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Women's History Month: Rear Admiral Alma Grocki

Navy leaders and pioneers

"From the Revolutionary War to current conflicts, women have played a crucial role in the security of our nation and the success of the U.S. Navy. Join us as we celebrate Women's History Month by profiling women leaders and pioneers across the Navy."

Rear Admiral Alma M. Grocki is currently serving as Deputy Commander for Reserve Matters NAVSEA Sea Systems Command.

Q: Why did you decide to join/serve the Navy?

A: I decided to join the Navy for the opportunities in education, leadership, and a career. My dad worked for 39 years as a General Foreman supervisor at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, and I liked being around ships and submarines. I witnessed the pride the workers had doing something for the nation that didn't revolve around a profit or material gain for themselves, but because it was a job that needed to be done right, and they had the skills to do it.

Q: Who have your role models or mentors been that have influenced you or helped to guide you?

A: I've had several mentors from different parts of my life. Obviously my dad, who taught me that experience was more important than rank, to be humble, but stand up for yourself, to work hard at what you do, and to have integrity. My JROTC instructor in high school whose strong yet quiet leadership style garnered much respect and always did what was right for the unit, even if it was hard on an individual. My first outrigger racing canoe coach who taught me strength of mind as well as body, strength of will and digging deep, and not letting you defeat yourself. All of these role models were examples to live the way you wanted others to see you and follow you.

Q: Please tell us a story about someone, perhaps in your family or otherwise e, who has influenced you or challenged you to become more than you ever thought you might.

A: This was my outrigger racing canoe coach. I was four years out of the Academy, a LTJG about to become a LT, and trying paddling for the first time. I had always thought of myself as a mediocre athlete (I was a rifle shooter in high school), but this sport wasn't something you had to grow up doing, or take years to really be good at. I picked the stroke and timing up quickly, but needed to work on my power and endurance. He motivated me to work on strength training, partly because I wanted to be more powerful in the canoe, but also because I didn't want to disappoint him. He coached with a combination of encouragement and challenges, and could tell if we weren't working to exhaustion. After years of paddling himself, he knew how the mind could defeat the body, and in his own way, made us think about how well we would do based on how much we were willing to work. He raised my self- confidence to a level which I applied to other aspects in my life, and this canoe season was the turning point in my ability to see how far I could go in my career, and in life, if I was willing to work hard at something. He asked me to be an assistant coach after a year, which lead to me being on the Board of Directors for the club, and opened my world to people and possibilities beyond the life I had known before.
This is a 1440px graphic of RADM. Alma Grocki.

Q: Please tell us which past assignments are the most memorable to you and why.

A: My first assignment as a LTJG Division Officer at Naval Station Pearl Harbor was my first opportunity to lead enlisted sailors. It was eye-opening for me because I realized how much of an impact I had on their lives, and how a poor leader could negatively impact them. I realized I could be an advocate for them and help them in so many ways, or I could be detached and treat this assignment as just another job. I also realized how much they needed a voice to raise up their questions and concerns, and help them solve problems.

My assignment as Code 300.1 (Deputy Operations Officer) at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. I had transitioned to the Reserve Navy 24 years previously, and was a Reservist on active duty orders. As a senior officer (O-6), I could actually question and change many rules, practices, processes, and policies. I became known as someone who would listen to junior officers and at least dialogue with them more than just about work issues. I cared about them and their families, and how they felt about what they were doing. I thought this was important to retention of our junior officers, but it was evident they did not think our leadership cared beyond what they could contribute at a work level.

My last assignment as the COMPACFLT Fleet Maintenance Officer. As my first flag officer assignment, and on active duty orders, I was amazed at the scope of what our Navy does and the bird's eye view I now had at the Flag Officer level. The operations the Pacific Fleet is involved in, and the decisions that need to be made were mind-boggling. I had a direct impact on maintenance and operations for the Pacific Fleet and was involved at higher levels in the Navy.

Q: What does being a leader in the Navy mean to you?

A: Being a leader in the Navy means accomplishing the "mission" and taking care of your people while doing that. You can rarely accomplish a mission by yourself, so taking care of your people is important for this mission and any follow-on ones. Taking care of your people means getting to know them and what motivates them, and making sure you are aware of problems that can be barriers to doing the best possible job. It also means helping them grow and advance, and training them so they can know the answer to "why" and be independent thinkers and help solve problems that they are probably very familiar with. Being a leader means looking around, listening to your people, and changing what you can for the better, and being a force for changing other things that require something or someone higher or different than your position to change. That's all a part of taking care of your people. It also means standing up for them and behind them, and giving them "top cover" to allow them to do their jobs correctly. Being a leader means growing the next generation of leaders to be able to relieve you and the folks of your generation, and continue to advance the good things and change the bad ones. Being a leader means interacting with your people so when you move out to accomplish your mission, you turn around, and there are people following you that respect and trust you.