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NEWS | March 29, 2024

Leading From the Front

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Scott Wichmann, Commander Navy Reserve Force Public Affairs

“Deckplate Leadership” is a well-worn Navy phrase. It refers to leaders who consistently set the tone, lead by example, know the mission, know their Sailors and develop them beyond their own expectations as a team and as individuals.

In any command, the epitome of consistent deckplate leadership is the command master chief. The CMDCM is a senior enlisted leader who reports directly to the commanding officer to update and implement policies related to morale, welfare, job satisfaction, discipline, utilization and training of Navy enlisted personnel.

In the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility, two hard-charging command master chiefs recently worked side-by-side leading the way from the deck plates of two Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) destroyers in one of the most vital and dynamic security environments in the world. What makes them unique is their common bond: Both serve in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

CMDCM (SW/FMF/SCW/EXW/AW) Sean Baney, assigned to USS Shoup (DDG-86) and CMDCM (SW/IW/EXW/SCW/FMF) James Butler, assigned to USS John Finn (DDG-113) are a prime example of what “Deckplate Leadership” is all about.

Butler, who serves in his civilian career as a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation out of the San Diego Field Office, served as part of the FDNF mission in Japan from June 2023 through January 2024. He said leading active duty Sailors from the deck plates of a Navy destroyer was a challenging, demanding experience.

“If you’ve ever been on a DDG, you would arguably say it’s the hardest job in the fleet,” said Butler. “However, if you’ve been on a DDG in 7th Fleet, you would then arguably say that's the hardest job in the fleet. I’m sure you can guess where I fall on that spectrum, as I can tell you I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder than I did while onboard USS John Finn.”

Baney, a firefighter and paramedic for the Springfield Township Fire Department in Holland, Ohio, echoed Butler’s sentiments and said he viewed the mission as an opportunity to add to his leadership toolbox.

“The entire experience has been a learning opportunity for me,” said Baney. “Having never been assigned to a destroyer, I was given the opportunity to learn entire new warfare areas and experience everything from the day-to-day routine of being underway, being part of a carrier strike group, and helping to lead a ship into an availability period.”

The duo credit their close working relationship for making daily improvements, finding solutions to problems and setting one another up for enduring mission success.

“CMC Baney and I know each other and talk on almost a daily basis,” said Butler. “We’re always helping each other. With that, I would equally say all the CMCs in the 7th Fleet AOR rely heavily on one another whenever they have a question, or a problem and it didn’t matter who was an Active or Reserve CMC. They just helped.”

Baney agreed.

“We had known each other professionally before, as the SELRES CMC community is close,” said Baney. “We definitely communicated much more while we were both in the AOR, sharing challenges and best practices, helping and encouraging each other to be successful. We have grown much closer by having this shared experience.”

Both Baney and Butler said the FDNF-J mission provided them each with a unique opportunity to show their active duty counterparts the value of Navy Reserve mission integration.

“Shipmates were surprised I was a Reserve Sailor,” said Butler, “which sparked additional interest from them and conversation allowing me to know my crew on a more personal level. I was able to leverage this into a strength during my tour. I turned that strength into knowledge, turned that knowledge into action, and then watched that action turn into positive change.”

“It has been an exchange of knowledge.” said Baney of leading active duty Sailors as a SELRES CMDCM. “I have been able to share my experiences in the Navy Reserve with the Sailors, chiefs and officers and heighten their knowledge level of everything the Reserve Force brings to the Fleet.”

Baney, who also serves as a paramedic instructor for the University of Toledo, said the multiple demands placed on Reserve Sailors can pose legitimate barriers to readiness and require meticulous planning to properly manage.

“We often talk about the work/life/reserve balance, and it’s real,” said Baney. “There are always competing demands for our time, and you have to be able to prioritize which is most important and what requires focus to maintain that balance.”

Baney also stressed the importance of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health to overall readiness.

“I try to focus on the whole-body concept of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness,” said Baney. “Exercising regularly, reading to maintain awareness of world events and the Navy, furthering my educational opportunities, understanding myself and trying to be consistent in everything I do.”

Butler said to be effective, he has to consistently be ready to fill the vital role and responsibility entrusted to him.

“Yes, I am a Sailor in the Navy Reserve, but I’m also a command master chief in the United States Navy,” said Butler. “With that, the call to active-duty in support of 7th Fleet and USS John Finn was hard, extremely high-paced and challenging. However, every day I gave it my all and at no time did I ever hear anyone say, “He’s just a reservist.”’

“Command Master Chiefs Baney and Butler are exactly what we’re talking about when we speak about the importance of Warfighting Readiness,” said Vice Admiral John Mustin, Chief of Navy Reserve and Commander, Navy Reserve Force. “The ability to hit the deck plates on day one to lead U.S. Navy Sailors with character, competence and confidence.”

Butler said CNR’s call to vigilantly maintain Warfighting Readiness is more than just a mission statement, it should be a way of life for SELRES Sailors. He encouraged every Navy Reserve Sailor to read the Navy Reserve Fighting Instructions and stay ready to mobilize, lead and fight to win on day one.

“Own your own readiness and don’t wait for someone to tell you to do your PHA, PMK-EE, security clearance, etc.,” said Butler. “When the Navy needs you, there won’t be time for you to do all the administrative things you should be maintaining. From the time the Navy called for me to report to USS John Finn and my arrival, it was 12 days. You have to remain ready for “when,” not “if” the Navy calls.”

Baney said he hopes more opportunities open up for SELRES Sailors to turn similar experiences into immediate mission impact in areas where it’s needed most.

“Serving on active duty as part of the FDNF-J has been such a great opportunity, and I hope it is expanded to many more SELRES Sailors as it is a win-win,” said Baney. “We can gain so much in-rate and mobilization experience while helping to fill critical billets at sea, which is where Sailors belong. This will help to reinforce the capabilities the Reserve team brings to the fight and continue the integration with our active-duty forces.”

“Everyone has the capability to leave a positive and lasting impact wherever they go,” said Butler. “It’s up to the individual as to what impact they aspire to leave. Be bold, don’t settle for doing things the way they have always been done. Lead from the front and be an agent of change.”