by Van Carpenter, DANC Communications Committee Chair
Keep the Faith!
These may sound like the words of an evangelical preacher or the rally cry for a political activist, but they are not! They are the impassioned call to action for the Defense Alliance of North Carolina’s (DANC) membership and leadership. They were sounded by the new Chairman of the DANC Executive Board, Lieutenant General Mark A. Brilakis, USMC Retired, or Mark as most of his colleagues and friends know him. Welcome aboard Chairman Brilakis.
The following article is based on his recent interview and is intended to introduce our new DANC Chairman to the DANC membership and to our partners.
We started off the interview asking him about some of the highlights of his military career. As one would expect, they were too numerous to capture, but he immediately remembered disaster relief missions he accomplished in the Philippines and Japan and how rewarding they were to him and the troops he commanded. He stated that he enjoyed it because he got to work with all levels of government from the Ambassador all the way down to the relief workers in the field.
“Marines were grateful to have the experience. They had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were helping people and reducing suffering…probably the most important things they had done in the Marine Corps.” It stands out in his memory.
Mark and his family served three tours in Camp Lejeune – about 9 years in NC. “We grew to love the Crystal coast.” Although stationed in Camp Lejeune, he remembered how he also spent a lot of time at Ft. Bragg training and what a great host the Army was for his units. He also grew to understand and have an appreciation of the Defense Industry and its role in North Carolina while stationed here. After retirement, moving to NC was not a hard decision.
“Latter part of my career, I spent a lot of time learning the art of Senior Executive Leadership and gained experience using Finance, Personnel management, Organizational management and making tough decisions. And I believe those skills, combined with a personal passion for mission, was going to help me contribute to understanding the DANC mission of strengthening North Carolina’s Defense Sector and those that support it.” And, quite frankly he concluded, “I am a Tarheel now. I live in NC and pay taxes and do all those things that a good citizen does.”
He went on to elaborate that there are numerous businesses in North Carolina and that they are untapped resources for the NC Defense Industry. “If we can make those businesses stronger and create more, better-paying jobs, it’s good for the State and the people of North Carolina.” His expressed desire was that he could apply all that he had learned and collaborate with his other team members and move the DANC mission forward in the State.
He spent a lot of time doing strategic planning and resource allocation decision in the Marine Corps, responsibilities that prepared him to testify to committees on Capitol hill and other related legislative activities. He further commented, “if I need to go to Raleigh and shake hands and talk with lawmakers, I am comfortable with that.” He went on to comment that the secret to good legislative and government relations was to ensure the staffers and make sure they get your message because they very often have a significant role in making things happen.
The definition of leadership back in his initial officer candidate school days was “to influence people in such a way as to accomplish the mission.” He has found that although this is a pretty simple definition, it continues to hold up as a valid definition of leadership for him. He went on to say that in an organization like DANC, comprised of successful business executives and entrepreneurs as well as Flag and General officers, it is important in moving forward, to rely on one’s ability “to share a vision, offer persuasive arguments and create consensus.” He continued by saying that over time you need to develop these last three capabilities so that they become embedded with your basic leadership definition. This is particularly necessary when:
- one becomes more senior,
- has to deal with equally powerful counterparts and,
- when dealing with the complex matrix of today’s business and government environments to establish any shared direction.
He summarized by personally committing to all the DANC membership and board members that they “can always count on me to be open-minded, willing to listen, and frank in sharing my thoughts.”
Mark started by saying that he was not the new guy here at the head of DANC., he was just the latest. That gave him some advantages because he didn’t have to invent anything or get it started. He further added, ”what I am doing is modifying the airplane while it’s in flight.” In his flight plan, he outlined some ongoing activities that were of vital importance to him and attention from DANC. They included:
- Cluster studies – Require our ongoing close attention to development and to support with the necessary resources.
- Forums and Roundtables – Continue to present experts and valid options and opportunity to our membership during the Pandemic and beyond.
- Membership – Continue to listen, define and address the needs and desires of our membership
- Partnering – Completing a memorandum of understanding with the North Carolina Military Business Center (NCMBC) that will help to align our efforts and provide mutual support to enable more opportunity development for North Carolina.
- Strategic View – Undertake a long-term study of DANC and how we will be positioned and resourced in the future for our mission.
There are always challenges to accomplishing our mission. “We are striving with other organizations in NC to perfect the Art of the Possible.” He went onto describe DANC’s need to understand and form mutually beneficial partnerships with other defense-related organizations and collaborating with these groups in our state in order to jointly accomplish the possible. He suggested that we also need to continue to work closely with local, state and US legislative representatives in order to make a difference in the state’s defense economy through effective government and legislative relations.
He stated that DANC can reflect and be proud of our accomplishments in the past, but for the future we need to continue being a voice for collaboration, resource development and partnering together in order to accomplish initiatives within the state that are difficult for government alone to achieve. He concluded by saying “DANC should be playing that middle role in the Venn Diagram that sits between business, the military, and the local and state governments. It’s that little sweet spot in the middle.”
He concluded his thoughts by suggesting that DANC partner, collaborate and facilitate a path that strengthens the Defense economy in North Carolina and continues to move the state forward in attracting their appropriate share of defense dollars and opportunity.
How Can Members Help?
His immediate reply was that members should “Speak out! …speak out to other businesses that are not part of the DANC membership and who they see can benefit and contribute to our mission and benefit from our ultimate successes. And, to speak out to us when they need something to make them more successful.”
He went on to describe that we as an organization are successful and accomplish our mission because the resources necessary to do the work come from the contributions of time and money from our members. He noted that DANC has undertaken a “couple of big lifts” for the state and the defense industry. He understands that the DANC organization and its leadership need to be prepared to accomplish these goals.
“It will take continued planning, identification of resources and a continued willingness of membership to speak out, add value, and assist and support the ongoing efforts.”
Further, he said the DANC membership needs to “have faith! They need to have faith in the activity and the original reason that they joined.” He explained further that just because you don’t see anything happening that directly benefits you, have faith that it will happen in the near future. Again, speak out if it isn’t happening and let your needs be known. Become part of the solution. Share your ideas upward! He expressed his assurance that the knowledge and expertise of our membership will be the innovative and collaborative glue that keeps us moving forward and successful. He strongly encouraged all of DANC membership to keep Speaking Out, Having Faith and Staying in Action! We expressed the need to continually show what we can do as an organization and let others know what we are doing.
In conclusion, Mark enthusiastically stated, “DANC, its membership, Executive Board and Management Council are comprised of terrific talent and committed professionals. I am both proud and encouraged to be serving amongst them in this great organization.”
About the DANC Communications Committee Chair:
Van Carpenter (US Navy Retired) is a global business change agent, advisor and communicator. He regularly advises, coaches, speaks and trains on innovation, creative change, catalyst communications & marketing, and adaptive leadership. Van has over thirty plus years of entrepreneurial and executive experience in corporate, government, military, marketing, agency and entrepreneurial sectors. He brings his unique blend of diverse experience, business acumen, humor, and real-world perspective to both his advice and communication.
Van is a retired Commander in the Naval Reserve. He lives near Clayton NC with his wife Deborah and is currently hanging out in the “basement office” while managing his business consulting and innovation group – Van Carpenter Innovative Solutions. Contact him anytime at 919-539-3499 or email him your topic suggestions to email@example.com.