Learning is a lifelong process. "Stop learning - stop living" someone wise once told me. First commands offer an incredible and long-lasting learning experience if you really pay attention. I like to think that I did pay attention.
Some of the leadership best practices I picked up from then Captain James S. McFarland (a career-long mentor and later-in-life friend):
- When Sailors reported to the command, he wrote letters to the parents letting them know that their son/daughter had arrived safely in a very distant Misawa, Japan and that his officers and Chiefs would take care of them. Commands which make this time are remembered long after the Sailor departs. Some commands have the Department Head or Executive Officer do this.
- Most Sailors were sent to the Naval Air Facility (NAF) Misawa photo lab for their "official Navy photo". Little did the Sailors know that the CO actually sent these photos back to the parents. Captain McFarland also sent a copy of my Sailor of the Quarter (SOQ) photo to my parents, as well - along with a copy of "The Misawan" newspaper's SOQ announcement. Sent in 1979, my family still has these.
Getting a photo of their Sailor means a lot to parents. If you doubt it, ask a parent!