NEWPORT, R.I. – Navy Lt. Cmdr. Theodore Johnson, an information warfare officer who recently served as a military professor at the U.S. Naval War College (NWC), was one of four service members announced as a 2011-2012 White House Fellow, on Sept. 7.
Johnson, from Raleigh, N.C., departed from NWC in August, where he was a faculty member for NWC's Assist and Assess Team (AAT), teaching and training numbered fleet staffs in Information Operations and Cyberspace Operations for their role in joint operations.
“It is a tremendous honor to have been selected for this prestigious fellowship,” said Johnson. “My Fellows classmates are such remarkable people that it really cements in my mind the unique opportunity that this particular fellowship presents.”
Johnson is one of 15 Fellows to join the 47th class to serve in the nation’s most prestigious program for leadership and public service. They represent a diverse cross-section of professions, including government, business, medicine, education, and the military.
“When I received the call from the Director notifying me that I'd been selected for this year's class, I can't begin describe to you how elated I was,” said Johnson. “Knowing that the hard work and introspection paid off is a reward all its own, but there was also an element of pensive reflection.”
Every year as many as 1,000 candidates apply for the fellowship. Selection is highly competitive and based on a record of professional achievement, evidence of leadership potential, and a proven commitment to public service.
“While the selection meant that I'd achieved my goal, it also meant that the Commission entrusted me and my classmates with carrying on the program's legacy and being a representative of the President,” explained Johnson. “Whereas the application process is about showcasing your best, being a Fellow itself is much bigger than that. Our class is committed to living up to this responsibility.”
Johnson was placed with the U.S. Department of Energy, where he will gain an unparalleled experience working with senior administration officials on ever changing issues and challenges.
“Because the long process of becoming a Fellow, from application to regional interviews to selection weekend, is so intense and comprehensive, my first day being a Fellow was surreal,” said Johnson. “But it was much like the feeling experienced at certain points in a naval career: the day you're commissioned, the day you complete your first deployment, or even the first day you get to wear your uniform with your warfare device or newest personal award medal. Just as in the Navy, we enjoy the moment, we but don't dwell on it, because there is more to be done.”
Johnson’s thirteen years of commissioned service include numerous afloat deployments throughout Asia and the Middle East, cyberspace operations supporting major combat operations, and as aide-de-camp to the Director of the National Security Agency. In 2007, Johnson deployed with Expeditionary Strike Group SEVEN in support of Operation Sea Angel II, the disaster relief response to Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh, and in 2009, he conducted research in Africa, Asia, and South America that led to official U.S. Navy publications on theater security cooperation.
“Though the mission is fairly new to me, the technical and leadership experience the Navy has afforded more than prepares me for the tasks ahead,” said Johnson.
Education and community service are also key components of the White House Fellows program.
“In addition to this placement (with the Energy Department), the Fellowship program has a series of seminars with Cabinet officials, public and private sector senior leaders, and many others that provide a unique insight into the workings of our government and our country,” explained Johnson, who holds a Bachelor of Science from Hampton University and a Master of Liberal Arts with an International Relations concentration from Harvard University.
Created in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the White House Fellows Program is designed to give promising American leaders “first-hand, high-level experience with the workings of the federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs,” according to a White House statement.
The program is intended to encourage active citizenship and a lifelong commitment to service. Lt. Cmdr. Johnson joins an accomplished group of over 600 White House Fellows alumni, including former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell, Senator Samuel Brownback, U.S. Representative Joe Barton, retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, retired Adm. Dennis Blair, Adm. Patrick Walsh, and Vice Adm. Ann Rondeau.
“Though it's my name on the Fellowship website, this accomplishment belongs to so many people,” said Johnson. “My family and friends have been an immeasurable source of support and encouragement, but it also belongs to my shipmates who I've served with, who gave me confidence, who prepared me for interviews, and who were just as committed to my selection as if it were them.”
“I will miss the camaraderie of the wardroom and shipmates during this Fellowship year, but I intend to make the most of it, make them proud, and return to the Fleet a better naval officer as a return on their, and the nation's, investment.”
Written and posted by Cmdr. Carla McCarthy, NWC Public Affairs