Part One: You don’t want to miss this two-part episode with Raymond Kemp, Sr.! Why is it two parts? Well, at the 24:55 min mark, Raymond’s audio went out. Part 2 is filled with advice and insights into the current state of the Navy. Be sure to listen.
In Part One, Raymond shares his story of walking into a Naval office to get his new assignment in the IT/technology department and the leader told him that he wouldn’t have “his type/n-word” working in computers. The leader placed all the Black sailors in the lower-level jobs.
Raymond tells us how he managed through that time period. Yeah and BTW, Raymond retired after 33 years in the Navy, met many world leaders (including the Pope) and left as the most senior Black person in the Navy.
His advice? Check out Part 2 of this podcast!
Raymond is a highly experienced Senior Executive in Leadership and Human Resources. He is an accomplished, results-oriented, forward-thinking organizational consultant with over 10 years of experience at the highest levels of the US Navy improving organizational strategies, increasing operational excellence, and boosting the performance of teams and employees in a variety of organizations.
He represented the US Navy at the NATO International Senior Enlisted Seminar, which included briefing over 200 military leaders from African and European nations on leadership development and the value of cooperative agreements. As an Inspector General, he mentored over 300 junior executives, monthly, in leadership best practices and ethics at the Naval Leadership and Ethics Command & Senior Enlisted Academy. He spearheaded the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” through face to face discussion with every crew member under his command for the purpose of building trust/resilience.
Throughout his career, he has completed combat deployments in the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Fleet areas of responsibilities and participated in operation Desert Storm, Operation Restore Hope, Operation Southern Watch, Continue Hope, Sea Angel II, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
Fleet Master Chief Kemp's personal qualifications and awards include the Enlisted Surface Warfare, Enlisted Aviation Warfare, and the Enlisted Information Warfare; two Meritorious Service Medals, four Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, a Combat Action Ribbon, and various unit and campaign awards.
Connect with Raymond to learn more about him and his background:
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Keri [00:00:13] Welcome to the reCHARGE®, Your Life podcast with me, Dr. Keri Ohlrich and Kelly Guenther, we are thrilled to talk to people who have made a decision that reCHARGE® their lives often. They push themselves out of their comfort zones and took risks. We want to know about that decision point. Why did they make that decision? And most importantly, how can we learn from them? Kelly and I are passionate HR professionals, and together we co-founded our HR consulting firm Abbracci Group. We have talked to amazing people throughout our careers and listen to them as they made decisions that changed their lives and knew that these inspirational stories would help others. And why did we call it reCHARGE®? It's based on a book I coauthored called The Way of the HR Warrior. And in it we have a leadership model CHARGE which stands for courage, humility, accuracy, resiliency, goal oriented and exemplary. We know that people used one or more of these qualities to help them make their decisions, and we want to learn from them. Now sit back, listen and be inspired by these stories and then do something to reCHARGE® your life. Let's get to it.
Kelly [00:01:19] Hi, everyone, it's Kelly. We're so honored to have Raymond Kemp, Sr. As our very special guest, Raymond Kemp, Sr. Is a highly experienced senior executive in leadership and human resources. He's an accomplished, results oriented, forward thinking organizational consultant with over 10 years of experience at the highest levels of the US Navy, improving organizational strategies, increasing operational excellence and boosting the performance of teams and employees. He represented the US Navy at the NATO International Senior Enlisted Seminar, which included briefing over two hundred military leaders from African and European nations on leadership development and the value of cooperative agreements. As an inspector general, he mentored over three hundred junior executives monthly in leadership, best practices and ethics at the Naval Leadership and Ethics Command and Senior Enlisted Academy. He spearheaded the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell through face to face discussion with every crew member under his command for the purpose of building trust and resilience. Throughout his career, he's completed combat deployments in the fifth, sixth and Seventh Fleet areas of responsibility and participated in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Restore Hope, Operation Southern Watch, continue Hope Sea Angel to Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Fleet Master Chief Kemp's personal qualifications in awards include the enlisted surface warfare, enlisted Aviation Warfare and Enlisted Information Warfare Award to meritorious service medals for Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, three Navy and Marine Corps achievement medals, a combat action ribbon and various unit and campaign awards. But most importantly, you're on our podcast, which is the most amazing achievement of all right, Raymond?
