08-11 February, 2018
In an effort to supplement their NROTC training here in Boston, five second class midshipmen recently attended the 23rd annual Notre Dame Naval Leadership Weekend, a two-and-a-half-day event evaluating the principles of leadership in South Bend, Indiana. In keeping with the unofficial Marine Corps motto of “Semper Gumby” or “always flexible,” the weekend’s plan was challenged owing to both the government shutdown as well as a Midwest snow storm, which plagued the travel plans of both the speakers and attendees. Even LT Shawcross, a Notre Dame graduate and BU-MIT NROTC Consortium instructor, had his travel cancelled at the last minute. In the face of these setbacks, the Notre Dame midshipmen were still able to produce a meaningful weekend that featured an impressive speaker lineup.
MIDN Keohane and MIDN Singley from Boston College, MIDN Kierstead from Boston University, MIDN Magendanz from MIT, and MIDN Schachman from Harvard, all juniors, represented the Boston Consortium at the conference. While noted speakers such as VADM John Bird, Ret, BGEN Jason Bohm, ADM Harry Harris, and ADM Bill Moran were forced to cancel their appearances because of the possible government shutdown, those who stepped in for them did a remarkable job in motivating and educating the two hundred plus midshipmen who were in attendance.
The most revered naval speaker still able to attend was MCPON Steven S. Giordano, the 14th and current Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy. MCPON Giordano implored his audience to be authentic leaders stemming from their own experiences as well as to pursue knowledge through learning every day. He believed that the drive to fight through complacency was what made each generation of naval leaders better than their predecessors. In addition to a Junior Officer Panel tailored towards each warfare community, SgtMaj Donna Dunbar, a retired Marine, spoke about her time leading the famed Parris Island Marine Recruit Depot.
While it was unfortunate that more military commanders were not present, leadership perspective from a business and political view was provided, giving a welcomed opportunity to hear from the important communities that can be overlooked in a typical naval training environment. Tom Schreier, Jr, now a professor at Notre Dame and previously the Vice Chairman of Nuveen Investments, recalled the lessons he learned during his time on Wall Street during the Housing Collapse of 2008. While it was especially important to be prepared in a time of crisis, he noted how his calm demeanor in the face of adversity was contagious to those working for him. Mr. Schreier always strove to make the complicated simple during his financial career. His colleague at Notre Dame and Co-Founder of Keurig, Christopher Stevens, left his audience with the idea that “nothing decreases anxiety like action.” This mantra meshed well with the naval community’s bias towards action. In addition to these Notre Dame professors, the conference also had the opportunity to interact with Pete Buttigieg, the Mayor of South Bend, and Lawrence Greenspun, of the Drucker Institute.
As important as the knowledge imparted by the varied lineup of speakers was, midshipmen from across the country were able to further expand their network of future officers who they will be serving with in the future. In such a large bureaucratic organization, midshipmen realized how small the navy truly is by how many people they had already met through their training. The Notre Dame Naval Leadership Weekend is a great opportunity for all midshipmen to take a critical look at their own leadership styles and should not be overlooked by the underclassmen who have the privilege of going in the future.
Article and photo by MIDN 2/C Singley