LCDR G. Graham Van Hook
Lieutenant Commander Van Hook, a fourth generation Surface Warfare Officer, is from the Commonwealth of Virginia. He received his commission in 2008 from the United States Naval Academy. Currently, he is in the command pipeline to assume command of USS TORNADO (PC 14).
LCDR Van Hook’s Division Officer tours were onboard the USS RAMAGE (DDG 61) where he served as the Strike Officer and with Riverine Squadron One as an Assistant Officer in Charge. His Department Head tours were onboard both the USS ARLEIGH BURKE (DDG 51) and the USS LEYTE GULF (CG 55) where he served as the Operations Officer. Ashore, LCDR Van Hook completed tours as a Surface Warfare Junior Officer Detailer at Navy Personnel Command and as an assistant Professor of Naval Science at Northwestern University.
LCDR Van Hook holds a MBA from The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He also holds a masters degree from the University of Arkansas. He is a member of and contributor to the United States Naval Institute, and he served on the Board of Directors of the Surface Navy Association.
Most importantly, he is married to the beautiful Katherine Roesslein of Austin, Texas. Katherine is a Senior Manager at Ernst and Young. They have a son named Gordan Jackson Van Hook.
How has failure or apparent failure set you up for later success?
In the Navy, we are dealing with failure every day. How we deal with that failure and our response – that defines a Sailor and Officer. A berthing inspection… a spot-check…INSURV check… an UNREP approach… I have failed all of those in the past year. However, what am I doing about it? Lessons learned work – period. I am addicted to them; a notebook full of my failures sits on my desk. I compliment those with the NAVY LESSONS LEARNED site... that database and picking the brains of my peers (“Hey give me the gouge…”) has bared a lot of fruit. All of this helped me in my tours and helped me AVOID pain.
Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?
Collecting quotes is fun and addictive. My “token moleskin” is full of bold quotations from my readings (books, magazines, newspaper, etc…) and then I have several pages dog eared with past COs' hilarious bridge rants… think quote log book from your local wardroom. The expletives of past Captains “add the spice to the gumbo.”
A dear friend, John Gaines, keeps a running google doc with his favorite quotes (recommend this, although, I have yet to move mine from the moleskin to digital). He would slip them into the POD when he was XO. I really appreciated them… especially, because they didn’t have context. This gave me the ability to marinate on them. The added bonus… the crew LOVED ‘EM! My favorite quote, though, talks about adversity: “Success is how high you bounce once you hit rock bottom.” ~ General George S. Patton, USA Google quotes by: Mark Twain, Gore Vidal, Christopher Hitchens, and John Wooden. Each of them delivers humor, love and inspiration.
Quick plug for poetry; it works similar to quotes, as both provide a jolt of emotion. This makes me think of being at sea and coming into port… although… I know Carl Sandburg didn’t write it that way…
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? Do you have a morning routine?
I get up. Slip on my sweatpants, and head for the door. Walking the dog gives me a chance to talk to myself. My dog Hank, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, just trots ahead like a moving loaf of bread and lets me work things out in the dark.
Aside from that…Yes, Coffee and Message Traffic.
What career advice would you give a smart and driven young SWO?
You need to be thinking TWO tours ahead at all times. Write down a list of jobs you want to do, find out who is in that job or has done that job. Cold e-mail or call them – grab coffee or lunch with them. PICK THEIR BRAIN. Proximity theory…. I am a big fan of this rule.
What is the book you’ve given most as a gift and why?
Depends. I have a pattern. On ARLEIGH BURKE, I gave copies of Porter’s Bio of Arleigh Burke to everyone I could… I bought a ton of used copies from Amazon. Cheap. Easy. Meaningful. When I was on LEYTE GULF I did the same thing with Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors. A must read for every Surface Warfare Officer. Now, for H&Fs…. I always give/gave my Captain a copy of The Arnheiter Affair by Neil Sheehan… a little known book in comparison with some other bigger titles in the U.S. Navy genre. However, it's an infamous tale of a ship Captain during the Vietnam War. I am not going to give anything away, but I encourage everyone to read it. It is just so darn juicy, and full of HUMAN life lessons.
How do you set priorities and manage your time?
My time as OPS really gave me with the skill set of “RACK and STACK”… always start with…what is going to get me fired? NUMBER ONE - ALWAYS.
Then I go from there… what are my/ship's HAVE TOs…. NEEDS TOs…. NICE TO HAVE… this is the key to success - managing this totem pole of priorities. I am old school. I had a small wheel book (mobile – can take it anywhere). My pages were colorful: highlights, stars, drawings and different ink. This helped me rank my “TO DOs.” The added benefit was that it created an optic.
What is your most effective daily habit?
Running and showering. Cleansing.
How do you define success?
I compare myself to my peers.
That’s raw and true. The Navy generates several checkpoints that a person (like me) can use to track success… For a ship think inspections, certifications, deployment…etc… for an individual think quals, advancement, fitreps, follow on orders… blah blah blah
However, when thinking about this…. I really define success by getting a compliment from my previous Captains. If Stepp, Robinson or Musser gave me a compliment (each of which gave them sparingly) I knew I EARNED it.
As Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”