Raymond [00:03:10] That's right. Thank you very much for the introduction.
Kelly [00:03:15] So so, Raymond, we always like to start our podcast by asking what show, podcast, book or blog do you go to when you want to push yourself and expand your thinking?
Raymond [00:03:25] Right. Thank you for asking the question and thank you for having me on the show. The book or blog...so for me, there is two books that I like to lean on and one blog, the book that I probably go to the most frequently shortest book actually is called As a Man Thinketh by James Alan. And there's just some deep, deep wisdom in there that when I find myself seeking to increase my own belief and increase my own creativity, I'll turn to that book probably most often and grab a sound bite from there are a couple of pages or page even really. And I can get my tank refueled there. The other book is called Execution The Discipline of Getting Things Done. And there's a couple of chapters in there, too, that are very, very encouraging. And then lastly, the the the podcast that I go to is the Quote of the Day show by Sean Croxton. It's about no longer than 12 minutes long and it's usually filled with great nuggets from various stablish people.
Keri [00:04:34] Hi, Raymond, thank you for joining us. As I was as Kelly was reading your bio. I thought, wow, that's what someone who hasn't done much in his life sounds like. I'm just thinking of your kids. Your kids are like, well, I've only gotten one medal, dad. You're like I mean, I have like double digits. But, you know, you can try kiddo's.
Raymond [00:04:59] Every now and then when we go to replace the children, people come up and they'll say hi or whatever, and they'll look at me with that very inquisitive look on their face and say, you've got no idea what that was, do you? It's nothing new. I think I do. I know you don't know, Daddy. Come on. You know everybody. But there's only one of you. And so it's I hope that they're encouraged by the career.
Keri [00:05:23] Yes. Well, I would say. But if they're at least typical kids and Raymond told us she has four children, there's got to be a couple who are not impressed at all, Raymond, that they're like that. Like, I don't know. Yeah, he has all that, but he's just dad is kind of tells dad jokes or whatever.
Raymond [00:05:40] Exactly. The youngest is all the way that all the kids like whatever I like. But I was with the pope, whatever it is. But Benjamin Netanyahu that you know, how about dinner?
Keri [00:05:54] Yeah, I love it. I'm with the Pope. I met the I don't care dad stuff. I'm watching TicTok, so I don't have time. For your part. Thank you for sharing. I love the the podcast quarter of the day. I'm going to have that one. But tell me, did you say as a man think it is that was that the title?
Raymond [00:06:14] Yes. As a Man Thinketh
Keri [00:06:16] I haven't heard of this one. I've heard of executions, one of my favorites, too. But what what is the quote of the chapter of the page when you go there? It's you said to refill your tank. Like, what are some of the insights that it gives you that you're you feel centered again from.
Raymond [00:06:32] Well, I think that in in my life it has been very important for me to have my hand on the thermostat of my attitude. Very, very important. And so one of the the portions of the book is called Visions and Ideals, and it allows me to not feel bad about dreaming big. In fact, one of the quotes, something like he who chooses a beautiful vision and a lofty ideal and his heart will one day realize it. And so for to have a maintain, a solid attitude and elevated attitude, then I have to realize that there'll be challenges along the way. But as long as I persevere, press hard, I can still get to whatever that goal may be. And so just nuggets like that are just filled with really, really small book, but absolutely influential.
Keri [00:07:29] I'm going to steal that. How you said hands on the thermostat of my attitude is super important. Oh, that's the one thing you can't control, control anything else around you or other people that you can't control how you react to it very much.
Raymond [00:07:46] That's so true.
Keri [00:07:47] Yeah. And so and I wanted to say to I want to ask you about that dreaming big. Did you ever feel that people weren't encouraging you to dream big? Like did you have to kind of push through that?
Raymond [00:08:01] Oh yeah. Maybe yeah.
