DIEGO GARCIA, BRITISH INDIAN OCEAN TERRITORY
Rear Adm. Brian P. Fort, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan/commander, Navy Region Japan, (CNFJ/CNRJ) made his first visit to the Sailors stationed on the tiny coral atoll of Diego Garcia Jan. 13-16.
U.S. Navy Support Facility (NSF) Diego Garcia lays seven degrees south of the equator and is the furthest Navy installation that is a part of the CNFJ/CNRJ region.
Fort, accompanied by several CNFJ/CNRJ staff members and other regional commanding officers and staff, came to see first-hand the hard work the Sailors on NSF Diego Garcia do every day. Fort toured base facilities, met with island personnel and held an all hands call, where he spoke about his command philosophy and fielded questions from Sailors.
Prior to taking command at CNFJ/CNRJ, Fort was the Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and he has brought the feeling of aloha and ohana, Hawaiian for family, to the CNFJ/CNRJ team.
“This is our ohana, our family,” said Fort during the all-hands call. “Treat each other as such and take care of each other.”
When asked by Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Austin Lile what advice Fort would give for Sailors to become good leaders, he gave four keys to good leadership.
“One, lead with integrity,” he said “Two, be a bold decision maker. Three, communicate with those you serve with every day and four, take care of your work force. Leadership is a craft. You have to learn from that craft everyday.”
There are good leaders and then there are great leaders Fort told the crowded room filled with Sailors and contractors alike. He added that great leaders also critically assess themselves each day and will rise to the challenge in times of a crisis. Do these things and you will be great.
Another topic that is important to Fort is the environment and the military’s strides to lessen its carbon footprint and environmental impact.
Diego Garcia is the second largest marine protected zone in the world and U.S. and U.K. service members, contractors and civilians work together to keep it pristine. Monthly beach clean ups have shown astonishing data, most of the trash collected from the beaches that surround the 37-mile atoll doesn’t come from the island. Fort and his team are bringing this data back to region headquarters to enhance future green initiatives and programs.
“As region commander, it’s important for me to get out and visit all the commands,” Fort said after the all-hands call. It’s important for me to get out and meet the men and women responsible for maintaining and operating those facilities especially in rural places like Diego Garcia.”
Fort also toured the different areas of the installation including the fuel storage area, galley, port operations and was given on offshore tour of the island by harbor security.
On his last day in the southern hemisphere, Fort helped present the Royal Navy’s Sick Berth Petty Officers Efficiency Medal, an award that is given to only one medical assistant in the entire Royal Navy per year, to Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer Medical Assistant Graham Kimber.
His visit to Diego Garcia also connected him to a former colleague. In the still early stages of his career, Fort was stationed in Dartmouth, England where he taught at Britannia Royal Naval College. It was in England where he met an officer in training. Twenty-five years later, that officer is Royal Navy Cmdr. Kay Burbidge, who now serves as the Commissioner’s Representative to Diego Garcia.
“The Royal Navy helped shaped the leader I am today,” Fort reminisced. “They take so much pride in their history and heritage and its part of why I stayed in the U.S. Navy.”
Diego Garcia stands by the motto “One Island, One Mission, One Team” and Fort left a letter of appreciation for that ‘one team’ thanking them for hosting him on his visit.