In this episode, Brock talks with Colin Price.
Colin 'Farva' Price is a 20 year Naval Aviator, held the executive officer and commanding officer titles at VFA 154, and is the prospective executive officer of CVN 69, the Dwight D Eisenhower. We discuss the nuances of being a pilot and how it compares to getting in your car to drive down the road. Colin talks through the development of his leadership philosophy and how he hopes to implement that aboard a carrier that holds a multiple of the amount of people he's led before. We also talk through who the Navy is right for long term and how personal and professional goals need to align staying in the service.
Whether you’re in the service for four years or twenty, you have learned skills, led teams, and learned what it takes to execute under pressure. While those past successes are valuable, they don’t always translate to a life or career when you get your DD214.
Join Tim and Brock as they break down the skills and strategies current and former military members are using to build a successful careers on the outside the service.
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Brock Briggs 0:02
Hello and welcome to the Scuttlebutt podcast. Today, you're getting to hear my conversation with Colin Price. Colin is a 20 year aviator, was the Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of VFA 154, and is now the Prospective Executive Officer of CVN 69, the Dwight D. Eisenhower. In this conversation, we discussed what it's like being a pilot and some of the nuances of flying an aircraft hundreds of miles an hour. There's some weird similarities into driving a car, some of the same nuances applied.
We talked about the leadership philosophy he hopes to bring to the carrier life and the differences in leading at a squadron versus what he expects on a carrier with a multiple of people larger. I also get his take on the future of the Navy and when it comes to autonomous ships and AI power jets.
Colin is incredibly passionate about the military and can be seen directly in his desire to retain people and make people's military experience positive. Call and ask that I state that any views or opinions he expresses in this podcast are his own, and do not reflect the opinion of the US Navy or Department of Defense. First time I've had to read a disclaimer. That's funny. Maybe that means we're onto something and finding some interesting guests. Please enjoy this conversation with Colin Price.
Colin Price 2:06
I’ve never been accused of being quiet, that's for sure.
Brock Briggs 2:08
Okay, well, here you don't have to be quiet. But it's all about giving a voice. Colin, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me, Brock. Yeah.
I am really looking forward to our conversation. We've got a very similar well, not similar, but an aviation background that we share. And I think we're going to have a lot of good topics to talk about there.
The first thing I wanna start out with talking about is having you describe what it's like being a pilot. I was leading up to this interview, I was trying to imagine what that must be like, and very simply, I have to think that it's similar to driving a car in some ways. You're going down an area. You're being mindful of your surroundings and what else is there, and we jumped on another podcast about pedals. Do you actually use pedals to operate like the gas and the brake? Or is it all hands?
Colin Price 3:10
Well, yeah, there are pedals. Mainly, especially when I play the Super Hornet. You use the pedals actually to steer on the grounds that you move your rental pedals left and right to move which way you want to turn left or right. And then in a year, that's what controls your rudder which controls your yaw. Now, an advanced aircraft like the Super Hornet. I'll be honest, like, I'm pretty lazy with how much I use my rudders because the aircraft and the digital flight controls does everything for me, you know. Back in the day, with guys flying by planes and stuff, right? You know, and even civilian aviators flying smaller planes really need to work their rudders to keep the aircraft balanced and flying well.
So you know, that's for the steering, but everything and, you know, to go faster or slower is all with my left hand on my throttle and go up, down left or right, that's all with my right hands, with my stick. Using the driving analogy is a pretty good one that I try to explain to people all the time. Because when people see us an aircraft flying formation, see the Blue Angels, and, you know, Blue Angels is obviously an extreme example.
But you know, we go out and you're taught in flight school to fly, you know, less than a foot from another aircraft. And when people hear that, and you're like, “Wow, you're going 350 miles an hour, and you're only a foot from another aircraft.” I'm like, “Yeah, it's no different than you doing 80 miles down the highway and your foot away from that car that's in the other lane from you.” And then don't really want to play that game where you're, you know, going to the same speed and maintaining the same kind of separation with that other vehicle. It's the same thing flying. The only difference is we add just another dimension, right?
So instead of just going forward, backwards, left and right, I also got to worry about up and down. And I think sometimes that takes a little bit of the magic away from flying because it's it becomes just like driving, you know. Think about when you first learned to drive, got your learner's permit, there was a lot going on. It was a stressful driving at night, you know. Any of that was a very stressful thing to do. And learning to fly in the beginning is very stressful. But you get to the point where you know me flying an aircraft is no different than me driving to work. Now where it gets a little yeah, a little bit more exciting is it more dynamic maneuvering, if you're fighting with another aircraft. And you're coming at now, you are pointing at each other, each flying 400 miles an hour, closing at a rapid rate, doing things like that.
And then as a naval aviator, landing and taking off from an aircraft carrier have always been even to this day, you know, I still kind of giggle or get excited. I get to do those kinds of things, just because of the quick adrenaline rush. The question I always get is people like, “Hey, do you like taking off or landing more?” I personally have never been a huge fan of cat shots. Because for about three seconds, I'm not in control. I'm just kind of sitting back waiting for the ride and hoping all these systems of systems all work and do their thing.
Whereas like landing, I love landing because it is like the one thing in my life that I've done. It's like instant gratification, instant feedback, right? Like I've just spent the last 18 seconds just focusing on flying the ball, trying to land on this moving flight deck. And as soon as you catch that wire and come to a stop, you're like, boom, I just did that. And that was always a cool feeling. So me personally, I like landing more than taking off.
Brock Briggs 6:39
You ever have that you mentioned that are correlated to driving at 80 miles an hour. I'm not exactly sure what the word is to describe this feeling. But you know, when you're driving down the highway, and then all of a sudden you kind of just like have this realization that you kind of like didn't really realize that you were driving. And you're like, oh, wow, like, literally, if I even breathe on this wheel wrong, I could cause like a 25 car pile up and you just like kind of start freaking out a little bit. Does that experience happen in the jet also?
Colin Price 7:12
All the time, right? So you know, flying formation, you are just like kind of so focused and your hands are in or making these small, little movements, as you're just kind of staring at this aircraft trying to maintain that position. And you're like, “What did I just do for the last five minutes?” But you know, because it's just, as we say you're working on brainstem power, right? And when you're driving down the road, you might not remember that five minutes, but each second, you were fully engaged at what you're doing at that very second, right?
Like you knew, you're focusing on the two lines in between you. You might have been listening to a podcast or rocking out to whatever song you are, right? But you were focusing on for that second, it just kind of blurs together. And in flying, it’s the same way. You know, each second I'm in fully focused, but then the last group of seconds just kind of start blurring together. And I can't really pick out a particular moment as I'm flying. But yes, I do that both driving and flying all the time.
Brock Briggs 8:11
That doesn't surprise me to hear. When it comes to the arrestment on a carrier and like takeoffs, I've read some certain things about this, but I've never really gotten a clear answer. Is there a certain degradation that happens to your body from experiencing that? Because I had the actual great pleasure of taking a cod plane off and on to a carrier at a specific time. And got to feel that launch feeling obviously not quite as fast, I'm sure but the feeling of the launch and then the arrestment. And I can't imagine that that's super great on your body. Is there a limit or a number of times that they look at that, from a medical perspective?
Colin Price 9:04
No. So I mean, it's all individual based. I will tell you like I have arthritis in my neck. And especially for cat shots because if you go on YouTube and you watch a video, there's always a kind of a video of its face in the pilot as he's going down the catch stroke and as it's kind of you hit the end of the carrier and that pressure comes off, you know, there's a tendency for your head to snap forward.
And I spent a lot of my career where in what we call a joint helmet mounted cueing system, which is kind of a big visor and it's a big bulky device on the top that allows me to do a lot of my sensor operation and inputs through my helmet. It's a great piece of gear but it weighs a lot and that you've got this huge weight on the fulcrum of your head that kind of snaps forward. And it doesn't seem like much but after and I've got just over 700 arrestments and take in catapults off of a carrier, you know, that starts adding up.
And when I was in, leave in Japan about 2014 off of my department head tour, you know, I almost took non flying orders because my neck was kind of locking up about, you know, every couple of weeks, you know. I got an appointment with a physical therapist tomorrow to do it. And it's kind of one of those things that I think we need to do a better job and we're getting there is we do have physical therapists on base, we are trying to get people there.
But it's also just teaching aviators on day one on neck and back care, because those are the two most common problems that we see helicopter pilots. They do a lot of, they have their backs take a lot of beating. As aviators, we take a lot of beating on the neck, especially if you're trying to pull G's and you're fighting a guy and you're looking, trying to look over your shoulder to find him.
