U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) Command’s executive director and chief of staff retired as the Navy’s highest ranking, longest serving senior executive service (SES), equivalent to the Navy’s O-9 rank or vice admiral. Mark Honecker was bid fair winds and following seas during his retirement ceremony aboard decommissioned battleship USS Wisconsin (BB 64), Sept. 23.
“There was no better advocate for the fleet, for our civilian shipmates, or for all Sailors and Marines,” said Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander, USFF. “I don’t believe there is anyone on the waterfront, or in the flag wardroom, or SES wardroom, or anywhere who hasn’t benefited from what Mark Honecker has brought to the Navy.”
Honecker was born overseas into a military family; he spent most of his formative years in Alexandria, Virginia, and began his career as a financial management intern with the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Throughout his 34-years of service to his country, he worked in a variety of commands that included the offices of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Logistics), Deputy Director for Business and Civilian Resources, the Chief of Naval Operations; and Commander, Naval Network Warfare Command.
In an interview prior to his retirement, Honecker took time to reflect on how his professional career was propelled to the pinnacle of civil service. Summarizing his decades-long journey, he discussed some of his “executive truths,” or guiding principles, which not only steered and invigorated the USFF staff over the years, but helped him achieve balance in his career, family, community and spirituality.
Follow Your Passion…You’ll be Happier and Perform Better
Honecker reflected that service was something that he was always interested in – an inherited trait of stewardship from his father, who was in the Air Force, and his mother, who was a nurse.
“The service industry has always been part of my family,” said Honecker. “That actually drew me to coming to work for the Navy; I wanted to continue with this family tradition of service.”
Before he joined the civil service, Honecker started as an eager intern. During this period, he ultimately found his passion for what he really wanted to do.
“I’m a believer in the government civilian, and that the best way to get started in your career is through intern programs,” he explained. “The opportunities you’re given and the training you’re given – really is a great way to start your civilian career.”
Create Space on Your Calendar to Meet Needs that Aren’t Being Met
“It’s not just about your job; you have to stay active in the community – and you can’t forget about your family or that spiritual component,” stressed Honecker. “Most importantly you have to keep your health – I don’t care how good you are at your job, if your health starts to erode, or your family relations starts to go awry, you’re not going to be as effective serving the United States Navy.”
While maintaining balance in life can be hard at times, achieving that balance is the result of
deliberate and sustained effort over time, and – remember – the balance point is always moving, Honecker continued.
Begin with the End in Mind
Honecker revealed that one of his most memorable highlights of his career was when Adm. Gary Roughhead left his position as the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command to be the Navy’s 29th Chief of Navy Operations in 2007, and asked him to be on his transition team.
“One of the action items from transition team, was to put together a group of individuals – military and civilian, junior and senior – to come up with the Navy Ethos,” explained Honecker. “Being part of that and being able to help shape that really was a tremendous opportunity.”
The Navy Ethos, finalized and published in 2008, communicates a set of beliefs appropriate and important to both Navy civilians and Sailors, who share a common bond of service in the Navy, regardless of background, personal experience or position. It also captures the heroic spirit seen throughout the Navy’s proud heritage while simultaneously reflecting the elite fighting organization the Navy is today.
Take Care of Your Boss and Your Team … Success is Inevitable
One of the competencies that Honecker learned from the past 14 years on the USFF staff is the true meaning of teamwork … no matter your rank or grade, service over self is necessary for mission success.
“Every decision you make, you think about those Sailors and civilians that have to execute, whatever policy you put in place, whatever resources you have, whatever tools you come up with, whatever you do – think about it through the lens of the center of the universe, our civilians and our Sailors.”
Honecker mentioned that when people focus on themselves more than the team, that is when teams struggle most, and that we need to remember we are all on the same team – and nobody is more important than anybody else.
“What I’ve learned over my career, it’s about the people, it’s not about you,” concluded Honecker. “If you focus on taking care of your boss and you focus on taking care of those people that work for you, you’ll do just fine.”