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Published: Monday, July 27, 2009, 12:01 a.m.

How the USS Lincoln improved discipline and morale

  • Commanding Officer Capt. Patrick Hall (left) discusses a leadership program with Lt. Cmdr. John Regelbrugge aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Li...

    Joseph Scarberry / U.S. Navy

    Commanding Officer Capt. Patrick Hall (left) discusses a leadership program with Lt. Cmdr. John Regelbrugge aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

The crew of the USS Abraham Lincoln was in trouble. Too many of the ship’s 3,000 sailors had discipline problems, DUIs or other alcohol-related offenses. Too few of them were continuing in the Navy after their initial commitment.
Capt. Patrick Hall and Master Chief Eric Schmidt, the Lincoln’s commander and top enlisted officer, respectively, arrived on the aircraft carrier about the same time in June 2007 and realized they had a problem. They launched a program of leadership and accountability training using principles outlined by FranklinCovey, a Salt Lake City-based management training and consulting company.
The ship’s crew last year decreased the number of alcohol-related incidents to 54, from 116 in 2007. Administrative punishments also dropped, to 185 from 256, spokesman Lt. Cmdr. William Marks said.
In addition, the Lincoln:
· Dropped its attrition rate from 9.2 percent to 2 percent,
· Met the Navy’s highest retention goals for two consecutive periods,
· Improved its overall physical fitness rating by one category, and
· Quadrupled the number of sailors enrolled in continuing-education courses.
“We surveyed more than 1,300 sailors last year and noted a huge improvement in job satisfaction and trust in the organization,” said Cmdr. Dom Gaudin, the Lincoln’s senior Covey program adviser.
After making such drastic changes, the Everett-based ship is being recognized today with a national award from FranklinCovey. The Organizational Greatness Award will be presented at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, where the Lincoln is undergoing maintenance work.
When it’s not at sea, the ship spends a lot of time in Bremerton getting regular maintenance. It arrived in Everett after a deployment in October 2008 and spent much of the next six months conducting exercises off the California coast. The Lincoln left Everett for Bremerton in April and is scheduled to finish its overhaul at the shipyard next January.
Hoke Rose, the ship’s chief liaison from FranklinCovey, credited the commanding officer for his leadership in turning things around in the midst of a grueling schedule of operations.
“Captain Hall redefined mission accomplishment,” Rose said.
One of the goals of FranklinCovey’s ongoing training with the ship’s officers and enlisted leaders is ensuring that the progress they have made so far doesn’t end when Hall and Schmidt move on to their next assignments.
“We’re trying to make this sticky so we don’t have another cycle of ... I’ll call it bad-boy behavior,” said Rose, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Reserves.
With financial support from Naval Air Forces, the command that oversees U.S. aircraft carriers, the Lincoln has implemented a training program for every new sailor assigned to the ship. Sailors set weekly goals for themselves and meet with small groups of shipmates to assess their progress.
The program on the Lincoln is a test case for the Navy. Another aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz, started the FranklinCovey program about a year after the Lincoln, according to Hoke.
The program has the potential to be expanded to the rest of the carrier fleet, said Naval Air Forces spokesman Lt. Glenn Sircy. It addresses the twin goals of “taking care of our sailors and sustaining operational readiness,” he said.
“It’s been a success story so far.”

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