And now you're pulling G's as you're moving your head. So now instead of my you know, my head, human head weighs eight pounds or what it was from Jerry Maguire, you know, now I'm pulling four or five G's. Now that's 40 or 50 pounds of strain on my neck’s not designed to take and just teaching aviators to kind of like, “Hey move your head, pull G and then you know get your head set and then kind of get on G.” Teaching things like that but also just day to day maintenance and strengthening something. You know, I'm constantly striving to do as well but now I'm behind the power curve, right? Like my, the damage has just done to my neck.
I'm fully mobile. I can still fly. It's not a big deal. I just don't have as much neck magic as I used to. As I tell people, I can't fully look as back so the way I fight the aircraft is actually changed a little bit because of the way I've moved my neck. So yeah, over time. It's flying an aircraft, especially a high performance aircraft. It's a rough sport, it will take the toll on you pulling G's arrestments and cat shots all start adding up after a while if you're not kind of physically fit and ready for it.
Brock Briggs 12:08
Be loose in that neck magic, as you said. For anybody unfamiliar, would you explain pulling G's just so that we're appealing to non aviation folks?
Colin Price 12:22
Yeah, no problem. Yeah, keep me honest on when at some things I take for granted, right? So when we're sitting here on the ground, or you're flying straight and level an aircraft, you're one gravitational unit is what you're pulling you towards the Earth. But as we move an aircraft, you know, we're changing our how much lift we're pulling, and that will change how fast we turn. So you know, if you're in a airline, you know, when they do a 30 degree angle of bank, they actually have to pull a little bit more G with that angle bank, you just don't feel it because it's like goes from like 1 G to like 1.1 G because we have to kind of keep make sure the lift vector, the lifts, keeping the airplane going vertical is still there.
But for us, in a high performance aircraft, Super Hornet was seven half G's. I have some time and F16, which we can pull nine G’s, so you're pulling seven and a half to nine times the normal weight of gravity. So for a guy like me who weighs 225 pounds, I'm not gonna try and do public math. But now as I'm pulling seven G's, you know, seven times 225 is kind of like how much I'm actually like kind of weighing as we pull. And that's why you're able to see any sort of military jet aircraft, you know, really turn quickly or whatever, because they're pulling G to increase that lift, and move their nose quicker through the sky.
Brock Briggs 13:49
I can tell already, just from our brief conversation that you live and breathe this just in the way that you talk. Because even before this, you're throwing out words like fulcrum and your pitch and your yaw you're like very tuned in to kind of like the dynamics and the verbiage used in that. That's funny.
Colin Price 14:09
So it's a little bit of my probably like my engineering, brain working too, as now I've been living in the nuclear world for the last year. You know, I think mathematically a lot more. But I mean, I've been doing this for 20 years. And I've been fortunate and in my 20 years up to this point, like I was flying the entire time, like you got to be in constantly flying in an aircraft. So it's been my consistent conversation that I've been having for the last 20 years.
Brock Briggs 14:42
Yeah, you've made a life of it and that's absolutely what you know. How old were you when you joined?
Colin Price 14:51
So I got into the Naval Academy out of high school. So I went into the Naval Academy at 18. Did my four years there and graduated in 2001. So I was, you know, just turned 22 when I actually was commissioned as an ensign and started went down to Pensacola to kind of start my career path as a naval aviator.
Brock Briggs 15:15
You mentioned you've been in Nuclear Power School, spent 20 years flying. You're actually slotted to take over as the EXO of a carrier, CVN 69, the Dwight D. Eisenhower. Won, congratulations! Like that is a magnificent honor. Like just as a third party, but also very prestigious within the Navy, just because there's one so few carriers.
And I mean, there's not a ton of pilots, but there's quite a few. And we were talking before you were explaining how you actually need to be a pilot to take or an NFO, naval flight officer to take over command of a carrier. Are you excited? Are you nervous? What's going through your head?
Colin Price 16:06
Both. Yeah, I'm definitely excited. Like, this has been a long time coming to get to this path. One of which for most of my career, I was definitely the guy who was like, “No way! I'm not gonna do that. That sounds ridiculous.” And then, you know, here I am now. I'm definitely excited, because especially I've been in school for the last year. So I've kind of gotten to a point where like, Alright, I'm done with school. Like, I just want to get in and actually do things, you know, get in and act instead of just kind of like learning.”
But, you know, trading that off of is yeah, so the last 20 years, I tell people is when I joined my squadron. So prior to this, I was the Executive Officer Commanding Officer of VFA 154, in Lemoore, California. When I stepped in as an executive officer, I had been living and breathing squadron operations for 18 years to that point. Like I knew exactly what I needed to do, the day I stepped in. Like, I knew what a squadron was supposed to do, how people were supposed to act, you know how things were supposed to get done.
I wasn't worried about that, you know. There's gonna be a couple of things that I had to kind of learn along the way, but for the most part, it's like, “Hey, I know how to do this job.” Like any self respecting aviator, is when you get on the carrier, what people will realize, you here's the number that carriers 5000 people. Well, 3500 of that is the people who are actually attached to the carrier. The other 1500 is the air wing. So that's all the airplanes that come apart, come on board. When we go on deployment, we are two separate entities. And we do some training as we get ready to go on deployment.
But we said we're two separate. And so as you know, when you're an air wing person, or you're in a squadron, you get on a carrier like oh, that's carrier people doing carrier stuff, you know. I'm over here on the flight deck doing my thing. And we live on the what we call the O3 level, which is if you look at kind of the vertical floors of a ship, you know, we label all our we call them decks and then above the hangar deck is the O3 level, that's one right below the flight deck.
And like I lived on O3 level, that's where my ready room where I briefed and worked every day. I could eat up there. I mean, there was a gym up there, you know. I could live my entire life, just on the O3 level and then step up on the flight deck to go fly. And that's all I needed to do. But there's a ton of other things that go on below that O3 level on an aircraft carrier that I have never experienced and don't know, and there's so many other jobs. And that's the part that makes me nervous.
Or, you know, a little anxious is like there's a lot that makes an aircraft carrier. It is a mini city, with everyone doing everything. And I've got to learn every single one of those jobs and what those people do, what makes them tick, and how we get this all kind of going in the same direction. I mean, the ultimate goal is as an aircraft going off the front end with ordinance to do whatever the mission takes, right? Like all that 5000 people, their entire goal is to make sure that the aircraft gets off safely and is able to do its job.
So there's a lot for me to learn. I am out of my comfort level. But it was one of the reasons I chose to kind of pursue this task was I like to get out of my comfort level and this was the best way to do it.
Brock Briggs 19:37
Yeah, I can confidently say and speak to the level of how much is going on on a carrier. I spent two and a half years on one, lived on one for over a year and I still did not visit all of the spaces that the boat has. So there really is a lot that it takes to keep it moving. I was gonna ask, you mentioned that you wanted to pursue this. How do you decide that? And is that something that's almost maybe decided for you? Do you come and get the tap on the shoulder and they say, hey, you might be a good person for this, or is that something relatively available to everybody?
Colin Price 20:22
So both, and really, I think you're probably familiar with a Navy right there. In the Navy, you can always kind of ask for what you want. And then, as my buddy says, like, hey, if your wants aligns with the Navy's need, you're always gonna get your first choice, that's not necessarily the case. You know, so this case, to be eligible for this pipeline, what we call the new pipeline, in our community, you have to have done a successful squadron command. So I was fortunate that I had a good command, and was able to come out of that.
And you know, there's a point where your boss pulls you in, and especially for my boss, and I was because I was getting ready to retire or thinking about retiring prior to this. And, you know, my boss kind of pulled me in, kind of gave me the “Hey, are you in or you're out?” And the courses was like month long of deployment. And another life lesson is never make life decisions on deployment. But you know, my wife, and I discussed about it. But you know, I said, “Hey, I think this it now, something I'm interested in.”
And then ultimately, the Navy has what we call screen board. So you're everyone that's kind of eligible, your record gets looked at in Millington, Tennessee, and then they select the people that, you know, they think are the best students. So there were some requirements, you know. There were some academic requirements for us to be able to pursue this path. So it was something, “Yes.” I was like, “Hey, I wanna do this.” But ultimately, the Navy had to kind of pick me and say, “Yep, hey, we think you're capable of doing this.” And so you know, I got selected for it.
Brock Briggs 21:59
How do you look at your commitment going forward? When you're saying, you're being asked like, are you in? Or are you out? Are you looking at this, as you know, is this just another couple of years you're adding on? And then you're going to see how it goes? Or is this like, no, we're gonna do this and go all the way?
Colin Price 22:21
But it's a fair question, because that's one of the things that really scares people off about this pipeline, is that really, from start to finish, it's about eight years before you're even, you know, when you finish potentially being the commanding officer of an aircraft carrier. And let me give a little background. So I've already been in for 20 years, right? I had to do kind of three operational tours in squadrons to even get to this point.
