Soule Family Update 9 November 2010

The change of command ceremony for Supship Newport News 9 November at Fort Monroe was even more fun than I thought it would be. I have been to many so I knew basically what to expect in terms of process/ceremony. I will share some pictures when I get them all in (perhaps I will go through what my family took tonight, but the CVN 71 team sent two photographers and and two video cameras rolling, gad, you have to love our CVNs). The best part about it all was getting to see old friends again, like: Leo Owens, Mark Hugel, Jeff Brooks, RDML Tom Moore, RDML Jim Murdoch (current USFFC N43 since the EDs don't have that billet for now, ugh), Chuck Bush, Chuck Horrell (drove from Louisville, KY, good grief, but I am sure he did it for Kevin Terry and not me), Capt Mark Whitney, Capt Bill Gallinis (SUPSHIP Gulf Coast), shipmates from CVN 69 and a classmate from USNA (82). It was like a getting to see people you have not seen in years without there having to be at a funeral. Wow, what a lot of fun. Anyone who wants to read my remarks, which were a lot of fun to write and speak (okay, I know that sounds twisted, but I am a bit of an exhibitionist), can find them here.

The run up to the change of command was not quite a blur, but it was close. It is amazing how fast 3 years in command can go. I personally wrote performance evaluatioins (what the Navy calls “FITREPs”) for all five CDRs, 11 reserve officers that support the command under the new AC/RC integration construct, and my own (that makes 17). I wrote them all myself because I believe making an officer write his/her own FITREP is a poor leadership statement. There is no nice way to say that. Last week, I ran my last Physical Readiness Test (PRT) at the command. I felt good while doing the tests (1.5 mile run, timed sit ups and push ups, 2 minutes each), but I think the distance is getting longer each year because I used to run a lot farther in 12:20 than 1.5 miles. I stayed at work until 1700 the night before the change of command to complete the rating official assessment of the Deputy Supervisor (fortunately the meetings that went from 1300-1615 with flag officers and Newport News senior leaders did not require a lot of my participation [why would they since the change of command was the next day?] so I worked on the assessment during the meetings). The morning of the change of command, I got up early to practice and make final revisions to my remarks (not a good practice even though it worked out well in the end, I should have done this a week earlier) and watch the PSNS video about fall protection equipment (“safety harnesses”) to write some notes for the person who checks such equipment out to the command to make clear my expectations of how he should evaluate the level of knowledge of the employee about to use the equipment. Sure, this latter tasks was a CRAZY thing to be doing on my last morning in command, but I made a commitment to get this done and by golly I did.

I reported to COMNAVAIRLANT (CNAL) at the Naval Station the following day bright and early (l live in Yorktown so the commute will be challenging, but manageable). I did not want to take any leave because a) I am a workaholic (there is a lot of stuff to do for the Carrier Team One aircraft carrier overhaul improvement meeting the following week), b) I like what I do for a living, c) I need to get in the "seat" while the turnover knowledge from ten days ago is still relevant, d) CNAL staff will take some time off for Thanksgiving (got to love those staffs) and Christmas anyway, and e) I am conserving leave to take my wife to Ireland next Apr (just the two of us).

We have to move out of the house where we are living no later than Jan (might be Dec). The owners of the house we are renting are moving back to the area. Moving is not my favorite thing to do, but this is the first time in 29 years we have had to move more than once at a duty station.

My next job is the Ship Materiel Officer at CNAL. I think I can do some good work there and it will be my second time at the command. The first was 98-99. I am essentially switching jobs with the officer who is relieving me.

Pam and I recently flew to Houston for three days for a working session at APQC (see, an organization that helps companies with best practices and knowledge sharing. It was not exactly work related so I took leave. I have worked with them for several years in conjunction with carrier maintenance so this looked like an opportunity to do something different and will probably help with networking and employment post-Navy. It is never too early to start thinking about that.

In early October, Beau, Pam, my dad, and I flew to Albuquerque (my brother Hugh lives there) for the Balloon Fiesta. We arrived quite late Wed evening (getting to bed by midnight) and then got up at 0400 the next day to catch the shuttle to the "mass ascension" (lots of balloons taking off at once). I am glad we did it, but it was also good to go back to my brother's house by 1000 to nap. The nap was almost as good as the balloon fiesta.  The state question really is "red or green" because they ask you every time you order Mexican food.  Friday, we stood in a very long line to take a tram to the top of the Sandia mountains (Sandia is the Mexican word for "watermelon," the color of the mountains most sunsets). The last full day, Saturday, we hung about mostly and I went to two really well done haunted houses with my niece and her husband.

Our son Bryan is still in Jacksonville, Florida. He graduated from the University of North Florida last year, and our younger son Beau is 17 and a senior in high school. Beau goes to an alternative high school that has accommodations for his Asperger's (the biggest one is that the teachers don't panic easily). He's a bright kid and will do just fine because he is far more functional than most of the other young people there. Just getting him through school has been a challenge, though.

Pam is not working, but is planning to get back into the massage therapy business in some capacity so she is studying to take her certification exams next year.





Soule Family New Year Update 2011

Merry Christmas from Ralph, Pam, and Beau Soule