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35 Association of the United States Navy OFFICER AFFAIRS W orking on a four-star staff can be both an honor and a curse. You will have good days. And then you will have periods where you count the days, hours and minutes until the end of your orders. Although frequently stressful, your time on a flag or general officer staff can be maximized simply by proving early on that you are, indeed, competent and reliable. You think they should already know this? Alas, even if you arrive to your assignment with the most glowing recommenda- tions, a stellar reputation and an unparalleled skill set, you will be judged … sometimes even before you walk in the door. First impressions last a lifetime, and from your first conversation and interaction with the staff you will be scrutinized as to whether you are up to the pres- sure-cooker environment that these offices are known for. During the first few weeks, you will either rise to the top, be pushed to a desk in the corner, or simply reassigned because the expectation is that you will quickly understand your role in the office, topping any learning curve in a single bound. For those eager to rise to the top, I offer a few simple tips on the attributes of a good staff officer based on my experience on multiple Navy and joint staffs. 1. Think outside the box. Find solutions to problems. No one likes the shipmate who only brings problems to the table, but doesn't have the wherewithal to also present potential solutions. Remove barriers to mission accom- plishment by finding a way to get the job done. Keep in mind that there will be times when mission accomplishment can only be had by an action that is illegal, unethical or immoral. If you run into this, do not go down that road. You are not expected to betray the Navy Code of Conduct, and you should notify your leadership of any situation where that has been directed. 2. Be an ambassador. Make sure you are integrated with other members and sections of the command. As the saying goes, "Many hands make light work." In the case of a staff officer, knowing who is an expert at what can significantly improve the quality of your own work, as you collab- orate with colleagues to navigate issues together and make staff life easier. 3. Pay attention to the details. A wise O-6 once said to me, "Would you hand this to a four-star?" I think about that every time I hand in a product. Take pride in your work and check for spelling and grammar. Make sure your lines and boxes are straight and of appropriate size. Little things make a difference. If you want your boss to focus on the big issues of whatever you are addressing, don't distract him or her with minor mistakes. It's all about the details as you prepare any product for presentation. 4. Stay in your lane. Do not make statements or promises that obligate others or interfere in their designated command section. Collaborate with other sections, but do not speak for their areas to the boss. at is the quickest way to burn bridges and make enemies. 5. Finish the job! Being able to follow through on assignments and make deadlines is a must. When you get to the command staff level, you should be the epitome of professionalism. Sloppy work conveys laziness, apathy and incompetence. Ultimately, your success hinges on having the professional pride to know when and who to ask for help when you need it, and ensuring that all your work is your very best. Kimberly A. Brubeck is a commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve and is AUSN's national vice president for Officer Affairs. COURTESY KIMBERLY A. BRUBECK; ISTOCKPHOTO Staff Officer 101: Five Simple Tips for Success By CDR Kimberly A. Brubeck

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