And then, once you get selected for this pipeline, you do about 18 months of training. The majority of which is going through kind of nuclear power training. That's, you know, 18 months. Then you do 18 to 24 months as a what we call the big EXO, or the executive officer of aircraft carrier. There's a bunch of other executive officers, like I was an executive officer on an aircraft carrier of a squadron, but the big EXO is the one to rule them all. It's what he does, or she does. And then after that, you can go or do a what we call a deep draft command. So kind of a large amphibious ship. Do that for 14 to 15 months.
And then after that, you're now again, have to get actually selected to get looked at to command an aircraft carrier, right? That's not a given. And then once you're, if you're a CEO of an aircraft carrier, that's anywhere from, you know, probably about 30 to 36 months, right? So start to finish, it's about eight years. Now, that being said, you know, at no time do we have not signed the dotted line that says yes, I'm in for the next eight years. But there's a little bit of the oh, I've come this far, like, you know, I can't quit now. So you're going back. The important part is like, yeah, I was thinking about retiring.
I was hitting my 20. And I was gonna be currently in an aircraft. So I was thinking about applying for the airlines and kind of doing what a lot of people are doing now. Everything was aligning itself walk right. And I've been a guy that has literally tried to get out the Navy at every opportunity afforded me and then something is kind of popped up and ultimately, I've just every job. So this is actually taking a step back, right? You know, young junior officer, my first squadron. Then you have your junior officers who are all the new people.
And above that you have your department heads who are kind of middle management. Then you have the executive officer and the CO who are kind of running the squadron. And I remember looking at my department heads in the face and being like, I never want your effing job. You guys look miserable, right? And then next thing I know I'm showing up to a squadron as the department head and the JO’s are like, “Oh great, another department head.” And I love that job. It was a great job.
And I think for me, that tour was a big turning point for me and my career like actually kind of figuring things out. We talked about this a little later, too, is like, I was a shitty JO, wasn't a good person, wasn't in a good place. A lot of things came to that, to change that mindset. And then, you know, fortunately, I got selected to command a squadron and loved every minute of it. And I had some challenges. I had some huge challenges, and I loved it. And a lot of times we see people in the military and the military can be a frustrating place.
It's not an easy life, it's a hard life. And you get people that kind of do that, like “F this, I can't take this anymore. I'm out of here.” Or you can be like, you know what, this is not great. But I wanna try and make this better. And I care about the Navy, extremely, and I want the Navy to be good. And my mindset was, well, if I want the Navy to be good, I need to stay in and have skin in the game to make the Navy good, right? I don't wanna be the guy that retired at 20 years. And then now sit on my porch and drink beer and be like, “Well, back when I was in the Navy. It was awesome.” You know, but
Brock Briggs 26:19
That's a requirement when anybody’s out after that much time.
Colin Price 26:22
Yeah, yeah. But it is one of the things that kind of jazz my head a little bit right. You know, it's kind of the people that haven't been in a while and don't, aren't going through what I'm going through, right? And just sitting here kind of talking smack about the Navy. And I'm like, “No, I wanna be in the Navy. And I wanna make it good.” And fortunately, I've got an awesome family that's able to support that. Selection number one, hey, can we do this? And that was the big discussion between my wife and I between retiring or keep going. We're like, no, no, this is treating us well, we're hanging in.
And I wanna make the Navy good. I wanna stay in and of course, you know, I can't try and sit there in my squadron and convince all my JO's to try and stay in and keep flying in the Navy, if all of a sudden I'm turning around and retiring, right? It's kind of a little bit that walk in the walk. So like, you know what, no, I think I can be the person. I enjoyed my CO Tour. I feel like I was able to make some difference for some people. And I wanna kind of keep paying that forward and keep doing it. Very much I don't wanna become if you ever heard of the Peter Principle. It's something I keep, so the Peter principle’s from this guy, Lawrence J. Peter, who was a professor of Education in California.
And his point was, you know, when you're good at a job, you get promoted. So once you stop getting promoted, that probably means you're not good at that job anymore, right? And what it means is like all our organizations, we kind of rise to a level of incompetence, right? Everyone that is operating at a certain job level is operating at their level of incompetence, because they were able to do all the jobs really well below that. And that's why they got promoted. And eventually, you peter out.
So this is something I kind of keep in the back of my head of like, okay, I think I'm doing okay, and doing this job well, but making sure I'm not part of the problem and making things worse. And the reason I chose this pipeline was because this was gonna allow me to stay operational, stay working on ships, stay working with sailors, and being able to interact and try and make a difference every day to do something to help you know, even if it's one sailor, you know, one person making them enjoy the Navy and making the Navy that much better.
Brock Briggs 28:41
I think that that's super admirable. And you hear that from a lot of people who choose to stay in and I respect that a lot. My question would be how do you measure that? How do you measure the impact of your change and the things that you're doing? Because more often than not, you know, if you can measure it, it's probably not gonna be something that you see.
Colin Price 29:13
No. That's always a hard thing to get. Because really the true measure. Yeah, I left my squadron two years ago, almost two years ago. Really the difference is gonna be is how many of those junior officers that I was able to train and mentor, stick around for Squadron command? And because the problem is in talking very naval aviation centric, but that's where my experience lies is.
We had this kind of run for a while where, you know, a lot of junior officers are getting out and it's because they look at their commanding officers and they're like, doesn't look like CO’s having fun, like that's not a job I aspire to. I felt like in my squadron, I think my squadron saw that I was enjoying myself and I had hard decisions to make, but I was able to do it with a smile on my face. And, you know, now a couple of those, you know, again, even if one of those JO’s sticks around, and sticks around for squadron command and can make a difference because they're like, you know what, you know, I saw Farva, stick around and do his job. That's where it's gonna be, right? So how is it measured, it's not measured in days, it's gonna be measured in years.
But you know, even the last week, it's always careful on social media about, I always feel like kind of going down too much of the humblebrag route. But like recently, and it was actually two days ago, they just released the new results for the most recent group of aviators that were selected for squadron command, and a couple of my department heads were on that list.
And one reached out to me and said, “Hey, like, I'm here because of kind of the guidance you gave me early on in your career,” right? I mean, that's something, just that comment, right? Will keep me going for the next two years easily. And I've been fortunate that I've had a couple of those. I had another sailor pretty recently just get commissioned as an ensign and is gonna head down to flight school. And I felt probably a couple of conversations hopefully I had with him outside the jet as I was getting back from flying helped make a difference.
And that's all I need is, you know, those onesie-twosie and seeing those people succeed down the line is what's gonna make the difference, you know. Yeah, how to measure on a day to day basis? You can't. But you just have to really go with your gut feeling like, “Am I making a difference today?” I think I am. I think I've done something, and then keep going with that. And then every once in a while, something will pop up. And that will mean that will keep your fire burning for a while.
Brock Briggs 31:54
I think people saying those types of things is absolutely a motivator. And it's a great measure. Like you said, even though you may not be able to like check on it every day, it kind of comes back along and throw some gas on the fire, so to speak. You talked about some hard decisions that you had to make at the squadron level as a commanding officer. Seeing you like preparing to go into like that, like kind of on steroids. What kinds of decisions are you worried about making? And maybe what type of leadership philosophy are you looking to bring to the boat?
Colin Price 32:41
We'll start with a, I think that second part is probably I don't know that we can talk about that first part, like, really, there's no decisions I'm worried about making. One, there's a little bit of a secret as the executive officer, I don't really make decisions, right? That's the commanding officer is the one making the decisions, on there to advise him or her and let them know, you know what I think and try and go. But you know, there's a lot of smart people on an aircraft carrier, and it's just leveraging off of each person's expertise.
And that's really what I gotta keep in mind as you know, as a squadron. Yeah, I had six department heads that worked for me, as well as the executive officer. So I could be in there truly a little bit more in on the trust, verify spectrum, you know. I had to be a little bit more in the verify, then trust as they're still learning their job, you know. But on an aircraft carrier, there are still a bunch of senior people that have been doing their particular jobs for a long time and know how to do it well. And I've got to swing more way more into the trust, vise verify because I tried to verify and micromanage you know, there's not enough time in the day to do that with that many departments and that many people on an aircraft carrier.
And so leveraging off of their expertise and if they're gonna try, if they're enforcing a decision that maybe I don't agree with or recommending a decision is, “Hey, let's start pulling the thread about that and having a harder discussion.” But for the most part, if you know they're making a decision, it's probably an informed decision. So as far as like the leadership philosophy, and that's something I'm really still wrapping my head about. Because in the squadron with VFA 154, I have 250 sailors and officers and I knew everyone's name.
I knew how to engage with every single person in my squadron. I knew kind of what made them tick. I knew what kind of for most of them I probably knew what sports team they liked that we could talk about whatever happened that last weekend, right? Like I knew different ways to engage everyone. But again, with 3500 people that's gonna be a much harder task to get after. But my always my goal especially on deployment was if I can make these kind of rules at once, if I can make one five walk down, I can visit one work center at one meaningful conversation with a sailor a day, and then spend 15 minutes in the books, studying something and making myself better. That was kind of my measure a day that I have a successful day.
