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News | July 17, 2017

Reflections on the RLSO Southeast Symposium

By Lt. j.g. David A. Nordlinger, RLSO Southeast

CAPT Klein’s opening remarks set the tone for the RLSO Southeast Training Symposium, by reminding every attendee of our priorities: service, shipmate, self. Given that our region stretches from Guantanamo Bay to Fort Worth, TX, it is usually an uphill battle to get to know all our RLSO Southeast shipmates.  

Therefore, our Symposium goal was twofold: 1) improve ourselves through training, and 2) finally meet all our shipmates. From the very first lecture, it was clear that the scheduled lectures were going to make it easy for us to improve ourselves. It was almost impossible not to pay attention as Col (Ret) Athens talked on speaking truth to power.  Col (Ret) Athens posed a series of questions to guide his lecture:  why is it so hard to speak up?  What happens when you don’t speak up?  How can leaders create a climate of dissent?  How can leaders prepare themselves for when subordinates show dissent?  For each question, we heard stories from Col (Ret) Athens’ career or history generally.  

From traffic lights in Texas to dogs sniffing coffee to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, each story was a parable, illustrating the right and wrong ways of facing difficult situations and laying a framework by which we can approach ethical dilemmas in a way that sets us up for success. We shifted from one powerful lecture to another as Ms. Ballensinger (CNRSE SARC) discussed with us the “Neurobiology of Trauma.” Ms. Ballensinger linked common concepts such as case attrition, secondary victimization, and memory issues to neurological chemical reactions stemming from trauma. Specifically, trauma leads to cellular changes within the brain, so it is better to ask victims sensory, rather than factual, questions if we want to work with their neurobiology. These lessons flowed nicely into our Full Speed Ahead training, where we discussed how to live by the virtues of integrity, accountability, toughness, and initiative in the fact of challenges. The rest of the afternoon was devoted to officer and enlisted breakouts. Officers received interactive presentations on the legal problems and underpinnings of the Warsame capture, detention, and prosecution, and then professional responsibility.  Enlisted discussed topics including career counseling updates, evaluations, mentorship, and sponsorship.

The day wrapped up with a command cookout, thankfully under a pavilion roof to keep us dry from a Florida summer storm. Wednesday morning began with another event that reminded us of our core values, a reenlistment ceremony for LN1 Howard. Following the ceremony, the morning was mostly dedicated to important updates in the Military Justice field.  

LCDR Pietrzyk, Code 20, gave an exceptionally colorful presentation on important updates to the Manual for Courts-Martial, and how those will affect future practice.  Col Danyluk, Code 46, discussed, with immaculate accuracy, a wide-range of topics where recent case law has impacted how trial counsel should proceed to protect the record.  The Chief Judge of the Navy completed the military justice segment by sharing views from the bench, particularly how military justice changes have impacted the judiciary.  After receiving a substantial amount of information from the prior three lectures, it was fitting that the morning ended with a lecture on knowledge management by CDR Beran.  

Given the fast-paced, high stakes nature of RLSO SE’s work, knowledge management is an essential force-maximizer, providing a platform on which shipmates can assist each other to get the mission done efficiently and accurately. The afternoon began with discussions regarding personnel matters. JAG Command Master Chief Ritchie outlined important enlisted personnel matters, and CDR Kline discussed officer detailing matters.  These presentations set the stage for CAPT Klein’s and Gibbons’ leadership discussion that followed.  CAPT Gibbons emphasized that leadership is contextual, but that in almost every circumstance a leader must explain why.  CAPT Klein laid out a number of leadership steps, the first step being to figure out you have something to offer while being humble.  

After the discussion, CAPT Gibbons took the floor to introduce himself and his plans for RLSO Southeast. CAPT Gibbons provided four lines of effort to accomplish our mission: 1) conducting ourselves as models of professionalism and integrity; 2) working as a team; 3) taking care of ourselves through personal improvement and fitness; and 4) partnering with the civilian legal community when possible and appropriate.  He emphasized that everything we do is operational and that we should never judge our worth to the mission based on proximity to the target.  In the evening, the wardroom held a Dining In that further reinforced the sense of camaraderie within RLSO Southeast.

RADM Hannink arrived Wednesday night, and ate breakfast with E-6 and below on Thursday morning. After breakfast, CDR Pascucci gave an entertaining brief on the intricacies of working in a field as important and unknown as cyber law.  RADM Hannink then held an All Hands Call where he discussed a range of issues from the new retirement plan option to changes in military justice as well as the FTJA program.  Afterwards, RLSO Southeast divided into the three directorates for separate, specialized presentations. Friday began with a command PT for the entire RLSO Southeast team. It was an impressive sight to see the entire command fill the softball field for calisthenics.  

This was a fitting prelude to the Change of Command ceremony, the culmination of Symposium week.  After a week of training and bonding with shipmates, the RLSO Southeast team was well-prepared to thank, and bid farewell to, the CAPT Klein, and to continue under the leadership of CAPT Gibbons.
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