by Ryan Labadens, U.S. Navy Public Affairs

Eight up-and-coming leaders in the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (CNMOC) met with senior leaders onboard Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport, Mississippi, Nov. 18, 2021, as part of their orientation week for the CNMOC Executive Leadership Program (CELP).

According to Jennifer Hailes, CNMOC deputy technical director at Stennis Space Center, Mississippi, and CELP manager, the CELP is a two-year program implemented in 2012 to build a foundation for civilian and military leadership development and prepare selected employees for potential placement in key leadership positions within the Naval Oceanography enterprise.

The program participants are selected from a worldwide list of applicants from all over the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command.

“Historically, it started off as a program just for our Navy civilians,” said Hailes, “but about three years ago, Admiral Okon [Rear Admiral John A. Okon], who was our commanding officer, decided that he wanted to integrate the program even more and added on military officers because there are so many other leadership opportunities for military participants as they progress into the senior officer ranks.”

The participants (referred to as cohorts) start off the program with a CELP Orientation Week, which this year took place Nov. 15-19, and is primarily hosted at Stennis Space Center. The orientation includes an introduction to the program, command tours in the local area and various training events.

Several entities participate in the local command tours, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Naval Oceanography commands, and the Naval Construction Battalion Center.

Hailes noted that during these tours, cohorts meet with senior leadership to gain a better understanding of current leadership challenges and opportunities, and to learn from leadership’s successes and difficulties.

Throughout the two-year program, cohorts perform several tasks, including participation in a developmental assignment, where they spend between 30-60 days working with another federal organization, and they also shadow Navy civilian and military leaders, who act as mentors to the cohorts.

They also visit other Navy and CNMOC installations along the Gulf Coast, East Coast and West Coast.

“It really helps from a leadership perspective because you get an opportunity to talk to the Navy leaders and ask them questions about their experiences and leadership practices,” said Hailes.

While onboard NCBC Nov. 18, the CELP cohorts met with NCBC commanding officer Capt. Jeff Powell, NCBC executive officer Cmdr. Weurielus Johnson, and NCBC installation programs integrator Kevin Gillam, to gain a broader perspective about NCBC and the NCBC-CNMOC relationship and partnership.

“Linking [these cohorts] up with possible mentors and getting them good leadership insight and engagement early on is essential for providing them critical leadership training that can help them throughout their careers,” said Johnson.

Since the program’s inception, Hailes said that about 75 percent of previous participants have been promoted into higher leadership positions.

“It’s been very successful in providing the skills and the information needed to help them progress in their careers, and it also broadens their scope – that’s probably the bigger piece – to have a greater understanding of how leadership works,” said Hailes.

Two of the CELP cohorts who visited NCBC spoke about how much they are looking forward to the knowledge and experience they hope to gain through the program.

“This is a unique opportunity for us in our positions,” said Sam Naquin, CNMOC information systems security manager. “The intent is to pick up nuggets of knowledge from the people who are in these senior positions so that hopefully we can figure out what we need to do to fill the roles of being senior leaders.”

Lt. Lawrence Wilson III, Fleet Weather Center–Norfolk training and readiness department head, summarized his hopes for the program, saying, “It’s not only to broaden our minds about CNMOC and the greater Navy community, but it sets the foundation for networking and forging relationships with other senior civilians and senior officers so that we can set our minds on the future of this organization and how we can all help to make it more successful.”