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Q&A With USNA's Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen

Posted on: July 17, 2013 12:00 EDT by Naval Academy Public Affairs

The Trident staff sat down with Naval Academy’s Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen Col. Bobbi Shea (USNA ‘91) to discuss her new role and what it’s like to be back at the academy. 

What motivated you to pursue the position as deputy commandant at the Naval Academy?

When I was first told that I was going to be interviewed for this position, my first thought was about what a special place the Academy is, how it transforms civilians not just into sailors and Marines like we do at our recruit training facilities, but into leaders of men and women. To me, there is no greater privilege in our nation than to lead sailors and Marines.  With my own memories of the Naval Academy and of all the different things that I learned here, for me to come back and be a part of that is an honor and a privilege.

What do you think will be your biggest challenge in this role?

I know when I was a midshipman here, the deputy commandant was known primarily for being the enforcer of rules, and I think my biggest challenge is to help build the perception that someone who enforces the rules is also someone who is a compassionate leader, someone who leads by example. Leaders who enforce rules are multifaceted and can be called on for a number of different leadership roles, not just enforcing rules in a negative way. We can uphold the standards in a positive way as well. That’s what I seek to balance as the deputy commandant.

What are your priorities going into the next academic year?

I think my biggest priorities are to help the Brigade of Midshipman and help the commandant sustain a leadership environment of mutual respect and dignity, and to help the midshipmen as they meet challenges – and they will be challenged morally, mentally and physically.  I want to be part of the leadership team that helps people overcome those challenges and, more importantly, learn from those challenges so they become great leaders of our sailors and Marines.

What has changed since you attended the Naval Academy?

It’s a great hobby of graduates to sit around and talk about how the academy has changed – whether there’s air conditioning or whether there’s a new building – but I think what I’m more impressed with is those things that remain. The academy is and will always be a place where we build a sense of honor and a sense of duty and obligation to something bigger than ourselves.  A lot of the facades have changed, a lot of the facilities have changed, maybe some of the academic courses, and the rules change around the margins, but what makes the academy special are those things that are enduring, and that’s what makes people like me want to come back.

What do you want the Trident readers to know about you?

Everybody’s going to be challenged going through here. Some people are going to be athletic rock stars, but they may going to struggle academically. Some people are going to be military proficient but then they might have a tough time with the PRT (physical readiness test). I think what I would want them to know about me is that I didn’t graduate number one from my class, and I didn’t graduate from the bottom. My experience here was similar to the middle 800 or 900 midshipmen who form every class, so I think I have a pretty good appreciation of what it’s like sometimes to be challenged and how to overcome it.  What I appreciate now is how those experiences actually translate into great leadership lessons that can be used out in the Fleet later.  Great leadership lessons sometimes come from when we are challenged most; we should all seek to be challenged in every way we can.

What do you think you bring as a Marine Corps officer to this position?

I think diversity comes in all different forms and fashions. It comes in different life experiences. It comes in different leadership experiences. It comes in different perspectives on the world. It can come from a different service perspective.  I think the strongest teams are those where you have a variety of leadership experiences and a variety of perspectives. It’s just important that I bring something a little bit different to the leadership team. It doesn’t mean better or worse, and it doesn’t mean something someone else couldn’t bring to the fight, but it just brings something different to the fight.

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