Keri [00:08:04] I would love to hear kind of your insights and how you push through some of that dreaming big and people telling you not to.
Raymond [00:08:10] Well, you know, even so, as a young person, you know, admittedly, I was born in the sixties, raised in the seventies, and I was born in the great nation of Texas, but raised in Oklahoma. And there were in the 70s in Oklahoma. There's a high level of racism that was going on. And I was born to a single mom. My father wasn't my biological father wasn't in my life. And so many occasions I had to teach. And so just kind of mixed in that. So in elementary school, I went to this Episcopal school in Oklahoma City on the west side. I'm very high in school, not really sure how my mom was able to afford it. And then we moved to the east side of town where that was where I attended all black school. Now, the elementary school I went to again was just me. I was I learned early in my life what it's like to be the only one in the room. I'm kind of my black white Onofrio. And so I would go to school and I'm the only one there. I mean, not the yard guy, not the none of the teachers, none of the priests that were there and not the mailman, just me. And I remember one of my teachers one time telling me, you know, you're not going to be anything when you grow up. You're going to be like your dad and you don't even know who that is. And so that was my introduction to people trying to throw shade on my life. So or to water down my dreams of trying to fit me into a box and my mother, I was raised by a fierce angel to my grandmother, my grandmother, well, they were they were amazing, amazing women. And both of them encouraged me in their own way. My mom was really more fierce towards me where my grandmother's more loving. But they both encouraged me to believe that if I had the right attitude and I tried my best, I could attain whatever I wanted. And so, yes, it was having a lofty dream, especially when other people were looking at it was it has been part of my whole life.
Keri [00:10:14] And now look at the look at that teacher and say, did you meet the pope? Yeah, I don't I don't think so. And so I just I appreciate thank you for sharing that, because I think there are so many people who are told that their dreams don't mean much or they can't achieve them. And you said throw shade. I was like, that was that was a bomb versus shade, you know, like a little fighter. Like I said, a little that teacher that was a nuclear bomb that that that person threw. Because that was horrible to say to, you know what how you persevered and how you had people in your corner and and still still accept your dreamer status. And just that that love of the goals and look at everything that you've accomplished. So thank you for sharing that. So that kind of goes into the big question of what is the decision that you made in your life that changed the trajectory of it? And what are some of those charged qualities that you used to make that decision?
Raymond [00:11:13] Hmm. Yeah. So I would say one of the biggest decisions of my life was joining the Navy at 17 right out of high school. I had that. My mom signed the paper. Interestingly, I said she was a she was a fierce warrior. And the one time in my the first time in my whole life that I remember her ever crying was when I would leave the day I was leaving because she was concerned for me and and how I was going to be a 17 year old boys, much of a rabble rouser as I was, was leaving home. And so but that decision to join things could have been a lot different if I would have stayed at home. But once I was in the Navy, I mean, there were a couple of decision points, but one happened in the very beginning. So in in in America, there is a word that is so polarizing that we only use say the word. The word is so polarizing across the entire socioeconomic stratis that we don't even say the word. We just say the letter that the word begins with. And when I joined the Navy with 1986 and I had made my way through boot camp, which was super hard my first time ever, seeing somebody that wasn't black, white or Spanish in my life was when I went to boot camp and my first plane ride to you. In a matter of fact. Anyway, I get to my first year on the 8th of August, I mean the 8th of October in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And I was going in to meet the person who places you in your your work position on the ship. And I joined the Navy to be a data processing technician, information system, technicians