NEWPORT, R.I. – Graduation day came for 72 of the U.S. military’s top enlisted leaders and two international students honored July 9 as the latest to earn diplomas from the Senior Enlisted Academy (SEA).
“Our students are now ready to assume their duties in the most demanding senior enlisted billets on land or sea,” said SEA Command Master Chief Tom Whitney at a ceremony held at Naval Station Newport Officers’ Club. “This course gives students opportunities to experience a diversity of cultures and work with sister services and share leadership experiences. Plus, they develop a network for life.”
Whitney said the importance of strong and effective “middle management” leadership cannot be overstated.
“These SEA graduates, as middle managers, are the linchpins of the military,” Whitney said. “They bridge the gap between upper leadership and Sailors. Through the Chief’s Mess, they educate and inspire and accomplish the mission.”
SEA classes are divided into small study groups to allow an exchange of ideas, sharing of experiences, reasoning in problem solving and fostering self-confidence and team building. Senior enlisted leaders in pay grades E8 and E9 from all U.S. military branches are eligible to attend the six-week course. A select group of E7 sailors – 10 percent per class – may enroll as well. Each class includes international students as well.
The curriculum addresses communication skills, leadership, organizational behavior, national and international studies and a concept known as Brilliant on the Basics, a focus on helping service members avoid career and personal pitfalls.
Because of SEA’s success in sharpening skills of senior enlisted leaders, graduation is now a requirement before assuming the positions of command master chief or chief of the boat.
One SEA graduate, Command Master Chief Donald Davis of Houston, said the overriding theme of the course boiled down to one thing.
“It’s all about taking care of our Sailors,” said Davis, whose new assignment is as Command Master Chief aboard USS Lassen (DDG 82) in Yokosuka, Japan. “This school brings together such a diverse and experienced group of men and women who share experiences and learn from one another.”
“Everyone’s leadership style is different, and you are exposed to the best approaches, whether it’s communicating with and motivating your Sailors, or conflict resolution,” Davis said.
Davis, who served as an Aviation Ordnanceman before advancing to his current role, credits SEA for making him a better writer and speaker.
Information Systems Technician Senior Chief Martin Ruane of Chicago, said SEA taught him to be a better communicator and critical thinker.
“You learn ways to interact with your juniors in a more positive manner,” Ruane said. He also said he feels more at ease speaking before larger groups.
Ruane’s new assignment is as Communications Division Leading Chief Petty Officer aboard USS Essex (LHD 2) in Sasebo, Japan.
Another SEA graduate, Hospital Corpsman Senior Chief Donald Schrader of Youngstown, Ohio, felt he gained a greater understanding of the Navy’s future.
“It gave us a tremendous perspective on the whole future of the Navy, the 30,000-foot view, and what’s coming,” said Schrader, who is being assigned to 3rd Marine Logistics Group on Okinawa.
Schrader appreciated the chance to study and learn alongside peers from the other military services and the contributions of the class’s two international students, from Turkey and New Zealand.
With a growing emphasis on force integration and coalition building, Schrader said being exposed to different approaches broadens everyone’s knowledge.
“That is maybe the best thing I take away from SEA,” Schrader said. “We see how our sister services work, and they get to see how the Chief’s Mess operates.”
Further, Schrader said the course “takes you out of your comfort zone and challenges your perspectives.” His advice to future SEA students – be open-minded, be willing to listen and learn.
By Mass Communication Specialist First Class Doug Kimsey