An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Start & End Date

USFFC Deputy, CTF-80, Shares Lessons of Leadership with Future Naval Officers

15 April 2022
In an hour-long discussion at Old Dominion University, Vice Adm. James Kilby shared personal struggles and successes throughout his 36-year career with about 220 midshipmen and officer candidates of the Hampton Roads Naval ROTC.

The Navy and Marine Corps officers entering the fleet today face a dynamic global maritime environment, where their knowledge is quickly tested by real world events.

This will soon become a reality for approximately 220 midshipmen and officer candidates of the Hampton Roads Naval ROTC (HRNROTC) who gathered to meet Vice Adm. James Kilby, deputy commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC) and commander, Task Force 80, Apr. 15, 2022.

In an hour-long discussion at Old Dominion University, Kilby shared personal struggles and successes throughout his 36-year career.

“Your character is your most important attribute. It will guide your success as a Naval Officer and in life – you should strive to build on it every single day.” said Kilby. “Key to this is always staying focused on the mission, supporting your Sailors, and always be looking to make a positive difference within your unit. Don’t wait around to be told what to do – lead.”

The level of candor from a flag officer was impactful for Midshipman 1st Class Anthony Natoli, the NROTC battalion midshipman commanding officer.

“It was awesome,” said Natoli. “He gave us a lot of great leadership tips. My favorite was for us to take time to get to know our Sailors and Marines, to help build trust and demonstrate our responsibility to look out for them.”

Kilby, a 1986 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, is a career surface warfare officer. He has commanded USS Russell (DDG 59), USS Monterey (CG 61), and the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group.

“Each relationship with each Sailor is like a brick in a wall that is loyalty-based, in conjunction with the chain of command,” said Kilby. “Every Sailor, whether consciously or unconsciously, always asks: ‘Does my boss care about me?’ If the answer is yes, and that wall is strong with trust and loyalty, the possibilities for that organization are limitless.”

Kilby’s remarks come as the capstone event of the spring semester. HRNROTC invites guest speakers to provide mentorship to their students, providing valuable insight for the future leaders.

“Since our midshipmen are being trained to be officers and leaders it is vital they understand the perspectives from all members of the Navy and Marine Corps team," said Capt. Mike Bratley, commanding officer, HRNROTC. “Exposing them to the shipmates they will later serve with and lead provides context and an appreciation for what is expected of them, and in turn how they can leverage that insight and apply it to their leadership challenges when assigned various positions of authority within the HRNROTC Battalion.”

“Receive and listen,” said Midshipman 1st Class Thomas Germano, battalion executive officer, HRNROTC, when asked what resonated with him. “It’s inspiring to see that even a 3-star admiral makes time to really get to know people. It was great to hear him speak to us about leadership and the challenges he faced during his career.”

Located next to the world's largest naval base, HRNROTC is a consortium comprised of five schools that include Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University, Hampton University, Regent University, and Tidewater Community College. Together, they make up one of the largest ROTC Units in the nation, consisting of more than 230 Sailors, Marines, midshipmen and officer candidates.

Nearly two dozen midshipmen will soon graduate and commission as officers in the Navy and Marine Corps. There, they will test their knowledge in the face of the growing challenges our nation faces.

Military ROTC Programs are hosted at colleges and universities across the country. While each service’s programs differ, they all provide undergraduate educations concurrently with training midshipmen and cadets in preparation for commissions as ensigns or 2nd lieutenants in the United States Armed Forces—more than 1,400 will earn their commission this year.

Before finishing the discussion, Kilby shared the realities of being an effective leader in the Navy.

“Always remember leadership is tough, slow work. It's persuasion, education and patience. You also must be humble enough to recognize you don’t always have the right answers. Therefore, that’s why it is important to listen not just to your senior leadership, but your junior Sailors as well.”

For more news from U.S. Fleet Forces Command, visit and for more information visit or


Google Translation Disclaimer

Guidance-Card-Icon Dept-Exclusive-Card-Icon