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Week 17

Written on: Monday December 15th, 2008

A journal entry from: BOTC 113

Some of us found it difficult to believe this was the last week at Kings Point for BOTC 113.  The formal classes were all complete but there was one more topic to learn about: Situational Leadership.  This was a good 2-day introduction to the techniques of leadership and management, presented seminar-style by and outside consultant.  One of the main focus areas was identifying the skill level(s) and willingness of the people being managed and applying the appropriate management style for optimum overall effectiveness.  There were many small group activities/discussions and a full class exercise the afternoon of the second day that helped to keep us interested and drive home the key concepts.

Tuesday night we all attended a going away party for CDR Lynch, the Officer In Charge of NOAA officer training (and our manager) who is swapping positions with the CO of the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow shortly after BOTC 113 graduation.  It was a nice gathering of all the folks she's worked with at Kings Point over the years with gifts, food, drinks, and ice cream cake.  ENS Sanders provided karaoke entertainment for anyone interested, but only a few of his BOTC comrades were willing to sing along.

On Wednesday, each of us had a 1:1 meeting with CDR Lynch to receive our Officer Evaluation Report (OER).  The OER is what NOAA Corps uses for officer reviews, and it's quite comprehensive.  We also received our overall class rank, our academic class rank, and scores from all our individual exams and quizzes if we wanted to review those details.  The overall rank is derived by a weighted scoring system that includes our academic grades, class participation, leadership skills, collateral duty accomplishments, personal attitude and other subjective areas, with input from many if not all of our instructors.  When we weren't in our OER meeting, each of us was with family, packing up our things, or otherwise prepping to leave to our respective ship assignments.

Graduation day was Thursday, and it started with short courtesy visits with RADM Bailey who was in town for the graduation festivities.  We each had about 15 minutes of 1:1 time to get acquainted and chat about whatever we wanted to chat about.  This was our second meeting with the Admiral; the first being when our ship assignments were announced with the whole group.  My discussion with the Admiral was quite pleasant and we discussed the priorities of hydrographic survey in the overall NOAA Corps operational mission.  It was a great opportunity to sit down with the Director of NOAA Corps and get to know each other a little bit.

Graduation rehearsal was in the afternoon.  All the BOTC Ensigns practiced marching into the banquet area about a half-dozen times before we had the steps down well enough to please Master Chief Tester (our volunteer Drill Sergeant) that we could do it correctly during the ceremony.  After that, we changed into our Service Dress Blues and met up in another building for a group visit with Dr. Brennan, the Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator.  RADM Bailey and a few other Sr. NOAA Corps Officers were also in attendance for that meeting.  Dr. Brennan talked to us about his background and the opportunities he's had in his career.  There were only a few questions asked of him by the BOTC class, and I think he was hoping for more.  One comment that Dr. Brennen made that resonated with me was his recommendation to seek out a job you truly enjoy.  Every job has its good and bad days but you should look forward to going to work each day, most of the time.  He apparently enjoys his current job (too bad it's ending with the new Administration in January) and he wishes the same enjoyment for us.  I completely agree with his advice.

We were dismissed to the banquet hall where cocktail hour was well underway and familiy and friends were awaiting our arrival.  I was introduced to some of my classmate's families, some of which surprised me by thanking me for providing the weekly journals so they could keep informed of all the crazy things we do in the BOTC program.  That was very nice...and I'm flattered they look forward to my ramblings every week.

When the signal was given, everyone took their seats in the banquet room while us BOTC Ensigns lined-up for marching in a side room.  I'm not sure how well we marched in since I was the first in line, but I didn't hear any negative comments from folks in the audience so it must have been fine.  After the color guard presentation and the National Anthem, we were allowed to "fall out" to our assigned tables.

CDR Lynch provided some opening comments and then we took a break and enjoyed a nice buffet dinner.  The graduation cake was ceremoniously cut with a sword by RADM Bailey and ENS Moe (highest and lowest/youngest rank) before the graduation speeches began.  We heard presentations from USMMA Superintendent RADM Worley, GMATS Director CAPT Hanus, and RADM Bailey.  CDR Lynch was acknowledged with achievement awards and numerous thanks for her dedication to the NOAA Corps BOTC program.  After all that we heard a keynote address from Dr. Brennan.  All the messages were positive, encouraging, and of reasonable duration.  Following Dr. Brennan's speech, each BOTC student was called-up individually to receive official certificates of completion, including those for the individual courses that will apply to our future 3rd Mate license.  After all the names were called, with all the "graduates" standing in front of the room, the photo-op was announced and camera flashes came from all directions.

After the paparazzi moment, ENS Clovis, our BOTC Class President, gave a nice speech of encouragement for us, and thanks to those that made our achievement possible.  I felt she did a great job with that challenging task.  The last item on the agenda was the presentation of our class slide show/video.  I'm very happy with how that project came together and I'm proud of all my fellow classmates who helped make such a great product.  My thanks goes out to those on the committee who spent countless hours to make the 13-minute video look and sound so good.  It was truly a team effort.

CDR Lynch ended the evening with some parting comments, and just like that, our 4-month BOTC adventure came to a close.  Many of my fellow classmates were sad to see the end of our time together.  We'll all be back for a month of B-School in about a year, and after that, there's a good chance we'll meet again somewhere in the small world of the NOAA Corps service.  Some will be traveling to Seattle in January for training classes, so those of us in Seattle during the winter in-port period will try to organize a gathering somewhere.

I departed New York Friday morning for my new home in Seattle on Rainier.  I was thankful that my flights, with a connection through Chicago O'hare, were uneventful and on time.  What I didn't expect was the atrocious Seattle freeway traffic Friday afternoon.  It took an hour-and-a-half for the taxi to travel 15 miles from Sea-Tac airport to the NOAA facility at Sand Point.  That impacted my weekend plans to go home (could not catch the last train out), and I learned a valuable lesson for future travel planning.  Staying on the ship over the weekend also provided me some quiet relaxation time before my new assignment started in earnest Monday morning.

There were many photos taken of the activities this week but I don't have any images yet for posting with this journal.  I'll close the BOTC 113 collection of journal entries with the official class photo and the corresponding unofficial, fun class photo.  I learned valuable information from all my classmates and I'm grateful to have been a part of the extraordinary adventure that was BOTC 113.


From Gwen on Dec 15th, 2008

Thanks for the vicarious experience with you there at BOTC for the last 4 months. Looking forward to your last photos!

From Judi on Dec 16th, 2008

I too have enjoyed your weekly thorough updates and photos. Helped us to have a feeling of what you actually experienced. Congrats Bro - you made it!

From Bryan Begun on Apr 3rd, 2009

This journal/blog has been a fantastic source of information. I'm going into the NOAA Corps myself, I'll be in BOTC 114, the class after yours. Your articles have provided fantastic insight into what my life is going to be like as a NOAA Corps officer. I sure would like to hear about your assignment in Seattle and the ship you serve upon. Thanks for the great info!