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CAPT Walt Mainor


Captain Walt Mainor, a native of Alabama, enlisted in the Navy in June of 1987. He served as a Sonar Technician Submarines in USS FRANCIS SCOTT KEY (SSBN 657B). Mainor attended the Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training (BOOST) program and graduated from Morehouse College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Finance. He received a Master of Business Administration degree from the Naval Postgraduate School and is a graduate of the Joint & Combined Warfighting School at the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC). Additionally, Mainor is a 2017-2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Seminar XXI Fellow.

Afloat, Mainor served in USS OLDENDORF (DD 972), USS DONALD COOK (DDG 75), USS VELLA GULF (CG 72), MCM CREW CONSTANT, USS PATRIOT (MCM 7) and USS WILLIAM P. LAWRENCE (DDG 110). Ashore, he served as a manpower specialist/detailer, Navy Personnel Command, PERS 41, Executive Assistant to the Navy Chief of Legislative Affairs, Deputy Executive Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations, Division Chief for Levant, Egypt, and Arabian Peninsula and Principal Division Chief, Deputy Directorate for Politico-Military Affairs, Middle East, Directorate for Strategy, Plans and Policy, Joint Staff (J5).

Mainor was Forward Deployed to Naval Forces Japan as Commanding Officer in USS PATRIOT (MCM 7) where PATRIOT was the first US Warship to make a port call to Chittagong, Bangladesh, earned consecutive Battle Efficiency Awards and the 2010 Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Award. His last afloat tour was as Commanding Officer in USS WILLIAM P. LAWRENCE (DDG 110) where LAWRENCE completed a deployment to Seventh Fleet with the JOHN C. STENNIS Strike Group, conducting numerous high visibility exercises and operations in the South China Sea.

Personal decorations include the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (3 awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (5 awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and various service and campaign awards.

How has failure or apparent failure set you up for later success?

There is nothing wrong with failure. What matters most is what you do after that failure that will define you as a person. I failed early in my Navy career and as a result I became an undesignated Seaman. Now as I viewed it, I had two options or paths that I could follow: (1) Sulk and have a bad attitude about my situation or (2) work even harder and dedicate myself to becoming better. I chose the latter and set out to correct my mistakes and here I am now.

Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?

There are many quotes that are special to me and that I use to guide my actions but there are a couple in particular. One is by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I think this quote speaks volumes and goes to the character of a person. Another quote that guides me is a verse from one of my favorite poems “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley, “It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the Captain of my soul.”

What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? Do you have a morning routine?

One of the first things I try to do every morning is to read from “Our Daily Bread” It’s great for me because it sets the tone for my day and sometimes it gives me perspective and clarity on a problem or issue that I might be currently dealing with or working on. Maybe the issue isn’t as bad or serious as it appears to be. I also kiss my wife and children every morning.

What career advice would you give a smart and driven young SWO?

Listen, learn and then go out and execute. I would rather you make a mistake of co-mission rather than omission! It’s better to make your mistakes and learn from them early. Only more will be expected of you as you progress. Get and be involved – navy leadership is a contact sport. You can learn a lot from both good and bad leaders by observing. Take those lessons and put them in your “toolbox” and mental rolodex for future use.

What is the book you’ve given most as a gift and why?

I will be honest in that I have only recently within the past couple of years given books as gifts. I had command of USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110) and the autobiography “Tennessee Patriot” is a great book about Vice Admiral Lawrence and his life and the time he spent as a POW during the Vietnam War. I highly recommend it and give it as often as I can. “Becoming” Michelle Obama, is another book I highly recommend. My wife, Suzanne, my mother and I really enjoyed it. I plan to give it to my daughters and will include it in my menu of books for future gifts as well.

How do you set priorities and manage your time?

I think that you have to have a mechanism that determines what’s urgent versus what’s important. This allows me to be proactive, front-loading, and anticipate issues ahead of time so that I may be able to better control my schedule. Sometimes priorities get pushed down on you but if I have the decision space, I use this as a tool to help guide me.

What is your most effective daily habit?

One of the things I do that helps me is that I try to take a breath and step back. We all get caught up in our day to day activities, so I try to take 10-15 minutes just to re-calibrate and reset my priorities.

How do you define success?

Helping others become better and achieving their goals. When the people in my life are successful, I feel successful.

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