NOTRE DAME, Ind. (NNS) -- The University of Notre Dame Naval ROTC hosted its 24th annual Naval Leadership Weekend (NDLW) seminar in the DeBartolo Preforming Arts Center on campus to promote the development of both their own and visiting midshipmen, Feb. 8-9.
“This is our 24th annual Navy leadership weekend and it is a premiere leadership forum, said Capt. Mark A. Prokopius, the unit’s commanding officer and professor of naval science. “The midshipmen attending this event get to meet and interact with military enlisted and officer leaders, as well as civilian leaders who have experienced situations that will expand the horizons of the midshipmen. The hope is the midshipmen will be able to learn from the speakers and take away some of the experiences of the speakers so they will have a better chance to be successful junior officers and future leaders.”
More than 160 midshipmen from 40 universities across the nation traveled to Notre Dame this year. The commanding officer called the seminar a great event and highly sought after.
“It’s very elite in that we have to turn away some midshipmen that want to attend because of space limitations,” Prokopius said. “We make every effort to bring in all different warfare specialties, both men and women, to provide unique backgrounds from across the Navy and Marine Corps. We also try to make this diverse militarily by bringing in speakers from the other branches of service. This year, we have an Air Force general to speak about the military’s new F-35 Lightning II fighter jet and the three variants for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”
The weekend was organized, planned and executed by the midshipmen of Notre Dame – in a manner very similar to the operational planning activities that occur in the fleet. NDLW is unique because it is fully planned and operated by the Notre Dame midshipmen; all logistics from lodging to speakers to meals to transportation are coordinated by the unit.
“As the commanding officer of the Notre Dame Naval ROTC, I am very proud of the Notre Dame midshipmen’s accomplishments in pulling this together," said Prokopius "The event continues to draw a large and diverse group of Navy ROTC midshipmen from across the nation and attracts the most senior military leaders.”
Midshipman 2nd Class John Barrett, a junior at the University of Notre Dame and one of the main coordinators of the weekend, called the planning a yearlong preparation that was a full battalion effort.
“Everything from the fourth class midshipman level up to the CO (commanding officer) has been working on this since our conference ended last year," Barrett said. "This is such a great opportunity to have high-level and high-ranking speakers come here to share thoughts and wisdom on what’s important to be a successful junior officer. It’s also a great opportunity for the midshipmen to be able to interact and network with each other, because many will see one another again in their careers.”
The theme of this year’s seminar was “One Team, One Fight,” and emphasized the complementary efforts taken by the United States Navy and U.S. Marine Corps to protect the United States. A secondary theme might have been the “Great Power Competition (GPC)” -- the tension and competing interests between major world powers, and how they impact the military. Many of the speakers talked about GPC and told the midshipmen they believed this will be a major concern for the future Navy and Marine Corps officers.
The seminar began with Fleet Master Chief Richard P. O’Rawe, from U. S. Fleet Forces Command, who talked of three tenets with the midshipmen: “The Great Power Competition," “Our Sailors and Their Technical Proficiency” and “The Soon-to-be Junior Officer – You.”
“I want them to understand the kind of geopolitical situation we’re in today," said O’Rawe. "This 'Great Power Competition' is real and that’s what they are up against.”
O’Rawe, as did other speakers, also touched on the importance of junior officers to work with senior enlisted personnel as they learn their ship, division, department and command.
“I look forward to working with them in the future and seeing them out in the fleet,” he said.
Midshipmen also heard from speakers including retired U.S. Navy Capt. William E. Mountford II, currently the manager of Telephony Services for the Office of Information Technologies (OIT) at Notre Dame; Rear Adm. Jeffrey T. Jablon, commander, Submarine Group 10; Notre Dame Professor Dr. Dan Lindley, co-director of the university’s international security program; retired Vice Adm. John M. Bird, a career submarine officer and former U.S. 7th Fleet commander; U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Eric T. Fick, deputy program executive officer for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office, who discussed what it is like to lead an organization of military and civilian engineers designing and building a new weapons system.
Jablon called the seminar a great opportunity to share with the midshipmen “the leadership lessons over my career that I learned from the time I was an ensign to today. I tried to convey some of those lessons to the midshipmen so they can take them on, evaluate them and maybe take them on if they desire to do that.”
Jablon, a former NROTC assistant professor of naval science and staff instructor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, said it felt great to be back talking with NROTC midshipmen on a university campus.
“I love the NROTC program and I love the midshipmen, their enthusiasms and their desires to be part of the Navy," said Jablon. "It was one of my favorite tours at the University of Virginia as a NROTC instructor.”
Many of the midshipmen also loved being part of the seminar and found great value participating in the leadership weekend.
