An Interview with Cmdr. Thomas Shugart: Taking Command

Nov 20, 2013 by


An Interview with Cmdr. Thomas Shugart: Taking Command

Michael F. Shaughnessy

1) Commander, first of all, congratulations. Can you tell us about the impending event where you will take over as Commanding officer of the USS Olympia?

Thank you for your congratulations, Mr. Shaughnessy, and thank you also for talking the time to cover USS Olympia’s upcoming Change of Command. The Change of Command ceremony is a time-honored naval tradition that goes well back to the earliest days of the U.S. Navy. For the ceremony itself, as many of the crew as possible will be mustered to observe the outgoing Commanding Officer (CO) read his orders of detachment, followed by the incoming CO reading his orders of appointment.

The incoming CO will state, “I relieve you, Sir/Ma’am,” and the outgoing CO will state “I stand relieved.” It is typical in today’s Navy for guests (friends, family, and fellow Sailors) to attend the Change of Command ceremony when feasible. In my case, about 20 friends and family from around the country will be flying in to observe the ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

2) You were raised in Texas, in Katy – Tell us about your high school years and the people that influenced you.

I have fond memories of my high school years, which were of course some of the most formative in my lifetime. I was a member of the Mayde Creek High School Ram Band for all four years of high school, and one of the band’s two drum majors for the last two years. I think that my time in the band was crucial in my development as a future leader, as it taught me to place strong values on teamwork, discipline, and keeping high standards of personal and team performance.

I also was a member of the school’s Academic Decathlon team, which I found to be a challenging multidisciplinary endeavor that helped me greatly in becoming a better-rounded and better-spoken student and scholar. In the case of both the band and the Academic Decathlon team, because Mayde Creek High School was still a new school (I was in the third graduating class), I was able to be a part of the development of these teams, and was able to savor the first sweet tastes of success for both. Those experiences gave me a hunger to continue on into other endeavors where I could be a part of building successful teams.

Finally, through the challenge of AP courses in subjects such as Calculus, History, and Economics, I was able to get ahead on college-level preparation. Possibly more importantly, the fine teachers that I had in my AP courses inspired me to achieve in scholarly areas, and to always try to grow intellectually and academically.

3) I believe I know the answer to this question, since I have seen your picture and recognized your ring- but for the record, where did you go to school?

I know that you probably are thinking that my ring is a U.S. Naval Academy ring due its blue color, but I actually went to the University of Texas at Austin, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering (Class of 1995). The blue color of the ring represents the birth stone of my month (September – sapphire), but it also happens to be my favorite color and is a good color for a mariner.

UT Austin was a great place to go to school – close to home, inexpensive, and with a truly outstanding engineering program. I also was able to serve as a member of the Longhorn Band, which continued to instill in me a dedication to hard work, team discipline, and high standards of performance.

4) Tell us about some of the high school events in which you participated, and some of the people that have mentored you.

Please see above regarding my activities in the band and Academic Decathlon. Probably the most influential people for me were my first Band Director (Mr. Kerry Taylor) and my Calculus (I don’t recall the name) and History teachers (Mr. Kneuven, who was also my Academic Decathlon coach). Mr. Taylor taught me a lot of the concepts discussed above regarding high standards and teamwork, my Calculus teacher taught me the real-world value of higher-level math, and Mr. Kneuven inspired me to shoot higher scholastically, by holding me to high standards of performance in that arena.

5) Now, commanding a nuclear ship/sub is something that is impressive and at the same time a bit scary- Tell us about the training that you must have undergone in order to step into this position.

Over the course of my career, I’ve attended more than two years of dedicated training pipeline courses at basic, intermediate, and advanced levels in topics such as nuclear propulsion and engineering, leadership, tactical ship employment, navigation, operational planning, etc. I also attended the Naval War College for a year, and received a Master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies.

At all levels, the training that the Submarine Force and Nuclear Propulsion Program have provided has been highly challenging – more difficult than anything I encountered in high school or college.

6) What do you see as the pending challenges?

As I think you would see in leading any complex organization, the challenges that I expect to see are essentially about keeping people focused on the right goals and maintaining high standards of performance, while still maintaining a positive and cheerful atmosphere and a good work-life balance. I will be inheriting a great organization and ship from my predecessor, Cmdr. Michael Boone, so I am sure that as a team we will meet and succeed with all of the challenges before us.

7) What have I neglected to ask?

Nothing – great questions all. Thanks for your time and interest.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1 Comment

  1. henry

    Congrats Tommy from an old band mate from Mayde Creek. I am glad to see you are doing well and very glad i came across this article. I hope all fairs well for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.