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Career tips from chief-turned-CO

Jun. 21, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Cmdr. Bryan Carmichael, right, meets with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on May 22 during New York's Fleet Week.
Cmdr. Bryan Carmichael, right, meets with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on May 22 during New York's Fleet Week. (MC2 Scott Bourque/Navy)
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When seeking career advice, there are worse places to go than a prior-enlisted commanding officer who’s served with Navy SEALs, earned a Combat Action Ribbon in Afghanistan and led his vessel through a 16-month midlife upgrade and into a spot as flagship for New York’s Fleet Week.

Navy Times sat down with Cmdr. Bryan Carmichael, 48, during the amphibious dock landing ship Oak Hill’s transit to the Big Apple last month and asked him to share his insight with a new generation of sailors and officers.

What you should know:

1 All about you. A crew needs to work together, but focusing too much on what others are up to can be costly, Carmichael said.

“A lot of the young kids nowadays tend to worry about everything but what they are doing,” said Carmichael, who joined in 1984 and rose to chief before getting his commission. “If you focus on doing your job, the other guy can focus on doing his job.”

2 Sweat the details. Be on time: If it’s time for the safety brief, Carmichael said, he wants to talk about safety, not look for people. And be professional: The way you carry yourself says more than you might realize.

“If you’re standing gate guard at an [entry control point], you’ve got to make yourself a hard target,” Carmichael offered as an example. “We don’t want the enemy to come to our ECP. We want them to know that if you go down the pier that Oak Hill’s at, you’re going to have a fight on your hands.”

3 Set up for success. Leaders should set high standards and enforce them, offering sailors the training they need to reach lofty goals.

Young sailors “are very smart and well-educated,” Carmichael said. “Our job is to put them in a position to do well. I have found that when you do that, the crew — regardless of what generation — they are going to perform. They just do.”

4 Repeat, repeat, repeat. Whether landing “green” helicopter crews (be they inexperienced, or Army, or both) or running the joint light tactical vehicle through the ringer during sea trials, the Oak Hill’s crew systematically learns the systems, works through the concepts and seeks feedback on everything — the good, the bad and the ugly.

“To be proficient at anything, you have to get the repetitions and flow going while you make course corrections along the way,” he said.

5 Matter of trust. As a former electrician’s mate who made chief in fewer than 10 years, Carmichael’s familiar with the skills of the junior sailors under his command.

Other leaders must appreciate them for a ship to succeed as a whole, he said.

“The blue-shirt in the Navy has always been the center of gravity,” Carmichael said. “As long as you put them in a position to be successful, they will always meet or exceed your expectations.”

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