Frogman on the Roof: How a missile destroyer ship is shaping its culture

Next Jump’s mission is based on a simple idea: leverage our technology, people, learnings and resources to transform people’s jobs and lives at companies across the globe. We boil this integrated strategy down into a universal formula: Better Me + Better You = Better Us.

The following is a guest post by Nick Woolf, a Next Jump employee since 2013.

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Over the past several years, we have hosted hundreds of organizations in our offices – from Zappos to Whole Foods to the U.S. Department of Defense – to participate in our Leadership Academy workshops to help them take their company’s culture to the next level.

In the spring of 2015, we were introduced to the Commanding Officer of the USS Michael Monsoor – a missile destroyer ship designed for advanced land attack and dominance on the seas. The vessel is named after Michael A. Monsoor, a United States Navy SEAL who was killed during the Iraq War and awarded the Medal of Honor.

Outside of its naval prowess, the USS Michael Monsoor is unique in that it has acted as a startup of sorts within the Navy. As a brand new ship with 148 sailors and officers on-board, the Commanding Officers were given full jurisdiction to mold the culture and values as they saw fit. All aspects of the ship – from the training programs to the emblem, crest and mission statement – were deliberately selected by the ship’s leadership team to reflect the values and example of Michael Monsoor.

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Throughout the past year, the USS Michael Monsoor’s leadership team have visited our offices several times to learn from our experiences in building a deliberately developmental organization. From participating in a Leadership Academy to observing our Super Saturday recruiting event, they have been fully immersed in our culture.

Today, they are in the process of adopting and implementing a number of leadership development programs from our culture on-board their ship – all designed to help reinforce their mission and the values of Michael Monsoor.

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A little bit about Michael’s story: after enlisting in the United States Navy in 2001, he was deployed to Iraq in 2006 to help train Iraqi soldiers in Ramadi. A city in central Iraq, Ramadi was the epicenter of insurgent attacks during the height of the Iraq war. Within his first five months in Iraq, Michael and his platoon underwent frequent attacks from insurgent forces.

This photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows Navy SEAL Michael A. Monsoor, left, on patrol in Iraq in 2006. Monsoor died Friday, Sept. 29, 2006, in Ramadi, Iraq, when he threw himself on a grenade to save fellow SEALs. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy) ORG XMIT: LA102Michael’s role was to serve as a communicator and machine-gunner during patrols. He carried 100 pounds of gear in extreme heat, and stood in the lead position in order to protect his platoon from frontal assault.

On September 29, 2006, Michael’s platoon engaged a group of insurgents in a firefight, killing one and injuring another. In anticipation of a secondary attack, the platoon took up a rooftop position. Moments later, a grenade was thrown onto the roof by an insurgent on the street down below. It hit Michael in the chest and fell to the ground.

Without hesitation, Michael jumped onto the grenade and covered it with his body. The grenade exploded seconds later; Monsoor’s body absorbed the majority of the force of the blast. He was pronounced dead thirty minutes later, while the six other individuals on the roof (three of whom were Iraqi soldiers) were saved.

Michael’s position on the roof made him the only SEAL on the rooftop with quick access to the escape route, yet he sacrificed his life to save his brothers in arms. That is selflessness exemplified to the highest degree.

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It is often said that startups need a strong vision, purpose or mission. Michael’s story of sacrifice is so powerful that it serves as the perfect guiding principle for everyone on-board the ship.

For instance, the Command Officers recently started a monthly recognition program to help shine a spotlight on the “linemen” on the ship (e.g., servant leaders who have selflessly worked to help others). They call this program “Frogman on the Roof” – an homage to the term used by Michael’s platoon to signal that a sniper was stationed on a nearby rooftop to give the troops cover while they navigated through dangerous areas. These snipers put themselves at risk for the sole purpose of protecting their fellow SEALs.

Each month, crew members on the USS Michael Monsoor are asked to vote for their “Frogman on the Roof”, or peers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help others. Instead of honoring the top performers or newly promoted officers, the program is designed to bake humility and servant leadership into the ship’s culture. This is modeled after Next Jump’s monthly “Top 10” recognition program, in which employees are asked to vote for the individuals who have helped them succeed.

Other programs that the USS Michael Monsoor has piloted include:

  • Each crew member has a “TruPer”, or “Trusted Person” – an emotional training program modeled after our “TP” (Talking Partner) initiative.
  • The department heads run bi-weekly situational workshops to help mentor and develop top leaders.
  • Modeled after our MV-21 leadership group, a select team of individuals (called M-16, short for MONSOOR 16), was selected via peer vote.
  • The first Friday of each month, outside organizations are invited to come and speak to the crew about their culture, thereby adding to the diversity of thought on-board the ship.
  • Five to six days a week, members of the command volunteer at public schools, fallen SEAL support organizations, and maritime organizations. Once per month, the members of the command come together for a larger volunteer project.

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As the proud grandson of a former US Navy veteran, having the opportunity to meet with – let alone help mentor – the Commanding Officers of a $2B missile destroyer is a privilege that I cannot give proper justice through words. But the fact that I’m able to do it through my workplace is something I will be forever grateful for.

 

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