Big Changes in the US Navy

The Unites States Navy has recently announced plans to modernize some of its approaches to personnel management.  These changes, covered in a recent article by Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post, include:

  • allowing women to serve in submarines (current USN practice limits female crews to surface ships only)
  • allowing openly gay servicemen and women to serve (this will occur on the same timeline as the rest of the US military – lots of news coverage in recent months)
  • banning smoking on submarines (a huge issue because 35-40 per cent of USN submariners smoke and you can’t just step outside to “flavour country”)

Leading the submarine force through these massive changes will require both engaged leadership and engaging communications.  The communications abilities are clearly resident within this group of specialists – several senior officers in the fleet use blogs to address issues and pass information.  In fact, the Commander of Submarine Group 10 (out of Kings Bay, Ga), Rear-Admiral Barry Bruner makes great use of his blog to address these issues and more.  More importantly he uses his blog effectively by adhering to a few basic principles:

  • One message, one post. RAdm Bruner has recognized that if you have more than one message, you don’t have one.  If you look at his posts, you will see how focused his message is by ensuring it’s transmitted one message at a time.  Two messages? Two posts
  • The messages are relevant. His sailors are aware of what’s in the news; his posts address the issues that are burning ears around the fleet.  When just under half of your sailors are about to “volunteer” to stop smoking, the goings on of the COMMSUBGRU 10 Car Pool Studies are not likely to either garner interest or demonstrate leader engagement.
  • The comments and questions are answered.  As the leader of a large organization, I have no doubt that RAdm Bruner is a busy man.  In spite of that, he answers the mail on his blog by responding to some comments (he can’t possible hit them all) and, in doing so, invites discussion.

Because of the correct use of social media, at least one engaged commander will have a good idea of what’s going on around him as the USN moves towards social change.

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