Guest Blog By Commander Emily Bassett, commanding officer, PCU Manchester (LCS 14)
“You belong here.”
That was my answer when a junior officer asked me, “What would you tell your junior self, if you could go back in time?” We were participants in a National Naval Officers Association-sponsored “Flag/CO/XO speed-mentoring” session.
I had never heard the question before, and I thought it was an insightful one.
“You belong here,” is what first came to my mind.
If I could have convinced Ensign Emily, Lieutenant Junior Grade Emily, Lieutenant Emily, Lieutenant Commander Emily, and even Commander Emily that, “You belong here,” I would have saved myself a lot of energy and lost a lot less sleep over my career. How much time did I spend trying to convince myself and others that I belonged where I was? Throughout my career, I reported to new jobs, convinced the Navy had detailed me beyond my level of capability. I thought I had to prove to those whom I led and those who led me that I belonged where I was, doing what I was doing.
Belonging. That’s exactly how a mineman senior chief framed his feelings earlier that day about the pending “crew-det merger” for littoral combat ships. His mine countermeasures detachment (MCM Det 5) was merging with my crew (LCS Crew 214). Together, we would be the crew to commission USS Manchester (LCS 14).
As part of a larger Chief of Naval Operations-directed plan affecting each crew and each detachment, on Jan. 31, commodore, LCSRON ONE, signed a directive stating that the 20 Sailors of MCM Det 5 would no longer serve as a separate “detachment.” LCS Crew 214’s new organizational charts and watchbill qualifications would integrate billets and watchstations for these mine countermeasures Sailors together with the original Crew 214 Sailors. As a pre-commissioning crew, we know the work we have cut out for ourselves and we welcome the additional Sailors.
I offered my support to the mineman senior chief and asked him, “How can I make sure I do right by you and by the Sailors of the mine warfare specific ratings?” We are a pre-commissioning crew and are over a year away from getting mine warfare gear on board.
“Ma’am,” he told me, “we will manage around that. It’s just nice to belong to a crew.”
Belonging. It also means to be part of a team. It means being integrated into the crew with leadership roles, with collateral duties, and with a qualification path to watches that are critical to the ship’s mission. It means camaraderie and connection with one crew and one ship. His simple words touched me deeply.
Any leader who has been in the Navy long enough to do many “check-in interviews” with newly-reporting Sailors knows instinctively why our nation’s citizens volunteer to join the Navy. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be part of crew, a team with a mission. They want to be valued.
Over the years, I’ve always remembered a saying on the placards that hung in two of my former captains’ staterooms: “Bloom where you are planted.”
It’s a lesson I learned over and over with each new assignment. Now that I am in command, given this rare opportunity with the crew-det merger, I have one message for the Sailors of MCM Det 5, and for all Sailors everywhere with the honor and privilege to serve in our country’s Navy: you belong here.
Editor’s note: Commander Emily Bassett and her crew are expected to be the on-hull crew for USS Manchester (LCS 14)’s commissioning in 2018.