And so I think it's just kind of still keeping that same mindset of getting up from my desk, which is always the easy comfort blanket to be. I can just sit behind a big pile of folders and check emails and do all that kind of stuff. I definitely lead better on my feet is getting stood up, getting out of my office and going. As we talked about, like there's a lot of spaces on the carrier, just going to get myself lost. Because if all of a sudden there's you know, random Captain walking around looking lost, that's a good way to get a sailors attention, and start a conversation be like, “Hey, sir, are you lost?” I'll be like, “Yes, I am lost. Where am I? And tell me about it.”
And now I can start engaging them on what their jobs are, you know. And there's a lot of questions, you know, what icebreakers do I need to have, as I'm going around and talk to sailors, obviously, easy ones. Where are you from? You know, hey, why'd you join the Navy? What books you're reading? I'd take your feedback, like what, you know, what were questions that were asked of you of leaders that got you kind of talking to them easier?
Brock Briggs 36:29
That’s a good question. You put me on the spot there. I'm supposed to be the one interviewing. I'm not gonna be able to think of something specifically. But I will say, on the boat, I think that it was extremely encouraging just the presence of senior leadership in the spaces. Because we, during that time, had a variety of leadership come and go and not even just the top level EXO and the CO, but also in the departmental level. Being like at a fod walkdown in the hangar bay, or on the flight deck, and your maintenance officer is right there with you like doing it like that. That's just cool.
And you get to like coke and joke for a few minutes. And it kind of removes this invisible boundary that tends to exist in people's head that's like, oh, you know, you only see so and so at DRB or, you know, a captain's mask. That's like when we see the captain that that wasn't the case for us, but that anything that kind of just removed that barrier, and I think it starts with presence. I think that that hits the nail on the head.
I mean, we'd come down and see several high ranking officers like in the gym with us and the hangar bay and like, that's fun. Oh, you know, did you EXO putting this up on the squat rack? Or, you know, just coking and joking that, that kind of stuff is funny. And yeah, it kind of builds that rapport.
Colin Price 38:09
Yeah, I definitely plan on you know, there's gonna be some sort of liberty chit or something for if anyone can beat my 2k row when I get on the ship. I'm definitely gonna be going after you know, that's one of the ways I lead, right? Is getting in there and getting dirty and doing stuff. But you know, you're right. Like the presence thing is such an important thing. And that was always one of the disheartening things.
And I don't feel like I was like that great at it. I do have some very introverted parts of me like everyone thinks I'm an extrovert and I can come across that way as a big personality. But, you know, walking into a room of people, I don't know, it's hard. And I always tell a story of like, so when I became in my first squadron as a junior officer, they may meet the line division officer, and the line division is where we have all our plane Captain. So it's like all your most junior sailors that most of them have only been in the Navy for six months. They're brand new.
And you know, I think I had probably 40 airmen, and they made me lie on devo after about, I think I had been in squadron maybe about nine months. So it was pretty early on for the division officer tour. And I'm like, “All right on the lieutenant. I'm gonna walk into the line shack,” which is kind of this building that we have just offset from the hangar where they all hang out during the day when they're not launching jets. I'm like, “I'm going out to my presence line.” And I walked in the door, opened the door, and it's like, man, if there have been a record playing, you would have heard the record scratch and like 40 airmen are just staring at me.
And it's like, all of a sudden, I'm like, “Ah, oh.” You know, you don't know what to do. And I just pretty much like jet to the back of the room and go find my chief to, you know, learn this job, right? It's not a skill. That's a skill to learn how to walk into, you think you're the officer. I'm walking into a bunch of junior enlisted, that should be easy. It's not, it's intimidating. And just you just have to kind of get to the point where you’re comfortable getting in there, and I would sit down and put my feet up and just start kind of asking a couple questions. And man, once you get one or two people asking questions, you know, it just blows up.
And then you can really get good dialogue going. And so even later, in my career, as I was a CO walking around. I had an AT, who had just come from another squadron and I was popping, just doing my kind of daily popping into their work center on the carrier and checking in with them and chatting with about stuff. And he was like, “sir, I've never seen a CO this much of my career,” and like, in a way that like, broke my heart, right? Because that shouldn't be. So I didn't feel like I was doing anything outside the norm.
But apparently, it was, right? And I was like, this is such an easy thing to do. It literally takes sometimes five minutes, sometimes I would end up spending an hour in there. That's an hour better spent than sitting on my desk doing paperwork. I'll take that any day, right? And that's, again, I think the that's gonna be my key to success is getting around and walk in and doing it and get buy into because I think with a squadron, you know, as we talked about leadership philosophies, the other part too, is like, you know, squadron has a lot less kind of job.
And I think everyone, it's not that much separation from what their job is to watching an aircraft. Like they can see it on a daily basis of what they're doing and how an aircraft goes off the front end of carrier in a squadron level, because we just don't have that many diverse jobs. But you know, on a carrier right now, we have literally every almost every job in the Navy. And actually is like, I think the full Navy strength right now is like around 350,000 people, and an aircraft carrier has 3500 people, right?
Like an aircraft carrier has 1% of the total population of the Navy, right? Like that's not an insignificant figure. And you have people, the CSS cooking food. You have, you know, the retail specialists, the ones running the ship store, right? You know, cutting hair, like these jobs, and it's getting them to understand that every single job that they do is vital to getting an aircraft off the front end and be like, well, me cooking food, you know. How's that make a difference?
And you know, one, a food is a full force multiplier. I don't like flying hungry, that's for one. But when I was on the Theodore Roosevelt as we were in Guam, like one of the things that we were kind of struggling with there for a little bit is we couldn't we didn't have enough culinary specialists on the carrier to like, fully get the kitchens up and running, right? So you're limiting and you're like, hey, like this is a pretty good example.
But Joe Byerly who runs the From The Green Notebook blog and podcast, which is, you know, really good highly recommended listeners, especially for anyone that's in the military. But even now he has a bunch of civilian guests, and he talks about how one of his sergeant majors at his army command, said, “Hey, like, you define your distance from what they call the x, right? And that x is where the actual operation happens.”
And that there, the meaning is, hey, you need to understand that what your job does supports, you know, that guy kicking in the door, being able to do their job. And, you know, I'm gonna steal from him pretty blatantly and be like, hey, you need to define what your distance from the cat shot is on an aircraft carrier, right? Like, you're on this aircraft carrier, because that directly affects an aircraft going off the front end with ordinance to do the mission that we've been tasked with.
Brock Briggs 43:44
I had a kind of a strange experience on the boat, we were out to sea and we had the whole airwing out with us. And coming from the boat perspective, we are very disconnected from kind of leadership. And you know, like you said, there's so many diverse jobs and so many people, it's hard to really kind of connect. And I had several friends that were in one of the helo squadrons that were on board. And we were just kind of like BS and after work, like they had come down to my shop.
And we were playing uno, just after work and the little lounge that we had made. And all of a sudden, we get this, like knock at the door. And there's two pilots from their squadron that are like, “Oh, we heard you guys were playing uno down here.” And I was just like, “Well come on in, I guess.” Like and that was so cool to see kind of what was available at the squadron level where that rapport was there. And so it definitely can be done. And I think it's harder to replicate at scale, but I think that it can be done.
And even you talked about distance from the EX, even from my perspective as working in aviation maintenance. I'm not on the flight deck, but I'm literally repairing an item that's going on to jets every single day. But at the same time, unless I like went out of my way to go up to the flight deck for just like some random reason, you could never see sunlight. If you really want it to, you can just stay below decks. And really kind of just do your part just show up to work.
On deployment, it's tough. Sometimes you gotta get into kind of a routine and just like put your head down and like not think too much about your circumstances. But feeling plugged into that mission really gives you that sense of accomplishment. And part of my due diligence and research on you, and research, meaning a couple of quick Google searches mostly. I read an article that you had written about talking about AI replacing pilots in the Navy. Talk to us a little bit about that. What was the goal of the article? And what are your thoughts and feelings about the space?
Colin Price 46:13
Yes, so that article came, there was some trials a couple years back, and what they're trying to do is, it was all kind of through computer simulations of creating, you know, aircraft that was being flown by AI and had it compete against a actual pilot, flying, you know, this virtual reality. And having them engage with each other. And, you know, the AI like, dominated the competition. And of course, you know, that kind of came out, everyone was all up in arms. And there's a lot of artificiality that was involved.
