Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Terrance Kirkland Jr. has had a decorated career in the US Navy thus far. He has earned Sailor of the Year honors three times in the various units he has served with, and has now been honored as the Sailor of the Year for the entire US Navy 5th Fleet – representing naval forces in the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and parts of the Indian Ocean. He also happens to have recently earned his RBLP-C certification!
As the first in our RBLP Spotlight series, we spoke to Terrance about his achievement as well as how he’s been benefitting from the RBLP program in his career…
Hello Terrance! Tell us a little about who you are and where you’re from.
Sure! My name is Terrance Kirkland Jr. but my family and friends call me TJ. I am originally from Orlando, Florida, but moved around a lot due to my father’s military service. (He is a retired Navy Chief). I have lived in Jacksonville, Florida (twice); Kings Bay, Georgia; Keflavik, Iceland; Charlestown, South Carolina and Tampa, Florida. I call Tampa home since that is where I finished high school and, subsequently, enlisted in the military. I am married to my lovely wife Chanteia – we are approaching 11 years together this November – and we have the most wonderful princess, Hadassah.
What can you tell us about the journey of your career in the military so far?
My career has been unique, but the diversity of experiences has helped me greatly in my career. My first duty station was in Miami, Florida at United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), which is composed of all services of the military, interagency, law enforcement, and partner nations from Latin America. I had the distinct privilege to work with all of these extraordinary partners as a member of the Counter-Transnational Organized Crime Branch, primarily focused on illicit activities of drug trafficking organizations throughout Latin America. This enabled me to spend a few months in Honduras, split across Joint Task Force – Bravo in Comayagua and the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa. This overall experience allowed me the unique opportunity to learn from the different leadership styles of all of our military services, and gain insight into the operational mindset of those executing operations and the strategic thinkers and planners that facilitate the aforementioned operations. I left Miami as the 2014 Sailor of the Year and 2014 Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce U.S. Navy Service Person of the Year.
My next duty station was at Strike Fighter Squadron Three Two (VFA-32) at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In 2016, I deployed onboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), where I had the opportunity to serve as the Strike Intelligence Analysis Cell Watch Supervisor, supporting maritime security operations in U.S. 5th and 6th Fleets, and combat operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. There is no experience like serving onboard an aircraft carrier; being out to sea and conducting operations requires a lot of teamwork, discipline, cohesion and focus. I credit this experience with a huge portion of my professional and personal growth as a leader and Sailor. Additionally, having the opportunity to travel to foreign countries and experience different cultures is an invaluable experience that I will be glad to share with my grandchildren one day. I left VFA-32 as the 2018 Sailor of the Year.
I am currently assigned to the staff of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (COMUSNAVCENT) located in Manama, Bahrain. My role with this team is a Strike Analyst, part of highly trained and knowledgeable team responsible for providing detailed mission planning support of U.S. Fifth Fleet contingency objectives. Additionally, I serve 31 Sailors across six Divisions, as their Department Leading Petty Officer. I am consistently amazed at the level of professionalism and commitment from the team here, serving in the most dynamic area for the U.S. military in one of the most challenging operational periods of the last 20 years. To operate in this region, you need all of the principles that are taught by the Resilience-Building Leadership Program. I was recently named the 2020 U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Sailor of the Year and the U.S. Fifth Fleet (Region) Sailor of the Year.
What an amazing achievement to add 5th Fleet Sailor of the Year to your previous honors! Tell our readers a bit about how this came about, the selection process, etc.
Thank you so much! I am so humbled to receive this honor and to represent a region of extraordinary Sailors, fellow service members and civilians. To be considered for the 5th Fleet Sailor of the Year, you have to win the Sailor of the Year for your respective unit. You are judged by a panel of Chiefs, Senior Chiefs and Master Chiefs and the criteria by which they judge you include: a history of sustained superior performance, command impact, mission contribution, proven leadership, dedication to self-improvement, outstanding professionalism, and superior personal appearance. This is captured in a nomination package and an interview by the aforementioned panel (which is normally conducted in person). I competed against the most stellar group of peers I have ever served with and I was blessed to come out with the selection for COMUSNAVCENT. From there, I competed against one phenomenal Sailor and was honored with the selection for 5th Fleet. Everyone who competed were exceptional Sailors! To lead our Sailors to excellence through a worldwide pandemic and through regional tensions is nothing short of extraordinary. I truly believe we are all Sailors of the Year.
How is leadership – specifically, the ability to lead and understand people – important to you in your role with the Navy?
Leadership is a critical ability that is needed in every aspect of the Navy. This is a character trait that we are heavily evaluated on and includes our ability to motivate, train, and inspire perseverance through the toughest challenges; to effectively communicate, develop process improvements, and improve the personal and professional lives of others. All of the above is predicated on our ability to understand those we lead. The greatest asset of the Navy is not the ships, aircraft, or systems, but our Sailors. What drives them? Why do they serve? How can we support that? How can we build these relationships? What is beautiful about this is that these traits that we are evaluated on are the same concepts that are taught through RBLP.
You recently earned your RBLP-C certification, how did you enjoy the program?
