No Ordinary Day
Flag Writers Get the Job Done
There are speeches to write, naval correspondence on your desk to be edited and travel plans to be scheduled. Days are a balancing act between meticulously scheduled events and last-minute changes, but no day is ever the same as the one before. It's a fast-paced environment at times, but you have what it takes. Why? Because you are a Navy flag writer.
“There is no 'normal' day in the life of a flag writer. Every day begins with something coming up,” said Chief Yeoman Dimo Sanchez, flag writer to U.S. Ambassador Alexander Laskaris at U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) in Stuggart, Germany, and co-lead recruiter for the flag writer community. “There are a lot of moving parts that come with being a flag writer, and it keeps us on our toes because you work alongside high-level leadership and help manage their complex schedules. But it is also great because you get to see the level of impact ... things you discuss in the office have ... across the military.”
Flag writers are Navy yeoman selected to work for flag officers and high-level diplomats to provide office management, correspondence, protocol and other administrative support. With billets in fleet-wide concentration areas like Washington D.C., Norfolk, San Diego, Hawaii, Japan, Europe, and aboard deployed carrier and expeditionary strike groups, flag writers are capable of deploying anywhere in the world. They even serve on the staff of the secretary of defense and in the office of the vice president.
After Sailors are nominated by their commands, they are screened to ensure they meet eligibility requirements before taking part in interviews with community leaders to determine whether they are the right fit.
In addition to having strong organizational skills, to be nominated by their commands, prospective flag writers should also be at least first class petty officers six years into their enlistments or, preferably, in their second enlistments; warfare-qualified; deployable worldwide and free of any speech impediments, Sanchez explained. Flag writers also incur service obligations of 36 months.
“We are currently in the process of a recruiting campaign where our goal is to attract yeoman that are eager to take that extra step and challenge themselves in a high-stress environment,” said Master Chief Yeoman Tanesha Wheeler, flag writer to Vice Admiral Bruce Lindsey, deputy commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.
Sanchez cautioned that being able to manage personnel and balance daily tasks with other responsibilities requires a certain set of management skills that take time to learn, and that all yeoman chosen to become flag writers must complete training to strengthen those capabilities before being assigned.
The flag writer's course, located in Meridian, Mississippi, is the only Navy enlisted classification (NEC) granting school for yeoman. The “C” school is five weeks long and teaches Sailors the ins and outs of front office administration, protocol, English composition and military bearing.
“The 'C' school is great. It's very hands on, direct, and really gets to what it takes to be a flag writer. It also forces you to make decisions because you might not have a day or two to process information; you may have 15 to 30 minutes to make a decision and act on it. I loved every minute of it,” said Yeoman First Class Tanisha Harris, who has been a flag writer for one year.
During the five-week school, Sailors are taught office administration skills; trained how to write official and personal correspondence, manage social calendars, and prepare personnel reports and evaluations; and instructed on honors and ceremonies. They also learn more about the Defense Travel System, such as how to create and process travel orders.
Once on the job, flag writers are often required to sharpen their time management skills on the go and work with other members of the personal staff to plan for changes that develop throughout the day. It was just the type of challenge Harris needed when she was ready to move on to her next command.
“I wanted to become a flag writer because I came to a point in my career where it was time to make a decision to do something that was more challenging. Being a flag writer is something you hear about as a yeoman that's exciting. It presents situations you don't get to experience as a regular yeoman, so I was ready to do something different,” said Harris. “It's not a regular setting where you go into work and just do correspondence or write awards. You go into work and you're helping your boss on a daily basis meet his mission goals.”
Sanchez believes that being in a position to help leaders succeed is what makes flag writers such important members of flag staffs.
“You have to be ethically sound in all your judgments when working with senior officers, and be able to deliver the news, whether it's good or bad. I think our admirals and generals appreciate that, and it's one of the reasons our flag writers have been successful,” he said.
As flag writers, yeoman often witness the decision-making process of their leaders firsthand. This requires a mutual level of trust. Establishing those relationships is a process, not something you always get right away, said Harris.
“Building a relationship with your boss is something that takes time and patience,” she explained. “Being around your leadership and getting that one-on-one relationship, you get to see their inner workings of how they think and how they operate. Sometimes, you have to be that listening ear when they're working through things so we can figure out a plan and move forward.”
“Being a flag writer, you get to see the daily operations and the decision-making processes of the Navy, and that's a great place to be,” said Harris. “I think ... knowing that, even if it's small, in some way I helped the Navy meet its mission [is very satisfying]. For me, just knowing that by helping my boss meet his or her mission goals daily, I have a small part in that process. That's the best part of being a flag writer, being able to help.”
To learn more about flag writer opportunities, visit the community's facebook page or check out the MILPERSMAN article.