that are technologists, I guess what they call them now. But so I get there into his office. I go in, he's got the flag that burnt orange and cream flag of the Texas Longhorns and the Confederate flag are hanging behind them. And so I, I walk in there and he says he's got my file out. And so he closes it. And he looked up at me and he said, So you think you're pretty smart, homeboy. And I looked back at him and I was like, did you looking at my file? But I look back at him because he's a really, really senior person. The master chief. Actually, I look back at him and I was like, well, I was top of the class. And I chose these orders because I was top of the class. Whether I knew he knew that was in my folder. And he says, well, let me tell you something. I don't allow no insert word in word in my computer room. So you are going down to S.H. and so S8 was the supply rehabilitation place. But what I said to him was, OK, so so where is this? Because I was taught by my mom and my grandmother that words really, really don't mean much. It's the actions that go along with those words that oftentimes define them. And so again, raising. Oklahoma in the 70s, I had heard that word super frequently and was totally not offended in any way, shape or form or fashion, and so I said, OK, well, where do I go? And he said, You see that boy sitting out there by the by the by the door. You ask him, he'll tell you where to go. And so I stepped on out of there. Well, when I went in to the supplier and so supply as a department on the ship, its an aircraft carrier. And the division where I was assigned, we were responsible for pulling tile off the deck and painting walls and changing lightbulbs and lots of manual labor, very, very, very, very different from what I had gone to school for. But the thing is, you know, I joined the Navy with the intention of doing 20 years and then going back to Oklahoma. And so when he told me this and he treated me that way, it was it was a bit of a blow. But I mean, I had a plan to finish and I wanted that my mom, my grandmother down. But when I get to the division, what he thought was going to work out for my bad actually worked out for my good because I saw all the other blacks that he had sent down there and I saw them in many different ranks. And so I was like, shucks, well, if they can make that rank because you have to make it five to retire in the Navy. And that was my goal. If you if I see these other people who are wearing five look like me, they can do what I can do it. And so that was the the the chat, the first challenge within my career. But the decision to press on towards my goal, in spite of what he said, was what changed the trajectory of life, the trajectory of my life. And so being courageous enough to press into the unknown was, I think, one of the charges that I used to to have the humility not to run my mouth reckless and talk back and say, hey, this is nineteen eighty six, why are you using that nineteen sixty six language with me. What's important. And then certainly to be resilient because I'll tell you when it rains it pours. And it was raining quite frequently early in my career. And then of course I'm goal oriented and those goals have changed a lot over my life, the first to be five and then make it to the twenty year mark so that I can retire. And what that turned out with it within my career at least, was not only did I make it beyond five, I made it to the thirty three year mark. And when I retired, I was the most senior black person in the Navy, so I worked out of my favor.
Keri [00:17:22] It worked out right. I just was thinking of how we talked about the hand on the thermostat of the attitude. Why did the universe put lots of ignorant people in your way that you really had to control your. That's what I kept thinking about, was your telling the story raiment of how you had at such a young age to write had to go, huh? Wanger goal can be resilient, not going to take the bait, not going to like. I'm just not right. And how like you mentioned your mom helping you. But what else like were you able to take this onslaught of just ignorance and go, oh, I'm going to emerge from all this manure? You're like, oh no, you're not going to take me, dad. I'm going to emerge and I'm going to be the highest ranking black man in the in the Navy. How how? Like, I just go how like I know your mom, but what else about you and the way you look at things that you're able to to keep manage yourself in your own thermostat. So is it to get to the best of you?
