Five Naval Oceanography civilian employees addressed a local audience at their graduation on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, after spending two years in the Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (CNMOC) Executive Leadership Program (CELP).
CNMOC established CELP in 2012 with the purpose of building a foundation for personnel leadership development and preparing participants for potential placement in key leadership positions. This class is the fifth to graduate from the program with only 26 personnel completing it to date—about 1% of Naval Oceanography’s workforce.
CNMOC Rear Adm. John Okon addressed the group saying, “Completing the program requires self-discipline, extended time away from your day job and sacrifice by the family. It is inspiring to see the commitment you made two years ago to your classmates and the future of Naval Oceanography bear fruit today. We’re very proud of all this class and all they accomplished over the last two years. But today is not the end, it is the beginning; the beginning of a new chapter in your leadership development. I charge you to pay this experience forward through your thoughts, actions and words. Be a positive and proactive leader and mentor.”
The program requires the cohort to attend a one-week orientation along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, including Stennis Space Center, two one-week site visits at the east and west coast fleet concentration areas and then successfully complete a capstone project tasked by CNMOC Senior Civilian Leadership Board. Individual members select a mentor to provide guidance through the completion of the program, complete one or two detail assignments and conduct job shadowing, and complete the Graduate School USA leadership development program.
“After seeing that I was selected for this program and seeing all the requirements, I thought to myself ‘What have I gotten myself into?’” said graduate Kayla Thigpen, a management support specialist at the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO). “We met some amazing people that had a lot to offer us on leadership. This program taught us a lot. You will definitely find your weaknesses.”
The day of graduation, the class presented their capstone project focused on how Naval Oceanography can increase and improve their leadership seminars.
“Our goal as a cohort was to take on a project that would be meaningful and enduring. I feel like we accomplished both goals with our choice and the hard work that followed,” said graduate Lawrence Haselmaier, a Hydrographic branch head at NAVOCEANO.
Their graduation from CELP does not complete their participation in the program as one of their requirements is to continue to serve as mentors to the incoming CELP cohorts. The 2019 class includes six Naval Oceanography civilians, and an additional member from Naval Information Forces, while the 2020 class has six civilians and the program’s first participation from twoNavy officers.
This mentoring process began during the graduation when Shaya Heckman, a program analyst at NAVOCEANO, advised the incoming class, “You were chosen to be a part of something big. The next two years will require sacrifices and hard work, but it will be an amazing experience if you put thought and effort into what you get to see and do. Make the most of your opportunities.”
Summing up his experience in CELP, Keith Willis, a computer scientist at Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, said, “This opportunity that I was given was one that I have not taken lightly. I’ve applied myself to learn, to stretch and to grow. And as many have freely given and poured into me, it is my desire to give back to the command and to those around me. I hope that I can make a positive difference.”
“I feel like I am standing on firmer ground now. I am more sure of myself and the things that I’m capable of because of the relationships that I’ve made and the skills I’ve learned through this program,” said Lea Locke-Wynn, a technical lead with the Modeling and Forecasting Department at FNMOC, “I hope that I can hold true to my sentiment from two years ago – I hope that I will leave a lasting and positive impact on our community.
Naval Oceanography defines and applies the physical environment, from the bottom of the ocean to the stars, to ensure that the U.S. Navy has the freedom of action to deter aggression, maintain freedom of the seas and win wars.