast Journalist Kara Dixon presented major coverage of NNOA Events. CAPT Mike Francis, USN(ret), IT Specialist for NNOA, Kwan, NNOA Web Master, Roosevelt Rubin Wright III, Junior, Public Relations/Public Diplomacy Major, S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University, and Mr. Eric Martin Labat, Award Winning Photographer of Norfolk, Va., were audiovisual and social media content providers. Video interviews with notable VIP’s, Photographs, Stories, Social Media Post about all events can all be found by visiting NNOA.ORG.

The National Naval Officers Association 2018 was a “huge success,” with a wonderful election of our new President, “Longtime NNOA Pioneer and Leader,” RADM Sinclair M. Harris, USN(ret). His message of “FULL SPEED AHEAD,” with the Mission of Chapter Empowerment, Growth of Membership, A Greater Symposium 2019 in San Diego, California, and The Implementation of the Strategic Review, that will take NNOA to Greater Heights in Providing Leadership and Diversity for the Sea Services.

Commander Denise J. McCallaCreary, USN(ret), Immediate Past President of NNOA leaves us with this message, “I was extremely pleased with the attendance, the participation of Senior Sea Service Leadership, and their commitment to diversity in the sea services. I believe there is a momentum and appreciation for NNOA, and what was as an organization can do to support their diversity mission. While this is my last year as President, I am excited for the future of NNOA.”

As we close out this review of NNOA 2018 Symposium, “Lets’ Never Forget the Incredible Work of Our Founders and Visionaries in Establishing the National Naval Officers Association in the 1970’s.” See you next year in San Diego, California, Navy, Marine Corp., Coast Guard, NOAA, and USPHS, SEA SERVICES FAMILY MEMBERS, ”BZ To ALL”

Respectfully Submitted,
Roosevelt “Rick” Wright, Jr., Ph.D., CAPT., USNR(ret)
NNOA, Historian