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Navy Interview: CDR Sean Heritage

In an attempt to not just answer my own curiosities, but to foster the beginnings of a discussion for more than myself, I have decided to start and share a new thread … Interviews with Navy Leadership.

So much of what we do is based so much on perspective.  Certain people have certain experiences which give them certain perspectives on certain situations.  What I hope to gain from interviewing some of our Navy leaders is added perspective.  There is no way we can all have every experience, and I for one wouldn’t care to try.  So why not ping those that have come before and have clearly taken a good path?

If you enjoy this type of content, I encourage you to participate!  Leave comments, ask questions, suggest future interviews, do something more than just reading the words.  I too only have a certain perspective and may not ask the questions that really need to be asked.  All right, so the invitation is out there … the rest is up to you!

Intro

Greetings to CDR Sean Heritage!  I really appreciate you taking the time to conduct a virtual interview with me.  First off, I want to give the readers of this interview a little of your background and then we can get into some of the actual interview questions.

 Navy Interview: CDR Sean Heritage

I am a Father, Husband, and Naval Officer in that order.  Those who may be interested in learning more about who I am and what I stand for can do so by reading my bio.

All right, before we get to the questions, is there anything in particular that you would like to lead off with?

Jason, first of all, thanks for making the time to personally contribute to the conversation and for giving those of us who care enough to share another forum to do the same.  I appreciate the opportunity to be your first interviewee, as I think it’s important that we never miss an opportunity to lead, mentor, and influence.  I relish opportunities to give others the privilege of going second.  As you know, the most critical person in creating a movement is the first follower, so I hope we give others reason to follow.  We may end up looking like nuts (previous link germane), but it wouldn’t be the first time we put ourselves out there in an effort to inspire others and fell short.  At least we are trying…

Generic

Let’s kick this off about as generic as these questions can come, why did you join the Navy?

My decision to join the Navy was rather uneducated.  As a 17 year old, I wanted to play Division I soccer, to fly jets like Tom Cruise, and to get a college education (not necessarily in that order).  The US Naval Academy was a place where I could achieve all three and did.  I say that I did because I was able to service select Navy Air, but I learned early on that I was not as passionate about flying as I originally thought.  I learned about the world of signals intelligence and was fortunate enough to pursue Plan B with the help of some incredible mentors.

When you first joined the Navy, what expectations did you have for your career?

Even though I was passionate about my new community and serving in the Navy, I had no intention of staying passed my initial commitment.  In fact, I resigned at they six year mark.  Back in 1997, I had decided that based on my experiences in Adak, AK and Fort Meade, MD, I was going to leave the Navy.  I was going to leave the Navy after never really having been in the Navy.  Fortunately, the detailer allowed me to change my mind (I still thank retired Captain AL Pollard periodically for allowing me to do so) and sent me to the Sixth Fleet Staff (back when it was permanently embarked in USS LASALLE).  That experience taught me how flawed my decision to resign was and I have been committed to a career ever since.

Where has been your favorite place of duty?

My favorite place and my favorite duty are two different answers.  My wife and I absolutely loved our time in Gaeta, Italy.  We loved traveling the Mediterranean and we met so many great people who are friends to this day.  My favorite duty was serving as Commanding Officer of Navy Information Operations Command Pensacola.  Command anywhere is special, but Commanding WITH the Sailors and civilians who made up that team during my tenure was incredible.  There was not a day that I wasn’t excited to be at “work” and I grew so much in the process.  For those who are considering making our profession a career, I can assure you there is nothing like Command.  That said, I can also tell you that many who have Commanded missed the opportunity to truly lead, grow, and develop those around them, but maybe we’ll talk about that later.

Who has influenced you the most as a Naval Officer?

It would be unfair to attempt to narrow that down to one person.  I benefit from what I call my Personal Board of Directors (PBOD).  I have many mentors.  Some are military, some are civilians, some are senior to me, and some are juniors.  I am influenced by everything I see and everything I read.  I like to write about those lessons and I share some of my written thoughts on my leadership oriented blog.

IDC

Would you consider the IDC a “war fighting” community?

Absolutely.  We have Sailors contributing to the fight side by side in each domain.  I am especially amazed by both the contributions and sacrifices our Shipmates are making in the SPECWAR arena.  What troubles me in the present is the inability for some to see what many are doing remotely in the world of computer network operations as war fighting.  You don’t have to be in harm’s way to be “war fighting”.  More of us need to acknowledge that it matter not from where our war fighting contributions are made, but it matter greatly  that we continue to make them.

 Navy Interview: CDR Sean Heritage

How do you feel about marking FITREP block 39, Tactical Performance Performance Trait other than NOB for IDWO qualified Officers?

This takes me right back to your previous question.  I don’t think we ought to be overly concerned with how others view us (See Embrace the Cyber Geek for more), but we need to think long and hard about how we view ourselves.  If we truly believe we are directly contributing to the fight, we should be consistent in our actions and measure what we truly value.  We are contributing to the fight, we are tactically relevant, and we ought to seek every opportunity to re-enforce our commitment to delivering value as a part of the Navy’s war fighting machine (unrestricted line or not).

Career Progression

What did you look for when selecting your “next” tour?

I look for three things for each and every tour I have had over the years in this order

  1. The opportunity to contribute in meaningful ways
  2. Quality of Life for my family
  3. The opportunity to learn as much as possible

How can Junior Officers best interact with Senior Officers?

I believe it is the responsibility of the senior to engage the junior.  I don’t believe senior officers do a good job of bringing the conversation to where the target audience lives.  We all should have a presence in the blogosphere, be participating in bulletin boards, and making ourselves more visibly committed to facilitating an interactive discussion.

Have you ever taken a job you knew you would dislike for the sole reason of being a “check in the box”?

Absolutely not.  I may have received orders for a job that was not my first choice, but never have been one to put a “check in the box”.  Those who have attended IWBC over the last 2.5 years or served with me at NIOC Pensacola know how sensitive I am to not only that phrase, but the flawed philosophy it communicates.  Career progression is all about accumulating meaningful experiences, as we grow as officers, pursue our passions, and leverage our strengths.

Conclusion

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me and thank you for your long and continued service to our Navy and Nation.  Before we finish up, would you like to leave us with any closing remarks?

I look forward to learning from, with, and through Shipmates like you.  Thank you for caring enough to facilitate the conversation, for creating ways to make us better, and for giving yourself permission that so many others fail to take.  I sincerely appreciate everything you are doing and realize it extends well beyond your current command.

This interview was conducted between LTJG Jason Pawlak and CDR Sean Heritage on 10 MAR 2013

  • Random Tall Dude At Subway

    …quite succinctly stated. Hopefully we can all eventually follow this way of thinking sufficiently wholeheartedly to the point that we all make a mark, rather than a mess. :)

  • Jimmy Brokaw

    This is great. I’d love to see more posts like this, thanks!

  • Mark Boggis

    Jason, Thanks for the interview and for sharing CDR Heritage’s wisdom and insight.