And I just kind of jumped in and pointed out of some like, yeah, hey, I think here's some things to look at that jumped out at me as I did it. And I was doing this on Twitter, which is kind of the easiest way for me to get my thoughts down, because my brain works at about 280 characters at a snippet before I kind of blind, squirrel off in another direction. Yeah, so I had just kind of thrown some stuff together on Twitter. And then Tyler from the drive kind of had reached out to me and was like, “Hey, you wanna expand on this a little bit.”
And realize I was able just to kind of flush out that article a little bit over the weekend, and published it, which was, it was a great experience. It's probably, I am not, I’m always struggling with writing. It's something I'm terrible at, which is why I tried to do it is something I could do to get better at. And, you know, that was actually a pleasurable experience, because I was writing about something I was familiar with, as well. And there's this huge schism between kind of like, the drones taken over or in pilots losing their job, like we're a far off way from that happening. You know, like, it's gonna be a while before you get on an airline, right?
There's gonna be, there's no pilots up front flying that. I don't think the really the general public is even comfortable with that. That being said, you'd be surprised like really how little flying, right? We pilots do like auto pilot does quite a bit of stuff. And I was a big naysayer. And I think that typical humorous, I actually just got done reading two really good books that I've had, within the last couple of months that I've actually kind of gotten me thinking about this again. First one was Never Mind, We'll Do It Ourselves by Alec Bierbauer and this Colonel Mark Cooter, retired.
And they were a big part of starting the MQ-9 Predator, and they would have been MQ-1 Predators, you know, prior to 911. And what's really huge, that unmanned system, you know, kind of becoming prevalent in theater, and then the other one was Flying Camelot, just finished couple days ago about kind of a development, F-15 and F-16. And, you know, the common theme you have with this is, you know, historically we as aviators are very we just, we don't want unmanned platforms, right? Because it's like, hey, that's taken my job. Like that's what I pride myself on that I'm in the cockpit doing this, with my wife scarf flapping in the winds. Like the pilots of your but hey, we'd like we need to get on board with technology and what these systems can bring.
And that's kind of how I approach that article. There are some things you know, AI is definitely not ready for primetime right on, just doing an aircraft out there. And I think that's the another misconception, right? Every unmanned aerial system or man, whatever drones, whatever terminology we're using, like, there's always a person in the loop, still doing something with that system, right? There's very few things that are just out on their own, not operating without any public. Or I'm sorry, person actually kind of in their operating as well.
And that was kind of my point a little bit with that article was that AI, I think kind of fused with what a human can do, you know. AI can help me do something quicker. And the best way to really show this is, as I'm flying around, and I going back to talking about G’s, you know. That's a high, stressful environment, right? It takes me, it takes effort for me to get my head moved over to a direction to find the enemy, and using my systems, get my weapons cued onto that aircraft.
And then now even once I have an aircraft locked up to where I could shoot a missile or gun, I now have to income back into the my cockpit or look into my joint helmet cueing system, and kind of analyze all my parameters, my airspeed, my altitude, the G's I'm pulling, how fast we're crossing, like just tons of different mathematic kind of things that are going on. Kind of take a snapshot at a time and be like, yes, this is what we would call a ballad of employment. Like, if I shoot this missile, it's gonna have the best chance to intercept the enemy, right?
I'm having to do this while I'm pulling G's, yanking my head over my shoulder and all those kinds of things, right? If AI can help me solve that system, as I'm fighting and kind of take the workload off of me to make that decision, you know. I'm still in the cockpit. I'm still pulling the trigger. But now I have this extra kind of layer to help kind of process and calculate all those things. That's a good thing. That's something I want, if that makes me more lethal on the aircraft, makes my job and aircraft easier. I'm all aboard with it.
You know, as a future as we move into, like the loyal wingman or something, as we move into whatever this sixth generation aircraft is gonna be, you know. With I am now, I have two little buddies, like in the Konami lifeforce game. I used to play on the Nintendo where as I'm flying in my aircraft, and I have these two other separate aircraft that are flying with me that I can control and move and expand my airspace, and where, you know, have more missiles to shoot any of those kinds of things again, you know, I'm all about that kind of stuff.
And getting on board, do I still want to be flying an aircraft? Yeah, cuz that's it was, that's how I have defined myself for the last 20 years. You know one day, it is my daughter gonna not look at me and be like, “You know what? I wanna do the same thing my dad did.” You know I would like for her to have that opportunity too. And I think she, I think she will, like, there's gonna be Super Hornets around for quite a bit, you know. The F 35 is gonna be kind of around quite a bit, I think the next aircraft, whatever shape or form it comes into, is still gonna have people flying it. You know a fair amount and how much we layer that. But yeah, it was kind of just an interesting thought experiment.
And then just also kind of explaining some of the artificial realities that allowed the AI to kind of dominate that competition, things that we're just not able to do in training. The main one being able to, like do a hands on gunshot, you know. If two aircraft flying at each other point their noses at each other, you know, that's how we run into each other and how, unfortunately, we've lost aviators in the past. Hence, we've made rules that prevent that from occurring, as well.
But in that situation, you know, that there was no training rules. And so the AI was able to capitalize on that kind of environment a lot better than the pilot who was actually kind of flying the VR system was and that's just kind of also us looking inwards on like, okay, what limits do we have based on how we can train safely, but still kind of maximize it as taking shots or weapons envelopes?
Brock Briggs 53:57
Well, and I think a lot of what you're talking about to really points to a kind of a lack of education about what AI and like machine learning actually is. You know, we see these movies, you know, iRobot, and like, just these very futuristic movies. And people think that that represents computers and things like taking over the world. But realistically, what AI and like machine learning is, is its code based rules that are programmed by humans and using past experiences to improve over time.
And it's not really the thing thinking for itself. It's just kind of a closed loop improvement system that is based on the past. So yeah, I think that that's really interesting that the perception of what that is is very misguided, maybe. But that seems to be where the future of the military is going. Some friends of mine that are still on my ship, we're talking about a UAV shop being put into the boat. And then just I don't know a ton about it, but a remote control boat, like a full size boat being remote controlled. Do you have any thoughts about that? Or?
Colin Price 55:23
Yeah, this is where it kind of definitely not the expert. I mean, we're moving towards you know, there's some thoughts to MQ-25 is gonna be unmanned drone refuel, right now mainly for refueling off the carrier. That's fine. Like the less that we have to use Super Hornets to tank is always a good thing.
And then yeah, how to manage ships, right? If I can just have another ship out there with more missiles, always a better thing, right? I can never have too many, too many pieces ordinance to shoot. I don't know exactly where we're moving with all those. There's definitely some smarter people in this space that you know, are looking into that. But hey, I'm all about like, hey, let's think smartly and how we can use these, you know, to maximize the damage we can do.
Brock Briggs 56:13
We're not sure to have any opportunities to improve, that's for sure. Especially looking at some of the technology that's even used in the Super Hornets, while still very sophisticated. A lot of the stuff that's running it is 80s technology, really, and that is scary to think about knowing how lethal those things are. And incorporating the idea of how reliable something is, over that length of time. Here we are, you know, this far into the future. And still using that type of thing. It kind of bodes well for the future of the military, I think.
You talked a little bit earlier about retaining people in the military in general. If we're, let's say 10, 15 years into the future here, and we're working with a much more remote base military. What do you think about military manning as a whole? And this isn't doesn't have to be expressed views or anything. But where do you think that the population requirements for the military is gonna be in 10, 15 years?
Because we've been on a very, I don't know about gradual but a reduction for a very long time. Whether that's, you know, forced or not, maybe just people wanna get out. I think that the DOD has recognized that the change in the retirement system to the Blended Retirement System is very much geared towards people who are not looking to make the military career. What do you think about that?
Colin Price 57:55
So the first thing that usually always comes up, right, when we start talking about retaining people is always the money piece of, you know. It really just comes down to like, we're never gonna be able to pay people enough to match what they get in the civilian life, right? We have to figure out the ways to keep people in. And it's not based on necessarily a monetary. Now we can definitely use monetary to move the needle, that can make the difference for a number of people. But that can't be our only bag that we have or trick that we have in our bag.
And what it goes back to of like, hey, we just got, we want people to wanna like to be in the Navy or the military, right? Definitely easier said than done. By far away and it goes back to my thought process of like, there are things that are frustrating about being in the military. And that was the nice thing about being a CO of a squadron is I had a little bit more kind of control.
And I could somewhat, you know, protect maybe a little bit of a strong word, but I could kind of minimize those frustrations for the people in my squadron, right? So while Bally's were in VFA 154, you know, they kind of saw, you know, a better run organization that kind of took care of them. And they're like, okay, hey, this, you know, I can see how this can be done well, and then they can take that in the future. Hopefully, yeah, that's me, how I viewed it.
