BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- In the two months since assuming command of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 9, Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk has hit the deck running, familiarizing himself with the ships and aircraft of the strike group as well as his new flagship, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).
"I'm kind of awestruck in terms of seeing the ship in its normal routine and just the size and the multitude of operations that the ship conducts simultaneously," said Van Buskirk, a former submarine commander.
Van Buskirk's primary role as commander of the strike group is to orchestrate the multitude of operations conducted by the ships of Destroyer Squadron 9 and the aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 2 to ensure each unit is ready to operate together as a whole when the time comes to deploy. With eight ships and 10 aircraft squadrons spread out over a wide geographical area -- from Oceana, Va., to Pearl Harbor -- this is no small task.
Van Buskirk said that his goal is to continue to integrate the strike group team and look at all areas to mitigate risk so that CSG 9 and its individual components can be called upon as "the unit of choice" based on their demonstrated ability to execute the mission.
"My three watch words, so to speak, are 'on time, ready, and flexible,'" Van Buskirk said.
He explained that while being on time is something everyone in the Navy must strive for, it must never take a back seat to being ready.
"You can be on time but not be ready, and that has a cascading effect because now you have other people and units involved," he said.
Also important is flexibility, which Van Buskirk says is the key to overcoming the biggest challenge Sailors face: managing uncertainty.
"When you can't be on time or ready, flexibility pertains to how you can adapt to that and come up with a course of action so that you can accomplish your mission," Van Buskirk said. "That's not just a strike group thing, it's on an individual and an institutional level -- whether you're a carrier trying to get underway or a Sailor performing a planned maintenance."
Van Buskirk said to meet the objectives of being "on time, ready, and flexible," leaders must ensure that their people are given the tools and the opportunities that they need to make the mission a success while building trust within the organization.
"My leadership philosophy is about the people: understanding their capabilities and what they bring to the table," Van Buskirk said. "In my experience when you give people the opportunity to excel, they will almost always eclipse what you thought they possibly could do."
Van Buskirk added that former CSG 9 Commander Rear Adm. John W. Goodwin's advice to him before his departure was in keeping with his own philosophy about letting his people do what they do best.
"Admiral Goodwin was very proud of the strike group's capability; and his advice was to let my people train me because they're great people, and they'll continue to amaze me with their abilities," said Van Buskirk.
Van Buskirk graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1979 and spent much of his career aboard submarines, including tours as executive officer of USS Georgia (SSBN 729) and as commanding officer of USS Pasadena (SSN 752). He was selected for flag officer in 2004 and, before taking command of CSG 9, served as the senior naval officer on the Multi-National Force-Iraq staff.
For more news from USS Abraham Lincoln, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn72/.