It may not have come out exactly as written, but here were my remarks for OUR Change of Command Ceremony conducted at the National Naval Aviation Museum. On 16 August 2012, Commander Pat Count became the 11th Commanding Officer of the team that is currently known as Navy Information Operations Command Pensacola. We were honored by having Vice Admiral Mike Rogers as our guest speaker and presiding officer, not to mention the friends and family who traveled significant distances to share in the celebration of an incredible team.
Over the last week, those of you who are part of the command know that I have been having some challenges with allergies of late. For some reason, my eyes keep leaking. Turns out the allergies are a result of the XO not spending as much time with me in favor of getting CDR Count up to speed on command issues. Fortunately, Senior Chief Betts, our Senior Enlisted Leader and the Chiefs knew the remedy and they gave me a new little buddy. (Pull out the very cool customized bobblehead they had created in my image and place on podium).
It’s no secret that I have not been looking forward to this day. I have found comfort in the words of the great Dr. Suess, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Though I have not been looking forward to this day, I have been looking forward to what I wanted to be able to say about our NIOC Pensacola Team on this date. I wanted to talk of the many operational contributions we have made, I wanted to boast about who we have become in the process, and I wanted to demonstrate how the team has helped me to personally grow in the 25 months and 16 days since I was the luckiest man on this very stage. Today, CDR Count holds that title as he prepares to take command.
I find the Enlisted Association’s approach to this ceremony so appropriate. Today really is just as much a graduation ceremony as it is a change of command. Today I graduate, tomorrow Petty Office Barry graduates and on Monday Petty Officer Pate graduates. Just as over 150 Sailors and Civilians have graduated from the NIOC Pensacola Center of Deliberate Action, Thought Leadership and Entrepreneurial Experimentation over the last 25 months, I graduate today, and each of you fortunate enough to currently be assigned to the NIOC Pensacola Team will someday graduate.
When I began reflecting on the time we shared at NIOC Pensacola, I am taken back to the day I was told that I had in fact screened for command. I remember going home and talking to Marianne and Barrett about where we might go and we decided that we wanted to go to Pensacola or one other command. When I told then Captain Metts (Detailer and Mentor) of the final two, he replied, “Sean, you are definitely a NIOC Pensacola guy.” Me being me immediately started to over analyze what the heck he might mean by such a matter of fact statement. I have often acknowledged that no one really knows what NIOC Pensacola does until they come to visit, and not having had the benefit of a visit, I had my own perceptions, as did many others. More than a few of us saw NIOC Pensacola as a place to fade away toward retirement, a place that was “chasing mission” in an effort to keep from being closed, a command that had no real focus, and a city that enjoyed some of the nicest beaches. So, what was he saying about me? Was he encouraging me to marginalize myself, was he telling me that I had no real focus, was he pushing me toward irrelevance, or did he just want me to enjoy some quality beach time?
At that point in time, I decided that I was, in fact, a “NIOC Pensacola Guy”, but I was going to partner with my new Shipmates to define what that meant and share it with the masses. I was committed to ensuring the perceptions I had prior to arrival were not the perceptions across the community upon my departure. In the minds of all, NIOC Pensacola was not only going to be a great place to be but a great place to be from. Being a NIOC Pensacola Alum was going to mean something and serve as a source of pride for all who were a part of that team from July 1st, 2010 forward.
So, what does it mean to be part of the NIOC Pensacola Team? We can’t begin to explore that without acknowledging our command values…Teamwork, Effective Communication, Continual Improvement, and Entrepreneurship. We must also acknowledge our command goals for 2012:
- Establish NIOC Pensacola as the Computer Network Operations Intersection
- Visibly Commit to Making Professional Development a Shared Priority
- Realize a culture of cooperative leadership and collective ownership
- Develop a truly operationally minded workforce
From my vantage point, through deliberate action, we have made our command values far more than words posted on our quarterdeck and made a great deal of progress toward each of our stated goals. Yes, we failed on more than a few occasions, but if we didn’t fail, we would be falling well short of our mandate.