And that's the key, right? If everyone is out there trying to make their, you know, the people that work for their life better, you know, that makes a difference. Even though as we moved and go back to you know, if we moved to unmanned systems and all that we still need the people you know. And especially in the Navy, like we need people for damage control, right? Even an unmanned ship, there's still gonna have to be people that are gonna have to get on there. And you know, maintain and work on that ship to keep it running. You can't just put a vessel out to the ocean for six months and expect that thing to be working flawlessly, ain't gonna happen.
So we still need, we still need people. And I think we've learned that lesson too as we try to kind of dial back the manning on some times. There is a sweet spot where you kind of undercut a little bit. And as we're trying to build more ships, and we need to build more ships for a stronger Navy, you know. We're gonna need the people to man those ships, there's no getting around that as well.
But then, after that is like, okay, well, what can we do to improve people's life away from when they're from the ship and you know, giving people better education opportunities, given them some more kind of flexibility or buy in or feel like they're a part of the process of where they get to live? Where they interact? You know, those type of things like that, could that make a difference too. Like, there might be a good contingent of people that don't need to be centrally located at this base.
Or you know, that we can disperse them a little bit more, and they can work from home, you know. We've got to really start spreading that net a little bit more and make it flexible, because I think what people get out of the Navy for is they just don't like the bureaucracy of the Navy. Family is always the hugest one. You know, moving quite a bit has a lot of strain on the family, you know. How do we take care of that? I don't have any of these answers, right? Like, I'm always kind of racking my brain as well.
And I can only control it at my small level. And that's kind of really where my focus always is but there's definitely people always kind of feel like, we're looking hard. And we're trying to make changes to change how someone's day to day interaction is. Going back, it's not gonna be the money. That's not what's gonna keep people in the military, never is gonna be. It's gonna be all these other factors that once they add up, that is enough to offset, you know, what they are able to go make on the outside.
Brock Briggs 1:02:11
Yeah, and it's, I think that you're right in saying that it's not the money that's keeping people there, because I think that there is a disconnect in between, like, a similar type of role. Like outside of the military, I guess in terms of like, the requirements, like, you know, leaving your family and like all of those things that you can't really put a price on.
However, the salary of the Navy is really not bad, by any means. I think when you incorporate all of the benefits that do come from it, granted, not everybody gets to access a lot of things, if you're deployed all the time, you may not be able to access the same education benefits that somebody else is accessing.
But like I think that you pointed out, kind of drilling into some of those other features that the military can offer, whether it be TA or maybe some more flexibility with like stationing location, etc. And I think that the big one, too, is fostering that sense of, you know, people don't stay in for 20, 30, 40 years, because they're like, I don't have anything else to do. They're serving their country. I think that that's the ultimate. And that is something that I think should be fostered, too if the military is thinking about retaining people long term.
Colin Price 1:03:43
Shout out from the mountaintop, brother! Yeah, easier said than done because it can become so and you know, you’re a leader and you’re heading down to your shop and you're like, hey, how much you love serving your country today, right? When you're on like month four of deployment looking at the ocean, and it's like, oh, you just get a bunch of eye rolls, right? Like, you gotta be careful how much you wield that, because it can become like, overplayed and everything, right? And it's like at least say, “Hey, can I figure out how today I can kind of get your buy in.”
And then that starts adding up over time. Because, you know, one of my other kind of little theories I have too and I try not to use being a parent at that much as a metaphor for being as a leader, but there are some similarities and and I think back of like, like when you first have like a baby, it's rough, right? Like you're up all night. You're just having to feed and change diapers and like it. It is exhausting. And they're, you know, you're hanging out with your baby at three in the morning as they're just screaming their head off. Like what have I signed up for?
But now as my oldest one is 8 like, I have very, like very faint memories of that, right? But I have very crystal clear memories of the times that she is giving me a hug and says she loves me or you know, these like awesome moments with her. And I think our human brain is just wired that way, right? Like we don't remember bad things as crystal clear as we remember good things, because that's how we survive. We gotta be able to forget bad things. That's the only way we can kind of keep moving forward. Like deployment, or your time in the military, I think becomes like that of day to day, there was probably some really annoying things on deployment.
But those things fade over time. But you remember, playing Uno down on with, you know, some, you know, some buddies or that one. You know, I was in Guam. And sitting there and getting to actually see the green flash as the sun went down that night. You know, as my entire squad just promoted to junior officers to lieutenant. You know, we're all hanging out. There was a beautiful day outside. The sun went down. And I mean, like no doubt that mythical Green Flash was there, like that is a moment that is seared in my brain. Those are the things you remember, that's what gets you back.
You know, now all of a sudden, when it's time to sign up, time to do longer, you're like, you gotta remember those moments, because all this other bad stuff. So if I can minimize the number of bad things that happened to someone that makes that even easier, and give them those good crystal clear moments, those are the things that are gonna resonate and keep them in for longer as they look back.
Brock Briggs 1:06:40
I also don't think that it's a coincidence. How many of those powerful strong memories that you associated with the military have people involved? Like you almost never have something that's really like, good, where it was just you, you know. And that's maybe anecdotal to life. Life is about the relationships, your family or your close friends.
But I think that anybody who's gotten out even if they're the saltiest dog out there, they will probably have a story about a time where one specific person really went out on a limb for them or did something. And that's what's memorable. And that goes back to your comments about leadership and getting involved and all that good stuff. I'm not familiar with this green flash thing, though.
You don’t know about the green flash?
Brock Briggs 1:07:31
No, no. We're not talking about a superhero, right?
No, no, not the DC comic book.
Brock Briggs 1:07:36
Or Green Lantern, that's the other guy.
Colin Price 1:07:39
There's the flash. As the sun goes down, and there's, you know, the physics of the way that like the rays move and the spectrum of colors or whatever, but there is, as it's not like, right, that last half second, as the sun is going below the horizon, you can get you can sometimes see and have it better seen on the ocean, right?
Because the way that like the light rays move, but you'll get all of a sudden this like this green flash and it's one of those things like people tell you, and it's almost like one of those things that like someone's playing a joke on you, right? You're like, hey, just stand up there and watch the sunset. You'll see a green flash, and you'll stand out there day after day after day.
And you're like, “Oh, now I look like an idiot, because I'm just going up here all this time.” But I would say like that day. I mean, it was like a lighthouse of green light. It was so bright. And I mean, we all were standing there and we were like, “This is the day. This is a day. And I mean, it was like, it was amazing.
Brock Briggs 1:08:40
This isn't something particular to Guam or like?
Colin Price 1:08:43
No, it's no. I think you can see it anywhere. I'd have to get on that Google machine. It's best seen on the ocean because I think the way the light rays refract. I'm definitely getting way over my skis in the physics of light refraction here but that's I think that's part of it. So check it out. Next time you're on the boat on the water and sunset look for the green flash. Not saying it's also gonna happen everyday. It's got to also be you know, clear day and all this bunch of other phenomenon I have to say.
Brock Briggs 1:09:13
This might be worth one more enlistment at this rate. This sounds cool. I've watched a lot of sunsets.
Colin Price 1:09:18
Or just get your own boat. You never know.
And that’s you know, in someone else's boat, is what I've been told.
Brock Briggs 1:09:29
Yeah, I've heard that. Yeah, this is cool. I've never even seen or heard of this. So I'll need to look into that and do some reading. I wanna talk a little bit about your extracurriculars. One of the I've mentioned a couple of the things that you had written about but like your published. You've got articles written, scattered all around the internet about you, writing and kind of sharing your thoughts. You've talked about being active on Twitter and kind of sharing your opinions there. According to your LinkedIn, that was also another part of my research. You're a co-owner of Board and Brush, out maybe not currently is that?
It that set up today?
Colin Price 1:10:15
No, that was a former Board and Brush. So Board and Brush is actually a franchise. And it was a business my wife and I started when we were stationed in my last duty station in Lemoore when I was the EXO and the CO. So Board and Brush, it's a company based out of Wisconsin, and it's kind of the paint and sip model, where you go like a date night or girls night out. You go to this place, and you either paint a picture. We made wood sign so you'd like make a wood sign stencil and paint it.
And while you're doing it, you're drinking a beer. You hang out for three hours, it's kind of something to do. And so my wife and I had gone on a date night together in Reno, before we moved down to California, and had checked this place out. And my wife, and this kind of wrap into some of our earlier conversations, you know. My wife was, you know, she was a high performing individual before she became a military spouse, right?
And she used to work on campaigns. She was actually in between working on a presidential campaign when we met, when we started dating. We long distance dated as she was getting her master's in San Francisco while I was stationed in Fallon driving back and forth this you know. And so she has a desire to serve and also, you know, be a part of the community as kind of a small town girl she is. And we were looking, you know, so we came back from that. And she's like, “I think this would be really great in downtown Hanford,” which is the town right next to Lemoore.
