Admiral discusses elements of teamwork

From Bob McParland
High School Dist. 218

During his 30 years in the U.S. Navy, and particularly while serving as captain of the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman, Rear Adm. Dee Mewbourne learned and practiced the elements of leadership and teamwork.

Responsible for the success of large-scale military operations and the safety of the thousands in his command, he'd need to have a keen understanding of managerial excellence.

So when he started as national director of the U.S. Navy's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program, he chose, for his first site to visit, a unit that exemplified such ideals.

"America's in great hands," he told the JROTC students at Richards High School. "This is the first school I've visited since I took control. I could not have made a better choice for a first site visit."

Although Mewbourne addressed Bulldog Company, he listened more than he spoke. Students asked about the best part of serving in the Navy.

"I don't like sitting behind a desk. I like going out and talking with people. Today, my first day, I got to do this," said Mewbourne, who also manages all training for officers and enlisted personnel excluding the U.S. Naval Academy. "The best part of my career has been the people with whom I have worked."

Students, of course, asked about commanding an aircraft carrier.

"It's a complex organization, a matrix organization. We have to do dangerous things and manage that risk. The Navy prepares you, though, through its leadership development program," Mewbourne said.

While students wanted to know about the military and technical dimensions of serving as captain of an aircraft carrier, Mewbourne stressed the human elements.

"The number one thing is the people. They're just like all of you. They're from all over the country and they joined the Navy for different reasons. The one thing they tend to have in common is that they joined because they wanted their life to have meaning," Mewbourne said.

Regardless of their career paths, he urged students to aim high.

"My parents didn't have a lot of money. I needed to get a scholarship. I try to remind my own children that you can achieve your dreams if you push yourself and set goals," Mewbourne said.

He emphasized, however, that who they're becoming matters more than what they'll do.

"With my children, they may not have known at your age what they wanted to become. But they did know who they wanted to become as a person. I would wish that for all of you."