So, what makes NIOC Pensacola a great place to be? Is it our proximity to beaches? Is it the relatively low cost of living? Is it the distance from Fort Meade, MD? Is it the delegation vice integration model we enjoy with the National Security Agency? I believe the answer to each is a resounding yes, but that doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. NIOC Pensacola is a great place because we believe in questioning the status quo, we believe in collaboration, we believe in experimentation, and we believe in making things up as we go. We have a commitment to being not only a team of leaders but a team that leads. It’s easy to say these things and many others do. What separates us is that we do far more than talk about doing. We do. We do because it’s our job. We do because we care too much not to. We do because doing is a lot more fun than merely talking about doing. We have clearly adopted a philosophy of, if not us, who? Yes, we’ve ruffled some feathers, stepped on toes, and bruised egos. But, that is the price of progress.
In our line of work, we are hungry for metrics and we want to know that we are in fact making tangible contributions to the larger effort. For me, the most significant metric was the interest other commands and a growing customer base continues to take in us. In fact, one of our driving themes that continues to pay great dividends has been that of creating intersections and removing barriers, both internally and externally. It is our belief that the best ideas happen at the intersection of diverse thought and complementary expertise. We have done our best to synchronize across peer groups, collapse the chain of command, and embrace the idea of cross-organizational interdependencies. Too many organizations and in our case Navy commands take great pride in being self-sufficient. Others are OK with focusing on their span of control and see nothing wrong with being a “cylinder of excellence”. We choose to focus on growing our sphere of influence, while allowing others to influence us. We choose to look external and work with others to realize a model of collective ownership and cooperative leadership. It is this philosophy that has allowed us to become Fleet Cyber Command’s intersection. An intersection of computer network operations expertise, an intersection where best practices converge, and an intersection of thought leadership. I am pleased to acknowledge that we are no longer that one-off command that lives on the fringes because of geography. We are the intersection in spite of geography. Just as The Medici Family’s investment in art, science, literature, politics and other fields made Florence the center of Renaissance thinking, the emphasis we continue to place on our tradecraft and culture have placed us at the center of many significant initiatives.
As my tour here has come to an end, I have been spending more time thinking about what it means to be a NIOC Pensacola Alum. I’ve been purposefully reaching out to the larger NIOC Pensacola Alumni Association and seeking to get updates on their adventure. They share stories of collaborating with the peers they left behind in Pensacola to help us grow and strengthen relationships across the Tenth Fleet Task Organization. They are leveraging the technical expertise developed as part of our team to not only contribute operationally but to grow those around them. They are exporting our shared bias for action, our commitment to exploring the art of the possible, and our cooperative approach to leading across the Cryptologic Community and Information Dominance Corps.
On July 1st, 2010, I committed to doing my part to make sure two statements were 100% true:
- NIOC Pensacola is a great place to be
- NIOC Pensacola is a great place to be from
I stand before you now firmly believing both to be true statements. Not because of me and not because of any one member of our team. These statements are true because of US, the NIOC Pensacola Team.
Over the last few days, I have been congratulated by many Shipmates for what they perceive to have been a successful command tour. Such an assumption is based merely on the fact that we are having a ceremony and I am wearing this medal. In my opinion, both were a given. Yes, many Commanding Officers have been relieved for cause and others have assumed command without a ceremony. But ceremonies like today are the rule and they very well may signify the end of a successful tour, but success is subjective. The Sailors and Civilians of NIOC Pensacola are successful by any metric, but we are not satisfied with being successful. We strive to be significant. To me this tour was all about being an active and significant participant in the lives of as many Shipmates as possible. This tour was about helping those truly interested in living a significant life work toward that objective. This tour was about making NIOC Pensacola a significant command in the eyes of all. I believe we, the NIOC Pensacola Team, are in fact far more than successful, we are significant.
Command Members please rise. NIOC Pensacola and NSGA Pensacola Alums, please stand.
Though I will no longer be your Commanding Officer, I will be your Shipmate, I will be your fan, and I will be your partner in my “do-loop of choice” (inspire, be inspired). Thank you for your inspiration, your hard work, and your commitment to being significant. Significant in the lives of those with whom we serve, significant members of the community, and significant contributors to our nation’s security. I may no longer lead the NIOC Pensacola Team, but I am forever committed to leading WITH my NIOC Pensacola Alums. Thank you for making me and us better.
NIOC Pensacola, a great place to be, a great place to be from.
I will now read my orders…