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LCDR Eric Smitley

LCDR Eric Smitley is a native of Fort Worth, Texas. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2008 with a degree in Engineering. He holds a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School and was recognized for an outstanding thesis. He also completed Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) Phase I education.


Among his sea tours, Smitley has served on multiple platforms. Smitley was assigned division officer jobs on USS MAKIN ISLAND (LHD 8) and USS ARLEIGH BURKE (DDG 51). As a first tour department head he was Weapons Officer and Operations Officer aboard USS PHILIPPINE SEA (CG 58). Additionally, he embarked USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH (CVN 77) as the Air Defense Commander (XW) Liaison Officer to Commander, Carrier Strike Group TWO, deployed to C6F and C5F. As a second tour department head, he was the Future Operations and Plans Officer (N5) in Destroyer Squadron 50 / CTF 55, responsible for planning and briefing all surface exercises and named operations in C5F. At sea, he most recently served as the Executive Officer on USS WARRIOR (MCM 10).


His personal awards include the Navy Commendation Medal and Navy Achievement Medal.


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

Early on in my naval career I bought into the idea that failure and success go hand in hand. As a plebe at the Naval Academy I was fortunate enough to be required to memorize many rates. Perhaps the most memorable rate was Theodore Roosevelt’s speech about the man in the arena, a man who was soiled in hard work, who never gave up even after falling short again and again. The ideals of this short speech resonate in my core, because it articulates exactly how my Mom and Dad raised me - to be tenacious, bold, and resilient… to work harder than my competition, and fight until the end. I’d submit that as humans, we’ll never get it right all of the time and friction is necessary for progress. Therefore, we must be decisive in action and willing to learn from our mistakes.


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

I frequently return to Proverbs 3:3-6, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight.”


In my current role as Commanding Officer, the way I interact with people up and down chain, and the standards that I uphold will impact the lives of many, so I better lead in the right direction.

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

I have a morning routine that helps me prepare for each day. I rise early while the house is still quiet, drink a cup of coffee, read and study for an hour, hit the gym for another hour, and then start my day. I take weekends off from the gym to maximize time with my family.


Expanding on what Admiral McRaven said about making your bed every morning, I’d add that we ought to have healthy habits and routines to get each day pointed in the right direction. The summation of healthy habits and routines enables us to get the little things right, builds a strong and resilient foundation, and prepares us to get the bigger things right when the heat is dialed up.

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

Don’t burn yourself out, and always put your team first. Invest in your health – personally, professionally, physically, intellectually, mentally, emotionally, and last but not least, spiritually. Seek to compete well against your peers, and ask for the most demanding and challenging assignments. Consider changing home port and platform at every opportunity to diversify your professional experience.


Understand that some people may give you advice based on their own agenda, which may or may not be best for you. Seek the wisdom and counsel of senior SWOs, try to fully understand the pros and cons, and then you’ll have a better idea of what to ignore and what to act on.


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

I’ve only given three books – the Bible, Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, and Admiral James Stavridis’ Sea Power. I gave Start with Why and Sea Power because I had extra copies to give. I gave the Bible because I wanted to share what is foundational for me.

How do you set priorities and manage your time?

I’ve set my personal priorities in the following order: faith, family, Navy. My faith has eternal implications, and my family is all that I will have when my service in the Navy comes to an end. My priorities in this order help me to focus on my job without distraction when it’s time to work.


To be most efficient with my time, I deliberately group activities and similar work items so that I can remain focused on the task at hand, avoid fatigue, and to give me time to process the steady flow of information coming across my desk. I stay off my cell phone.


What is your most effective daily habit?

The hour of reading and studying every morning.

How do you define success?

From a naval career perspective I’d say that success is found in being undeniably excellent at every stop along the way.