In the last Cyberflash it was an honor and a privilege to recognize a lot of people and their outstanding achievements and milestones. As I try to gather and put my thoughts on "paper" for this edition, I'm having a difficult time focusing on any of the myriad topics that typically race through my mind in the 13 days between each publication date. This is because I am consumed by thoughts of several of our blue-suiter shipmates to whom I had to convey bad news earlier this week. I am overcome by feelings of melancholy for the unplanned early end of their active service careers in the NOAA Corps. Specifically, I had the unenviable task of notifying some of our shipmates that they were being separated from the NOAA Corps. Obviously as difficult a task as this was, it had a far greater impact on the recipients of this news and I wish them peace,
solace, and wildly successful future endeavors as they prepare to close a significant chapter of their lives in service to the Nation.
In reflecting on the deliberations of the personnel boards (there were many) that led to these decisions, there were several themes that emerged and are worth noting for the betterment of the NOAA Corps:
The up-or-out system is brutal but effective – Our personnel system is unkind yet fair, consistent, and designed to ensure organizational excellence. This system is not designed to coddle, or search for and rescue people who fall behind the dead reckoning positions of their peers. If you fall behind or wind up with a lot of cross-track error on your professional development track line, it takes a significant and sustained effort to make the necessary course and/or speed change that is readily apparent to a personnel board and gets you back on track. CPC's Officer Career Management Division can assist by providing pilotage in the form of career advice and guidance (even if you do not suspect you're falling off your track line it never hurts to get a fourth or fifth line of position) and can help you set the course to steer.
The NOAA Corps is an extremely competitive service – We recruit primarily for academic aptitude and leadership potential (amongst other attributes) and as a result NOAA Corps officers are an elite cadre of talented people who are subscribed to an intense personnel system. The differences between promotion and pass-over can be small and based on things as seemingly insignificant as the language used to describe accomplishments or the relative numeric scoring (over-inflation of scores) in your OER. The lesson here is to recognize that your OPF is critical and you should get to know how you "look" on paper. Remember, getting in to the NOAA Corps is somewhat similar to going to the Olympics. Just getting there is an accomplishment and a significant matter of pride. Getting on the podium and hearing your national anthem only happens for a few Olympians who drive themselves to go the extra mile.
Take care of yourself and take control of your career – Don't forget that all leadership is based on a foundation of leading self. If you can't take care of yourself and neglect your own development, no one is going to do it for you. There will always be more tasks than there are hours in the day. The ship will sail without you often times without any regard to what you think was a higher priority than paying attention to you professional development or career maintenance activities. Perhaps most importantly though, if you find yourself in a career distress situation, no one will come to rescue you if you don't fire a flare or light of your EPIRB. The key to accountability for your career management is to be proactive and run a tight ship, but if things start to go awry, don't be shy about seeking assistance. A "bad" OER or being passed over for promotion is a definite sign of distress.
Continuous learning – Never stop learning or looking for ways to develop. Courses required for promotion are a minimum. Formal training is one of many ways to develop yourself; join a professional society and participate in the group, volunteer with a community group or a cause, be active in your community, but whatever you do find a place to work it in to your OPF. A good place to start is in your biography.
With these things in mind, I call your attention to the calendar. We're about seven or eight months away from the next promotion boards. Now may be a good time to take a look at your OPF, contact CAPT Brakob, Chief, Officer Career Management Division, see how you look "on paper," and take necessary action to ensure your navigation lights are burning bright.
CAPT Amilynn E. Adams, NOAA