“This was a lot of great information and discussion that you normally don’t get in a classroom setting,” said Midshipman 2nd Class Brandon Jackson, a junior at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County from Lexington Park, Maryland. “I think it’s very important to be able to attend a seminar like the leadership weekend here at Notre Dame. Being able to pick the brains of all the guest speakers, and especially the other midshipmen, is a good thing and a benefit as we move on to commission and become naval officers.”
Midshipman 1st Class Ashley Bowery, a senior at the University of Memphis (Tennessee) from Rogersville, Tennessee, said the Notre Dame Naval Leadership Weekend helped her refine her leadership skills and gave her a new perception of what it will take to be a successful Navy officer.
“It brought to light different things that maybe I hadn’t thought about before and will help me in the future as a junior officer,” Bowery said.
Another popular segment at the leadership weekend was the junior officer panel, as three Navy lieutenants and two Marine Corps captains from various Navy and Marine Corps officer communities and commands were on hand to discuss their roles as junior officers and answer questions from the midshipmen.
“One of the highlights for me was the JO (junior officer) panel,” said Midshipman 1st Class John Spreng, a senior at the University of Washington in Seattle, whose hometown is San Carlos, California. “The panel was very good at grounding us back to where we are going to be immediately. They gave us a better perspective of where we are going to be starting out in our careers.”
U.S. Navy Lts. Megan and Eric Leis, married junior officers from Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, said it was great to be back at Notre Dame since they were both graduates and former members of the Notre Dame NROTC unit. Today they train, mentor and mold young enlisted Sailors at the Navy’s only boot camp, Recruit Training Command (RTC) and the Surface Warfare Officers School Unit (SWOSU). Eric is the military training department head, and Megan is the executive officer at SWOSU.
“It was wonderful coming back here to our alma mater and an event we used to be part of and worked," Eric said. "It has interesting to hear the questions from the midshipmen vice the ones I hear from recruits at RTC. The midshipmen are much more focused on know-how to deliver orders. It’s definitely interesting to see the different mindsets of the midshipmen compared to recruits."
Megan agreed with her husband, saying, “It is a unique perspective to hear these soon-to-be officers asking similar questions about giving orders. It’s also very exciting to watch them [interact], knowing the Sailors we are teaching (at Great Lakes) are the Sailors that will be under the command of these soon-to-be division officers. I think that’s very poignant.”
The two lieutenants were joined on the panel by U.S. Navy Lt. Eliott Peters, the aviation officer instructor at the Ohio State University NROTC unit; Marine Capt. Thomas Montalbano, Marine officer instructor at the University of Memphis; and Marine Capt. Kaitlin Kleiber, an operations officer at Marine Corps Headquarters, Marine Barracks 8th and I, in Washington, D.C.
Capping off the weekend, retired Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler served as the keynote speaker, addressing the midshipmen at the closing dinner in the Corbett Family Hall, Downes Club Ballroom, next to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football stadium. Sattler served in the Marine Corps for 37 years. He commanded the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in 2002. He was the commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and commander, Marine Corps Force, Central Command from 2004 to 2006. He retired in August 2008. After talking to the midshipmen about his career and thoughts on leadership, Sattler spent more time answering questions from the future naval and Marine Corps leaders.
Throughout the event, midshipmen were encouraged to mingle with each other and the speakers, and have discussions about leadership and discussions about the theme and topics of the weekend.
“I hope the midshipmen that attended the weekend were able to interact, not only with the speakers, but with each other,” said Prokopius. “I hope they also were able to expand their own horizons as leaders and will take the knowledge they acquired here to develop into strong and ethical leaders in the Navy and Marine Corps as they move on in their careers.”
The Navy ROTC program develops midshipmen mentally, morally and physically, to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, loyalty and Navy core values. The program provides college graduates an opportunity to commission as naval officers who possess a basic professional background, are motivated toward careers in the naval service, and have potential for future development in mind and character, so as to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.
Rear Adm. Mike Bernacchi, commander, Naval Service Training Command (NSTC), headquartered at Naval Station Great Lakes, supports 98 percent of initial officer and enlisted accessions training for the Navy, as well as the Navy’s Citizenship Development Program.
Bernacchi and his NSTC staff at Great Lakes and at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, also support Recruit Training Command, the Navy’s only boot camp, at Great Lakes; NROTC units at more than 160 colleges and universities across the country; Officer Training Command (OTC) in Newport, R.I.; Navy Junior ROTC and Navy National Defense Cadet Corps (NNDCC) citizenship development programs at more than 600 high schools worldwide.
For more information about Navy ROTC, visit www.nrotc.navy.mil/. For more information about NSTC, visit www.netc.navy.mil/nstc/ or visit the NSTC Facebook pages at www.facebook.com/NavalServiceTraining/.
For more news about NSTC, visit: www.netc.navy.mil/nstc/, the NSTC Facebook pages at www.facebook.com/navalservicetraining/ or visit www.navy.mil/local/greatlakes/.
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For more news from Naval Service Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/greatlakes/.