And for people who have been to Hanford, it's actually really cool. It's in the Central Valley, this kind of got a cool old, you know, 50s vibe to it in the downtown area. It's got like the big nice, kind of like, grassy area and stuff. But like the downtown, there's just not a whole lot to do. Like, it's kind of a lot of businesses that closed down or anything. And my wife was like, “Hey, you know, I wanna be able to do something while you're at work as well, right?” Like, she just didn't wanna stay at home, which is completely reasonable. And going back to as we're talking about a way to try and keep people in the military, being able to keep spouses employed, and have them have opportunities.
And that is something that is definitely being talked about on you know, as we've changed tax laws. Talked about, you know, their certifications transfer, like, you know, the federal government is doing things to help enable that. Again, I'm not fully smart on it. But you know, that is probably one of the other biggest reasons people get out of the military, right? Is because their spouse’s job becomes a priority over the military members job, and sometimes those two aren't compatible. And that's something we got to kind of really keep working hard at.
And it worked out, you know. As we're moving out of Hanford, as I said, I was planning on retire. So we're like, alright, well, hey, let's start this business. And then I'm gonna retire and we can kind of live here for a couple more years, as we kind of figure out where we actually wanna plant roots one day. And so we, you know, applied for the franchise and got accepted and opened it, kind of prior to me actually showing up the squadron and it worked out. I had kind of some, a little bit training time in between where I could. I was almost a full time carpenter for a couple months as we were like building out our space, and putting it together.
And it was a great experience other than, you know, the bureaucracy of trying to start a small business in California. You know, it was great. And what was awesome is like, you know, my wife became pretty popular in the community because she brought this like business to the downtown area. It was something for people to go do. And people were always constantly thanking her and like, you know, thanks for bringing this to like downtown Hanford, right? Like this is part of this, like us trying to revitalize and bring something to the local economy.
And that was a really cool experience and valuable, I think, and allowed us to do something. You know, when we started out, you know, I'm about to start my EXO and CO tours, which I knew I was gonna be deploying. I knew we were gonna be busy. We had two kids at home. You know, at the time when we first moved there, they were five and two, right? So we had two little ones at home.
And we luckily had a pretty good support network of friends and family around the area that we’ve known. And that helped kind of alleviate the strain, but when we started it we were by, you know, we're gonna look back at this time. A couple years from now we're gonna be like we are batshit crazy for trying to do this and there were some definitely some stressful moments to do it.
But you know, that's part of bearing, right? And we're you know, we're both like to get out of our comfort zone. And we acknowledge that about each other. And one of the things that helped, definitely made our marriage stronger and glad of her to do something. And then that was part of the conversation and of course, kind of COVID happened. And that really threw a curveball into opening a business, especially one that serves alcohol, and where people gather in a small place, right?
And I was on deployment as all this is going on. So again, God bless my wife, right? She's dealing with two kids, COVID, unknowns of that. I'm in deployment, you know, living in a hotel room in Guam, also not knowing what's going on, balance and all that, right? You know, there were stressful times. And then that was closed and by the time we kind of made the decision, that kind of the pendulum was swinging the other way, and like, hey, we're gonna prioritize my career again, and allow me to pursue this opportunity that the Navy is presenting me with, to go on the new pipeline.
And so, you know, we ultimately sold the business, you know. It's still open and thriving there in Hanford. To do it, you know, and so you know, my wife's, she's eager, she's always now that we're here on the East Coast. She's kind of trying to figure out what her next step is, and I sympathize with the spouses of military members. It's not easy, and how much they have to sacrifice and give up so that, you know, I can have a successful career.
And I'm thankful, I will tell people, that is the only reason I am in the Navy today is because of the amazing support that she's given me. You know, my daughters are hanging in there. They're young enough. I think them growing up in a military lifestyle as, for lack of a better word, as a military brat is gonna be better for them in the long run. You know, it's gonna strengthen their abilities, and, you know, pave the road. Get the child ready for the road and not the road for the child kind of thing. You know, we're making some hard decisions.
And it's something that we are constantly reassessing. So in a couple years, hey, my family says, hey, we can't hack this anymore, I'm done. But you know, but right now we're hacking it and thriving, as well. So the business was, it was a great experience and taught us a lot especially about tax rules and liquor license rules in California. I knew, I learned way more about that than I ever thought I would.
Brock Briggs 1:17:32
Well you highlight something incredibly important. If you're gonna have any kind of longevity in the military is you really gotta have the homefront taken care of and everybody on the same page and kind of fighting for the same thing because you can easily get twisted around and the military demands a lot of you. It really does.
Colin Price 1:17:55
Whenever I ever had someone's, you know, when I'm talking to a sailor or an officer, and they're talking about getting out, and if you know, their number one reasons like what you know like, hey, you know, because I always ask people, right? Like, you wanna have that conversation like “Hey, why are you getting out?” And like, you know, my family didn't wanna do this anymore.
And like, pretty much from then on, like, I shut up. Yeah, like, there's no, I'm not even gonna try and convince you like, because yeah, that's the number one thing you know. The young sailor who's like, “After this, I don't know. I'm just gonna move back home and find a job.” I'm like, “Hey, let's talk about things. Let's figure out a plan for you.” But yeah, whenever someone makes a decision for family, that's also one of my pet peeves, you know. People who kind of shit on someone who's getting out because their family and their family can hack in, I'm like, “Hey, man, everyone's situation is different.”
And I said, I have been extremely blessed with how awesome my wife has been. And she blooms where she is planted. She makes, I have dragged her to some not the most desirable of locations and she thrives everywhere she goes. So when she drags me out of the house, you know, if we were in Japan, I probably would have. I was tired on Friday coming back after our hard week in the office.
And I just wanted to lay on the couch and she's like, “No, we're in Japan. We're getting out of the house and we're gonna go travel,” and you know. It was always a good thing that she did that because if not, I would have just sat on the couch and watched TV all weekend and then gone back to my job on Monday and never actually seen Japan. So I thank her for that.
Brock Briggs 1:19:32
I bring up the Board and Brush thing in kind of context of we're talking a lot about retention in this conversation and keeping people in and or at least getting people to what they're designed to be doing. I think that one of the most critical things to that, that we haven't talked about yet is getting people engaged in stuff that they'd like to do outside the military. I'm not sure what it is. And I've mentioned this on several prior podcasts.
But for some reason, I felt like there was a magnificent burden and something that kept me from doing the stuff that I like to do while I was in the Navy. I can't do that. I'm in and like, I just, I can't wait to get out. So I can like, do what I wanna do. And like a part of that I didn't even know what I wanted to do. So that was the first part of the problem.
But I think that there's a larger lesson there around your life not actually being on hold, because you're in the military. And I think that you represent that very well and like taking on you know, you’re writing, you're like starting a business. What would your best advice be for people that are kind of like looking for that fulfillment outside the military? Or like finding activities and stuff to fulfill them better outside of their job?
Colin Price 1:21:04
Yes, it was a first. It took me a long time to get to the point I'm at. And I said I was a shithead in my 20s and did not spend my time right, a couple of different stories. So the first one I did almost a year in Afghanistan on what we call Individual Augmentee. So I got kind of after my junior officer tour by signed up to go kind of work for the Air Force for a year. And that was a huge kind of turning point in my career. I said yo, is one of these. We're an aircraft on this, like five-hour mission. Nothing's going on, talking to the pilots.
And then I was like, yeah, I’ve just been stationed a little more. And they're like, oh, yeah, you're like, near the sequoias and get your 70. That's like an hour and a half drive away. And I've been in Lemoore for like four years prior to that. And I was like, and it hit me. I was like, you know what, and I never went to either one of those places in that four years, right? Because I was just too busy, probably drinking on the couch, you know, hanging out with my buddies, wasting my time, you know. And that was a pretty big, I think mindset shift for me.
So when I got back from Afghanistan, and I was back in Lemoore, for a couple months, just getting recurrent on the FA team before I moved up to Fallon. There was like, one morning and I was hanging out on my couch with my buddy. And it was a beautiful day outside and we're just sitting there watching NCIS or whatever, bullshit, whatever's on TV. And I was like, “Dude, let's go on a hike.” He's like, “Yeah, let's do it.” And we got in the car and drove to the sequoias, which is literally an hour, not even, you know, an hour drive went on this awesome hike. And it was like, all my friend doorstep, right?
So it's kind of taken advantages of that. I think the other, so there's this movie called Sideways. It's about these two guys who go on this like, trip to the wine country. And he's telling the story. He's got this land. He's using Paul Giamatti. He's kind of a character, huge wine snob, like super smarter wine, and he's talking to his love interest. And they're talking about this like, great bottle of wine he has, and he's talking about how he's like, I'm waiting for that, like this special occasion to drink that bottle of wine. And you know, the woman's like, what do you drink that bottle of wine? That is the special occasion, right?
