Memoirs From Command

Memoirs of Command – Lelia Diane Carnevale & 160 1-Hour Meetings

Lelia Diane Carnevale Navy Memoirs of Command

After spending 30 years in the Navy one learns quite a bit about people, leadership, and how to get the very best out of others. When Lelia took Command of the 160 person NRD Little Rock she was told the command would soon be closing and that she needed to be “prepared to fail”. Rather than accepting defeat she learned about her folks, prioritized meeting with each one of them and empowered them to contribute to command decisions. In addition she sat down with every individual for a personalized 1-hour one-on-one discussion. Through this leadership CAPT Carnevale transformed her command into the Top Officer Recruiting Districts out of 35 competing districts. Hope you enjoy CAPT Lelia Diane Carnevale memoir’s of command.

Command Wins

1. My team, my Navy family, realized and were taught that we are “only as good as each other, but serving in different roles.” We followed the Golden Rule, where the gold stripes did not rule, and that we would treat each other with mutual respect, provide encouragement and serve with pride and honor.

2. As the first female officer to be assigned to command NRD Little Rock, as well as to simultaneously close it down after previous BRAC recommendations, I was told to prepare to fail In this command… comprised of 160 military and civilian personnel/logistics/one T-34 aircraft/and a $1.5 million budget. Ultimately, we were recognized as the top 1993 Officer Recruiting District of 35 competing recruiting districts nationwide, and the runner up winner for Enlisted Recruiting covering Arkansas and Oklahoma.

3. Recognized Rotarian of the Year and Paul Harris Fellow from Arkansas, as the first state ever in the Union, and command, to initiate a joint humanitarian initiative to assist starving children in Somalia in early 1992. This initiative predated Doctors Without Borders.

4. Post command assignment as Director of Operations/Plans and Policy for Navy Headquarters Recruiting Command, Washington, D.C.

Command Losses

1. We began our two year command journey cohesive and all working from the same page of goals and expectations. After a personal testing by certain command team members during the first month on their new commanding officer, I perceived there were no losses, only consistent wins…..every single month for 25 months consecutively.

2. The only loss was a physical one of actually shutting down the command as directed by Congress after the results from a previous Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC).


1. Knowing my team members individual strengths and weaknesses, which took time and effort, and keeping a personnel notebook.

2. Creating, supporting, achieving and maintaining established monthly, quarterly and yearly recruiting goals and objectives.

3. Creating and maintaining high morale with regular celebrations of wins and training to the losses.

4. Advocating and living personal integrity, with consistency in decision making, and enforcing accountability at ever level.

5. Safety checks of the T-34 aircraft


1. Participation in more personal exercise to ensure greater physical endurance under times of great stress and production requirements

2. Learning to hold my own counsel, where there are times that silence is golden under certain circumstances

3. Being astutely aware of political career consequences within a military structure if one chooses to purely focus on work and the bottom line, versus cultivating professional relationships in the higher ranks.

4. Learning to let go of a project for personal credit, that was intensively and uniquely created by oneself

5. Learning to relax more, not become a workaholic, and to find more personal balance within a sustained, high pressure work environment. Health is important!


1. Learn how to lean in and read people over time (it takes practice and focus, study), both psychologically and physically (body language)

2. Continually show energy and interest in engaged discussions and conversations, and by asking appropriate questions

3. Establish a CO’s Open Door Policy, and remain sincere, approachable and accessible

4. Maintain the chain of command, address weak links/people/situations/and train always

5. Avoid micromanagement and trust your people to perform….it allows them to grow and make mistakes. Do not over punish with the “I expect you to be perfect mentality”. Have great faith and learn from senior enlisted leadership techniques. Manage by walking around .

6. Establish team environment with a synchronized, agreed upon, living document of Vision, Mission and Guiding Principles


Within the first month of assuming command, each and every soul within the command were given the opportunity over three months to come sit with me. It was my way of ascertaining and establishing loyalty, and to recognize any hesitancy with this subject, to ensure a cohesive, rock solid team. The mantra was established ….”we are only as good as each other, but serve in different roles”. No one could remember being interviewed by a previous Commanding Officer as occurred with me. To me, this was a natural move before running a competitive race….but it was not the norm at the time Navy wide.

Each member was presented with the same basic template of questions :

  • Tell me about yourself ( showing me, can you think and speak easily, on your feet)
  • What is your status with your family….do you have one, are you happy, etc.
  •  What are your personal goals and objectives… you have educational aspirations
  • What recommendations would you give me to improve the command and SOP

I shared my own command goals and objectives, personal philosophies, took notes on each person, kept a notebook, and described my command style and expectations. Further, I told them I would give it my all to ensure their individual success, if they would agree to support me in the same way…..also known as The Golden Rule…( where the gold did not rule, but led the way, and took the hits for them).

Lastly, in conclusion……I always had a spine of steel when told I could not do or accomplish something. I believed in God, power above myself, and accordingly….miraculous energy flooded into our little command out in the middle of America’s breadbasket….the Midwest. I could feel, visualize and believed we could be the best little Recruiting District in the nation…..and we accomplished that mission with flying colors.

Lelia Diane Carnevale is an Experienced Consultant with a demonstrated history of working in the public relations and communications industry. She is Skilled in Crisis Management, Emergency Management, Operational Planning, Tactics, and International Relations. Lelia is a Strong consulting professional with a Master of Science focused in Foreign Service (MSFS); International Security Affairs from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She can be contacted via LinkedIn

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