Leading in the Fleet

NU Alumni Living the Admiral’s Three Simple Rules:

March 2017 Todd Lecturer, Navy Admiral Phil Davidson.


On March 21, U.S. Navy Admiral Phil Davidson delivered the spring 2017 Todd Lecture. His visit coincided with the Leadership and Service Summit, which welcomed ten general officers, flag officers, and senior executive service officers to campus for a day of panels, roundtables, and classroom visits. It was a momentous gathering: All the visiting officers were Norwich alumni (to learn more, see “The President’s View,” p. 3). That evening, Davidson, an Annapolis graduate, capped off the day’s events with the Todd Lecture. During his speech he surprised the audience with a slideshow highlighting five Norwich Naval ROTC graduates who serve as examples of his three simple rules: mission, communication, and empathy. On stage, a succession of photos appeared on the large screen as the admiral caught us up on these young naval officers.

(Photo by Mark Collier.)

(Photo by Mark Collier.)

“Now I know for a fact that each one of these officers would not hesitate to echo what I’ve told you about the challenges that lie ahead,” he said to the audience. “They all have stories that reinforce the expectations of the mission, the communications that are required to deliver, and the empathy it takes to lead. Today they know firsthand what it means to fight and win. Make no mistake about it: That fight is not some glorious moment in the spotlight. It’s executing their day-in, day-out duties, what I call the grind of putting the uniform on every day, plunging into the line, and doing the hard work it takes, getting the unit ready for that unknown moment.”

We are delighted to excerpt these narratives, from Admiral Davidson’s Todd Lecture, that shine light on the service of some of our youngest Norwich alumni.


LT Shawn Walsh ’12

(Photo courtesy of Shawn Walsh ’12.)

(Photo courtesy of Shawn Walsh ’12.)

This is Lieutenant Shawn Walsh. He’s an SH-60 Romeo helicopter pilot and a graduate of Norwich with a mechanical engineering degree. He’s originally from Clinton, Conn., and is deployed with the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group, deployed in the South China Sea today.

In this picture are the mountains of Nevada and northeastern California where he was on a training mission. The SH-60 Seahawk is a twin-engine helicopter based aboard cruisers and destroyers that deploy sonobuoys and torpedoes in an anti-submarine role.

The Seahawk has numerous other capabilities, including combat search-and-rescue and personnel recovery missions.

Shawn and his team support our highest tactical organization, the carrier strike group. They can go wherever and whenever the nation needs them, 24/7/365. He’s at the pointy end of the spear, as we say, and he’s executing one of the nation’s most important missions in a delicate area in the South China Sea.


LT Erika (Schueler) Plumadore ’12

(Photo courtesy of Erika Plumadore ’12.)

(Photo courtesy of Erika Plumadore ’12.)

This is Lieutenant Erika Plumadore. She majored in communications and is a native of Yorktown, Va. Here she is operating a ship’s weapon system during interactions with Iranian surface combatants as a training officer on the USS Nitze, a destroyer. She just got back from deployment several months ago. Erika started her junior officer tour as the communications officer, responsible for communications equipment of some of the most highly classified material we have in the Navy, and then fleeted up to be the training officer for her second tour.

While serving as the training officer, Erika had an incident where a sailor gun-decked; that means he falsified the proof that he actually did some maintenance on some damaged control gear, because he didn’t understand the check. Though it was difficult, Erika had the integrity, the commitment to the mission, the artistic value, to say, I’ve got to make this unit ready to fight and win. She had the moral integrity to stand up and make sure that she corrected that behavior. She very clearly communicated that standard to that sailor and throughout her division. In this instance, it had a direct impact on the safety of the ship and crew.

She has the skills reflective of her Norwich ring and the benefit of the education here at Norwich University. She is out there leading in the fleet.

LTJG Jonathan Bermudez Mendez ’13

(Photo courtesy of Jonathan Bermudez Mendez ’13.)

(Photo courtesy of Jonathan Bermudez Mendez ’13.)

Lieutenant j.g. Jon Bermudez Mendez is a surface warfare officer with a degree in history. Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and raised in Bristol, Conn., he served as a communications officer on the USS Donald Cook, a destroyer. Today he is the anti-submarine warfare officer in charge of sonars and torpedoes on board the USS San Jacinto, a cruiser that just returned from deployment.

His most recent mission, in December, was tracking and monitoring Russian submarines in the Mediterranean. He learned quickly during his first sea tour how effective communication can lead to success. He listened and learned from his senior enlisted and was trained in the art of clearly identifying paths to success and the path required to overcome barriers. This lesson would be put into action during this second sea tour on San Jacinto, on which he quickly recognized what needed to be done: Clear guidance facilitated with his own clear communication was instrumental in turning an average division into an effective fighting team, all the while increasing the overall combat-effectiveness and team cohesion required for mission success.

LT Audrey Collier ’12

(Photo courtesy of Audrey Collier ’12.)

(Photo courtesy of Audrey Collier ’12.)

This is Lieutenant Audrey Collier. Originally from Warner, Mass., she has a degree in biochemistry with a minor in biology. Audrey’s first tour was on the USS New Orleans, an amphibious transport dock designed to deliver a fully-equipped battalion of 700 Marines. It recently deployed to the Arabian Gulf. She has been successful in her tour and attributes this to effective communications up and down the chain.

As a young surface warfare officer, Audrey quickly learned the value of clearly articulating the mission, the function, the associated tasks. She was often faced with challenging scenarios, running a division of 50 sailors in austere environments at sea, forward deployed, and by the end of her tour she was known for her open and clear communication with superiors and subordinates alike.

She’s so good at that, we recognized her for a new program that we have in the Surface Warfare Navy. She’s in training to become an advanced mine warfare tactics instructor. She’ll be a special instructor, certified to train across the fleet, people of all ranks in mine warfare tactics. That only comes to the best of the best.

LT Sean Scales ’12

(Photo courtesy of Sean Scales ’12.)

(Photo courtesy of Sean Scales ’12.)

Lieutenant Sean Scales, a surface warfare officer from Sterling, Va., graduated with a degree in electrical and computer engineering. Sean served two tours in the USS Donald Cook as strike officer and fire control officer. During four deployments in the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, and the Baltic Sea, he was aboard USS Donald Cook and led his team in seven major certifications in preparation for national tasking. He was all about the mission. The ships that are forward-deployed in Rota, of which USS Donald Cook is one, are on call 24/7/365. It takes a special breed of sailor to do that.

Sean learned when he got to his ship, that even though he was younger and less experienced than those he was leading, each and every one of them looked to him for the division’s success—and he got it. He knew that his success would only be based on their success. He attributes this to understanding the notion of empathy that I described to you. You have to look at the circumstances with the big picture in mind and not just through the lens of you and what’s on your plate and how you’re feeling that day. You must always think about the organization as a whole with the end, the mission in mind. Today, Sean is at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and he’s working on his Master in Business Administration and Financial Management.

View the complete lecture at tls.norwich.edu.




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