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February 2009

Commander's Perspective
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CIVMARs offered a level playing field and new opportunities

"All things being equal" is a phrase we hear from time to time. It means everyone has an equal shot at something - that the playing field is level. It's a condition that we've been working on for MSC's civil service mariners for quite a while. All that work is finally paying off as a total modernization of the CIVMAR promotion evaluation system is being phased in.

Recognizing performance

We all get evaluated in one way or another, even admirals. It's frustrating to do your job well and then get a poor evaluation because your evaluator doesn't write well, or doesn't have specific job tasks to compare your performance against.

It's also frustrating to get a poor evaluation and not have a chance to insert your own comments on why you don't think it accurately assesses your capabilities and skills. That's why we're implementing this new system.

An article in the December edition of Sealift explained the mechanics of the new program - how it will replace the old, written-on-paper system with an automated, electronic file that won't get lost or torn. The article also went into detail on how concrete performance criteria were being developed for each CIVMAR position, from master to ordinary seaman and from chief engineer to wiper.

These performance criteria are also associated with leadership and management skills where appropriate. And, as part of the evaluation, you get to review it and comment on it before it becomes a permanent part of your official record.

Capt. Charles Becker, a CIVMAR master; Kathleen Giacolone, a human resources division director at Military Sealift Fleet Support Command, and their team have spent a great deal of time developing and refining the new system, and I like what they've accomplished. The new system was phased in for masters in December to begin the verification process that will make sure we're doing it right.

So far, 16 masters' evaluations have been completed. Toward the end of the year, the new automated system will be deployed to the total CIVMAR workforce in phases. Keeping our CIVMAR force at full strength, with competent, motivated people, is one of my top goals and has been since I arrived at MSC.

This new system will give our CIVMARs a chance to go after promotions and jobs knowing that they're being evaluated against the same set of criteria as everyone else competing with them for that job or promotion opportunity. That's a big step forward in taking care of our people.

Providing opportunity

It's long been my policy to afford CIVMARs training opportunities to beef up their professional knowledge and skills. It broadens their career possibilities. It builds a better workforce for the command.

MSFSC already administers a non-degree unlicensed-to-licensed upgrade program. Now we're going a step further. Last month I signed COMSC Instruction 12410.4, Unlicensed to Licensed Mariner Degree Program. This is where opportunity really begins knocking on the door for a good number of our people.

Do you have a college bachelor's degree or a U.S. Coast Guard license equivalent to a third mate or third assistant engineer? If you don't, it's hard to get one or the other without attending a maritime college. That means time away from a paying job at a school where you spend money instead of making it - not something anyone wants to contemplate in today's economy.

But, how do you get ahead, then? How do you make the jump shift to a licensed position?

The CIVMAR Unlicensed to Licensed Degree Program may be the answer for you.

If you have three years of seagoing experience with MSC and don't hold a bachelor's degree or higher from any accredited college or university, then here's what you need to do if you want to make the change from unlicensed to licensed.

First, you've got to apply to and be accepted by one of the following maritime academies: California Maritime, Great Lakes Maritime, Maine Maritime, Massachusetts Maritime, State University of New York Maritime or Texas A&M Maritime. Then you've got to submit a complete application package to MSFSC. You can find all the requirements for this package in the instruction. We'll screen all the submitted packages and choose the very best to participate in this program.

We'll only have spaces for a maximum of four students at each of the academies. That means that there is an incredible opportunity waiting for 24 unlicensed CIVMARs.

If you are selected, here's what MSC can do for you - fund the degree program, including tuition, sea-term fees, books and other mandatory maritime academy fees.

But, wait, there's more.

Let's assume you're really working hard and maintaining both academic and disciplinary standards of the academy and MSC. Then MSC is willing to continue your permanent rate of pay while you're enrolled, plus a subsistence and housing allowance.

There are a couple of caveats. You'll have to sign a statement saying that you'll work for DOD for five years after you graduate. If you fail to maintain grades, thereby failing to graduate, you'll have to pay us back. The same holds if you leave DOD before the five years is up - you'll have to pay back some of the training costs associated with your attendance at the academy.

Okay, go back and read the last five paragraphs again. As near as I can tell, it's a great deal.

So, what are you waiting for? Get a copy of COMSC Instruction 12410.4, and start building your academy application package today. And if you've gotten a promotion evaluation under the new system by the time you're putting your application package together, make sure it's included. You want your package to be as strong as possible.

Opportunity is knocking!

Keep the faith,

R.D. Reilly Jr. signature

Robert D. Reilly Jr.
Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy
Commander, Military Sealift Command