CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti (NNS) -- Members of Navy Reserve leadership visited Camp Lemonnier (CLDJ) for a tour. Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) Gregory J. Slavonic, Chief of Navy Reserve Vice Adm. Luke M. McCollum, and Navy Reserve Force Master Chief Chris D. Kotz visited the East African base Feb. 2-4. Camp Lemonnier is home to more than 900 forward-deployed Sailors; two-thirds of whom are Navy Reservists.
The visit began with the CLDJ Seabee ball, Feb. 2, which was also attended by Rear Adm. Darius Banaji, commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command and Atlantic Fleet Civil Engineer from U.S. Fleet Forces Command; leadership from CLDJ; Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA); and embassy dignitaries. Next day included discussions with various units around CLDJ, including Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 18 and Combined Task Group 68.6.
Slavonic, McCollum and Kotz put time on their schedule to eat lunch and dinner with Sailors and Marines at the Dorie Miller galley on base each day. Yeoman 2nd Class Azer Itara-Soto, deployed to CJTF-HOA said he was thankful to be asked to join the group for lunch.
“Having the privilege to speak and listen to Master Chief Kotz’s great wisdom, professional life challenges and success story is a motivational experience that will last me for the rest of my military career,” Itara-Soto said.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jay Gaul was one of the Sailors selected to have lunch with McCollum and said he was honored to discuss his experiences as a reservist.
“It is very clear to me that Vice Adm. McCollum is committed to modernizing the way the Navy Reserve does business and leveraging emerging technologies to accomplish his vision,” Gaul said. “The Navy Reserve of the future will be a better place for it and I am excited to see how these changes shape the future force."
The weekend’s events ended with an all-hands call Feb. 4, held at the base multipurpose facility 11D where McCollum administered the reenlistment oath for three Sailors and Kotz frocked Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Tiara Cross.
Slavonic, who was sworn in to his current position, June 11, 2018, spoke first and introduced himself to the more than 300 active duty and reserve Sailors, giving a brief history of his Navy career. He said he began his Navy journey in 1971 enlisting as a seaman recruit and spent most of his 34-year career as a reservist, retiring at the rank of rear admiral.
McCollum started out by speaking about the strategy of the Navy and how it impacts Reservists and how the changes will affect mobilizations and unit assignments. He also spoke about the national and military strategy of what he called the great power competition with Russia and China and how that competition shows up in maritime operations.
“What great power competition really means is a return to the past; back before the cold war,” McCollum said. “It’s about what capabilities do we need our Navy to have.”
When referring to mobilization of Navy Reservists, McCollum said that the nature of mobilizations are shifting to more of a seagoing nature and away from land mobilizations.
“It doesn’t mean we won’t do land-based mobs, there will still be derivatives of that,” McCollum said. “But when we look and understand what the planning cycle looks like and about where we’re taking our mobilizations; it is in support of maritime operations. Why? Because of the great power competition.”
McCollum spoke about balancing time in uniform and time in civilian jobs; a struggle many reservists face, especially during deployments.
“I can sum it up by saying you have to figure out how to be relevant when you are not there [at your civilian job],” McCollum said. “Whether that is setting up a good presence of yourself through other leaders that represent you or whether a check in with your boss saying things are going well here, I'll be back whenever, never leave the impression [you] completely checked out.”
He then turned the microphone over to Force Master Chief Kotz, who has served in his current role since Oct. 13, 2017. Kotz discussed some new initiatives that will directly affect advancement and retention of enlisted Reserve Sailors. He said an onboarding process will replace indoctrination to ensure more successful integration of active Sailors into the Reserve force. Other topics he covered included leadership and development roadmaps, as well as Active and Reserve rating integration.
“As one of the privileges of my job I get to sign off on quotas,” Kotz said. “I want to make sure every single one of those quotas are exhausted and those who are putting in the hard work get the best shot at promotion.”
Navy Capt. Charles J. DeGilio, commanding officer of Camp Lemonnier, said the visit to Camp Lemonnier was to better understand the current missions executed from the base and to spend time meeting the dedicated Sailors and Marines stationed here. “He was very interested in understanding the challenges they face and advocating for solutions on their behalf” DeGilio said.
The all-hands call included a question-and-answer session. Several Sailors asked about topics such as reserve pay, training prior to deployment, Department of Defense websites and warfare qualifications.
The major theme of the answers provided by McCollum and Kotz was modernization of existing systems and qualifications to help streamline and focus resources.
McCollum closed out the event by telling the group that his job as Chief of Navy Reserve is about listening to what Sailors have to say and their input help him put strategies together, he’s listening.
“I work for you and I wake up every day thinking about what we can improve,” McCollum said. “I’m so proud to be in this position, to advocate on your behalf and ultimately, to thank you.”
Camp Lemonnier is an operationally-focused shore installation that enables U.S., allied and partner nation forces to be where and when they are needed to ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia.
The mission of Camp Lemonnier is to enable joint warfighters operating forward and to reinforce the relationship between the United States and Djibouti by conducting five key shore missions – air operations, port operations, security, safety and quality of life – and providing core mission enablers such as fuel, water and power for tenant commands, transient U.S. assets and individual service members.