I really enjoyed the program. I loved that each person pursuing this certification is paired with an instructor. I felt that my exam preparation was tailored to me, my leadership experiences, and my personal goals. My instructor, Rosette Obedoza, always tied the concepts to my job, my social organizations, and my goals; I saw the benefit in applying the taught concepts to every aspect of my life. I have developed a bond with my instructor and my certifying instructor and have kept in contact with them to see how they and their families are doing. It made me understand that the RBLP community is a family.
What are the three most resonant aspects of RBLP, in your opinion, that you would convey to your fellow Sailors to as examples of why it is a valuable certification to have?
The first thing that I express to Sailors when discussing RBLP is that it is a certification that is found on our Learning and Development Roadmap (LaDR) or Career Path, listed as a leadership certification that E-4 (Petty Officer Third Class) and above should pursue. I wish I had available to me as an E-4, and I explain that to my junior Sailors – that this certification arms you with the tools necessary to overcome obstacles, have great communication and conflict resolution skills, and build teamwork. I also emphasize that this certification is tailor-made for you in an environment that needs resiliency; we are forward-deployed Sailors in the Middle East, away from friends and family, and dealing with a pandemic locally and through our loved ones back home. RBLP helps you maintain strength during these times and inspire that into others, allowing you to self-assess, reflect and build on setbacks so that when you are leading Sailors you are prepared. Lastly, I talk about how I experienced the family aspect of RBLP – the staff was really invested in my goals and recent successes (this blog is a perfect example), and they wanted to follow up after my certification to see how I am tracking towards my goals. I was welcomed as a colleague as soon as I certified. I offered feedback about having this course for military spouses and within two weeks, RBLP had an opportunity laid out for military spouses to take the course. While my feedback was not the deciding factor, the fact that they heard it and aligned it with previous research showed that they are an organization that listens, and that your voice can be heard to enact change.
What did you find most rewarding in RBLP’s exam preparation, and the most applicable for individuals who are looking to chart a career post-military?
The most rewarding experience is the realization that I have a very strong passion for the development of people, specifically my Sailors. I felt that I was able to tie it to concepts that are taught to us in the Navy (i.e. 10 Signature Behaviors, Core Values, etc.) and it helped affirm why this course is recommended to us. I know I said this earlier, but the bond that I made with Rosette and my Certifying Instructor, Dr. Cody Brockelmeyer motivated me as much as I hopefully motivated them, and I look forward to building future relationships like these two. The concept that I really enjoyed was the concept of Facilitating Team Learning; I felt this lesson was so applicable for individuals looking to chart a career post-military because it helps you establish clear goals, develop mental models and enact change through the application of different learning cycles. This within itself encompasses all of the previous concepts discussed in this certification exam, and focuses on overcoming challenges and problem-solving.
What is one of your own best personal experiences in your service that has influenced or inspired you?
One of my best personal experiences was serving with my father, who retired from the Navy in the summer of 2012. While assigned to Honduras in the fall of that year, I received an email from my father from my unit in Miami and discovered that we were going to be coworkers; it made me feel unique as I can say that I had an opportunity to work with both of my parents in my lifetime. I worked with my mother at Publix Supermarkets for three years before enlisting in the Navy, and then served with my dad one year after joining. It allowed me to witness my family’s work ethic firsthand and I think this observation made me the Sailor and man that I am today. I saw how they both lead and how well-received they were, making their teams feel like they were a part of the family and that was reflected in their successes. I attribute a lot of my own successes to these experiences, my upbringing, and the support of my wife and daughter.
One other experience that affected me was the support of my first Master Chief, Jason “JT” Freels. He embodied all of the concepts that were taught in this certification. I shaped my leadership style after him, he was a leader’s leader who made all of us feel valued and respected and we were always motivated to succeed under him. How he interacted with us was inspiring, walking the work spaces weekly and talking with every Junior Sailor. What impressed me is that he carried no pen or paper, but could recall everything that he discussed with you from the week prior. Every detail, no matter the topic; he actively listened to us and offered his mentorship. He inspired my desire to pursue psychology as a major just off of one conversation, and I am now a Forensic Psychology graduate because of him. My leadership style is shaped after him and I hope that he is smiling down on me from heaven, proud of what I have become so far in my career.
Tell us a little about yourself outside of your service! Any other activities or hobbies, and how do you like to spend your shore leave time?
I am always on the move when I am not at work! When I am not spending time with my beautiful family, I am involved with my social organizations – I am the head of my Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, James R. Jones Military Lodge No. 172. (Proud to say that we were recently named 2020 “Grade A” Lodge in our Jurisdiction). I am also the 2nd Vice President of the Pi Xi Sigma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated. I work with amazing, selfless people in both organizations to serve our local and worldwide communities. My hobbies also include virtual medal fitness challenges, playing basketball, true crime/forensic documentaries (Forensic Psychology graduate here), and listening to audiobooks on leadership and personal development.
Can you give us a quotation that you feel really inspires you to continue inspiring others?
The following quote (I have many quotes) is my favorite and it continues to motivate me to inspire those around me:
The African Proverb – Ubuntu: “I am because you are.”
The one show that motivates me to inspire others is Netflix’s the Playbook: A Coach’s Rules for Life, which really shifted my way of thinking and the application of this allowed me to build a better team here in Bahrain. The first concept discussed was Ubuntu.
RBLP leadership certifications are about Building Resilient Teams™ that overcome adversity and then can adapt and grow together!