Like that is the moment and the movie ends with him like drinking it out of a Styrofoam cup at a Popeyes right, like enjoying’ that wine. I always kind of use that too. Don't wait for that special, that right moment to have, right? Like having kids, all these kinds of stuff like there's never gonna be a right moment. Like you just gotta jump in and do it and find whatever you like and go after it. Now here's where I'll kind of caveat that right and I think you hit on with the military. I want my people in my squadron. I want them to have a life outside the military because that's what makes us grow, right?
If you were just, you work all day, that's gonna burn you out like you need to have a hobby outside of that. And if you're interested in finance, you know, investing, woodworking, working on cars, whatever that kind of stuff is you know, go after, do that. Problem is like okay, if that starts taking away from your ability to do your job when you're at work, we need to have some hard conversations where your priorities are, right? Like I need you to be in the focus on the job with your mind they're doing the work, you know, not kind of just biding your time in my squadron while you're kind of getting this other thing going.
And you know, we started Board and Brush, like I said, I had some time kind of before I started in the squadron that I can help out my wife you know as co-owners, building out, getting it started. But once I kind of got really into my EXO job, you know, I had a stiff you know. We had that conversation. I'm like, “Hey, like, I'm not gonna be able to help with you because my focus has been on the executive officer spot.” Yeah, we had that discussion.
And that made that difference. But, you know, all the other stuff I do, it seems like a lot, but it's so spread out. Yeah, I just, it's more of like, every day, I'm trying to make myself better. It really really comes down to right, like, what am I doing today to make myself a better version of myself than I was yesterday. Working out for me has always been a huge part of that. You know, that's the best way for me to relieve stress. Doing something is getting to the gym, throwing around heavyweight or pulling on a rower.
Twitter has been a great way to kind of, for me to like just kind of throw things against the wall and see what sticks. That's what I've loved about Twitter is it's a way to just interact with people and flesh out, you know, my conversations. Like, you know, me having this conversation with you, which we were able to set up via Twitter, you know, has allowed me to just kind of verbalize my thoughts that maybe I haven't had time to really sit down and have the introspection to do, right? Like all those kinds of moments, helped out.
And then every once in a while, like, hey, there's this something that's I’m passionate about, like, you know, writing this article, or something that all of a sudden kind of comes to me. That being said, I've got like three in the hopper that are just staring me in the face that I can't get through that I like I wanna write these articles, but I'm so terrible at writing them. That now it's just like this stress of like, oh, you're not succeeding today, because you didn't write those articles.
And there's people that are way more prolific than I am, as well. And all mind, I've been pretty, pretty close to the pin on what I do on a daily basis with my job anyway. So it's not that huge of a stress. So, you know, like to really answer your question is like, you just need to get in there and do it. There's never gonna be a right time. If you wait for the right time, next thing you know, it's past you by.
Brock Briggs 1:27:04
I think that that hits the nail on the head. It's really hard to internalize that while you're in. I had no looking back on my time there. It was the farthest thing from a waste. But because I learned so much. And my experience was so positive in hindsight, but in terms of my own personal and professional development outside of the military, I wasted four years not working on and pursuing the things that I found interesting because of something invisible that did actually exist. So I think that you're right, there is no right time.
Colin Price 1:27:46
Yeah. And when people like when people ask me about my time at the Naval Academy, I wasted four years, like, you know, I got an education and ultimately, I became a naval aviator, which was my goal. But like, I slept most of the day, you know. I went to class, slept, got up, went to the gym, worked out and went back to bed, right? Like I didn't, I wasn't an avid reader. I wasn't involved in really any sports, you know. I was kind of in a weird mental state. You know, I had some kind of some mental depression struggles a little bit.
But part of that was probably me not working as hard as I could have while I was there. And I really looked back at my time at the Naval Academy, it's like, “Man, I had some great opportunities there. And I just flushed them away. Because I didn't take that chance.” And that's one of those things that now kind of always in the back of my head, like make your day worth it. Make your day worth it.
You know, I love a nap in the middle of the day and I still do it all the time because sleep is important. Rest is where we, that's where we grow. It's not in the gym, when your muscles grow. It's not while you're awake, that your brain grows. It's while you're sleeping, right? So I do love me some rest as well. But it's trying to take advantage of those snippets of time when I got them.
Brock Briggs 1:29:01
I wanna close out here with two more questions. The first is, do you have any heroes?
Colin Price 1:29:10
No, I don't. I look at and the way to do this is I think so many snippets of everyone, right? Like you hear the old axiom of like you kind of see bad things and good things and you put those all in your toolbox and I am definitely an amalgamation of like everyone I've ever worked with. And you know, I've had some bad leaders and I've had some good leaders. And I've taken snippets out of it.
In some ways I will tell you, my life as a CO, in some ways was almost, a lot of things I did as a CO was like very counter to what my previous COs had done, right? Because I think that resonated with me a little bit more. But no, I kind of look at everyone with a kind of, I'm trying to think of the, like kind of a cynical lie, right? Like I think everyone's got their good sides and bad sides and a lot of go also talk about, it always goes back to me of I have messed up a lot of my stuff my career. And I tried to be very, you know, on Twitter, it's one of things I really liked about Twitter, right? As I can kind of like air, like, hey, I'm not, I don't have all this stuff figured out. There's a lot of things I've screwed up.
And even though I've screwed these things up, I'm able to move on from that and learn from that, right? And that's why I'm trying to like, I really promote the like, not fear of failure, as well. So you know, I like those kinds of stories, but there's not definitely not a certain person I kind of like point at and be like, that's the person I wanna be like. I am a composite of so many different people in parts that wouldn't even know where to begin.
Brock Briggs 1:31:07
Fair enough to get answer. You've mentioned reading a couple times. What are you reading right now?
Colin Price 1:31:14
So I actually just finished up reading, Flying Camelot by Michael Hankins. You know, I try and kind of bounce between fiction and nonfiction. As much as I like nonfiction. Sometimes there's like a man, I just need something I can just sit down and like, zoned out for a while. So actually, the other one I just got into the Interdependency series by John Scalzi. Finished that up, while I was on the carrier for 30 days. I actually got through quite a few books. So that's actually been quite an enjoyable read. I do like my sci-fi. So I think reading fiction is just as important as reading nonfiction.
Brock Briggs 1:31:59
I really need to take that to heart because I really thrust myself into just all sorts of like dry business books, and I need an escape sometimes. So
Colin Price 1:32:12
Yeah, and reading should be an enjoyable experience, even though sometimes reading a business book is enjoyable, right? Reading, you know, I do like to read a lot of biographies. I'm not like a leadership book guy. Like, when people ask me like, what leadership books you read? I'm like, I don't like those kinds of books. They don't really resonate with me. They, but I like reading biographies, again, to see how people have failed and how people have succeeded. I think those are usually a little bit more informative as well.
But man, like you know, I'm still actually making my way through Ron Chernow’s biography of Grant, which is a great book, man. It is dense, and I can do you know, a chapter or two every night but if that's all I'm reading every night it's like no. So I need something where it's some sort of sci-fi or some other fiction book or just something easy to read that keeps me up. Yeah. Because the other actually book, you know, the one book that has this kind of pick up pretty regular now.
I know it's probably all the rage, but you know, I have kind of taken into like, kind of stoic philosophy a little bit more and Marcus Aurelius, you know, reading Meditations, you know, that I was going through, that reading through that while I was in my command store. And that really hit some things for me and it was almost in a way like a warm blanket to pull over that I was like, Man, I think this is this thing that I've been looking for, for so long, like I'm not a big guy in a faith.
And you know, I don't have any of those kind of things that drive me but like, all of a sudden, I was like, hey, this you know, this kind of snapped into my brain and that's a book that I still you know, pick up pretty regularly as well. But again, it's like something you can read in small little snippets for you to get bogged down into it.
Brock Briggs 1:34:03
That's a must read, a personal favorite and never heard it described as a warm blanket, because sometimes it feels like quite the opposite when you're reading it, but yeah, that's interesting. If you're a biography fan, I also very dense and kind of hard to take in a lot at once, but I would definitely recommend Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography.
Very very good
Colin Price 1:34:31
I’ll check that out. I have ever growing stack of books that I have time to read for, as long as this last couple of months has been really nice because I haven't been in school a whole lot but my schedule is gonna get busier in the next couple of weeks. So I think that’s the other one, when you're at school all day, sometimes you just wanna come home and watch Seinfeld episodes on Netflix.
And there's nothing wrong with that right like that's the other part too is like don't beat yourself up because you didn't a book. So you get on social media and this person’s like I read 154 books last year and you're like, Man, I'm a slacker. But don't compare yourself to people on the internet. It never works out well, right? Just last month, it’s actually been a pretty prolific reading environment for me. It’s been nice.
Brock Briggs 1:35:22
Colin, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for your time.
Colin Price 1:35:25
Yeah, Brock, thanks for reaching out. It's good discussion, man. Best of luck to you.