Raymond [00:18:35] Well, I think what happened for me a couple of things is that by nature, you know, my my wife is my guest. If you look at it as the why, how and what. Right. My my wife is a better way. So I'm very naturally looking for a better way for things to happen within an organization. And even for myself, though, it's not just business I challenge just by nature. I challenge the status quo and I challenge traditional thinking. I remember just super quick story. I was sitting in a bookstore and my mom about this brand new Volkswagen, nineteen seventy two Super Beetle, and we're sitting in a light and we hear from the back and is new. So she hops out of the car, wheels on back there, talks to this white guy who's driving the car who stayed in the car while she was talking to him. Again, this is nineteen seventy two so probably. 1973. Anyway, she hops back in the car and I'm standing in the front seat, are standing on the floorboard in the front seat on the path to sign. And she goes, hmm, well, apparently I roll back into him, but it showed me at a very, very young age, don't be a pop. You know, if you think something wrong, say something. If you think that there is something that's not happening the way it ought to be, then question it. And then I'm also. So that's my why my how my my what. Ultimately, I contribute, you know, I make things better if not for myself, for people, and it's not for me and for the era that I am in that particular situation down the road, it will end up being better. And so what happened for me and the way I was able to endure this onslaught of nonsense was, one, my internal beliefs. And then two, it just worked out where there would always be somebody else who would I could kind of latch onto and either draw some synergy or, you know, get some momentum from. And there's other times in my career, plenty of times in my career where I was enduring something like that, even my own thinking, thinking. Right. So I thought that this advancement process that we had in the Navy was slighted and and it was set against black people and black people can't get it passed and so forth. I didn't want to see me. There was no evidence, no visual evidence that black people were getting advanced in my career. But I also thought, you know, that the quote unquote, the man or the system was set up to hold me down and early in my career. So I was like, man, that's some B.S. right there. You can overcome whatever whatever you go up against. This is a meritocracy. And so the harder you work, it'll work out in your favor. And they're just guys. His name is Anthony Harp's. He's actually the librarian at the Naval Academy. Now, he said, man, you might be the one who makes it. And what he was talking to talking about was actually making it up to the rank E seven. And, you know, things things worked out in my favor. So a number of SOP points in my career. There was somebody like Anthony Harp's who gave me some encouragement. And I would say another big change in my life was with Fred Hyde. He was a mentor before we even called him mentors. And he said to me, look, the Navy is doing all they can do. The rest is up to you. So you need to work harder and get more agile than your studying process so that you can make it to the next rank. And the next thing you know, I did and made it to nine and fleet master chief. And as I say, the rest is history.
Keri [00:22:28] Yeah, starting with your mom and your grandma. You've had these mentor. Now we have the word for it. But these significant people in your life and there's so much research that shows just one person changes a person's life. So that kind of that mentorship, that person talking to the librarian can help shift your your life. I want to go back, Raven, to the decision to join the Navy. Was that an easy decision for you? You were young, like you said your mom had to sign off. Right. What were some of the the the thoughts that were going through your head in in deciding to join the military?
Raymond [00:23:08] Well, for me, I had the I had a really tough time in elementary school. I was failing a lot. And by the time I got to high school on the east side of town, then I had a really good, challenging teacher, you know, who helped me understand that if I study, then, you know, that process really works. You study, you learn and you can test well. And so I ended up being a really good high school student. However, I really didn't like it. And I was a good athlete and I had the opportunity for some scholarships and was offered some scholarships. But I wouldn't pay because my family couldn't pay it. It didn't it wouldn't pay for me to go to school. And I just didn't have enough examples of how to do that, how to go to school, work your way through in that type of thing. I just didn't have it. And so my mother was like, well, you know, you got to work or you got to do something. And so I chose to join the Navy and and just be out of the house. And all of the the things that went along with what living in that household I was able to make my way out of and get out of my own home.
Keri [00:24:19] So rarely talked about that. You have four wonderful children. So what advice do you give them? Because you have lived the life. I mean, you have so much you. The highs, the lows, the shade, the bombs, the literal and figurative bombs. So what when you look at your at your four kids, what's the advice that you give them or when you're talking at that at the military academy and giving advice to leaders, what's what's the advice that you give? Raymond. Well everyone, Raymond was there. While everyone Raymond was there, oh, here he comes back, Raymond. No, oh, no. We could go on with Raymond for hours and hours, I think, Kelly. We certainly could. The stories and the like holy smoke. The people that have talked to him in the horrible ways and how he's come through it. And then I want to hear all the stories when he met the Pope and all these other people from the
Kelly [00:26:02] And the ultimate the ultimate being the most tenured Black person in the entire Navy like that, to me is the ultimate. Mic, drop moment.
Keri [00:26:12] That's the highest ranking, right? Yeah, and so thirty three years. Amazing, amazing, amazing. So but Raymond's not back, so I don't know where Raymond went on that show. So having technology issues and I think we might have to have a part two then, Kelly, may we enter now and then we get Raymond back to talk about advice, because I know people are going to want to listen to his advice. So maybe we should just stop now, Kel, and then hopefully get Raymond back on the advice portion of our podcast, because I don't think anyone wants to miss that. Sounds good.