Captain, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle
The 73-year-old tall ship Eagle might be one of the most elegant sailing vessels on the high seas, but for U.S. Coast Guard Captain Eric Jones it's a proving ground for 21st-century leaders. Jones took command of the 295-foot three-masted tall ship this summer—the only square-rigger flying the Stars and Stripes. Onboard, Jones oversees a transformative professional development experience that gives future Coast Guard officers the chance to put into practice the navigation, engineering, and professional theory they have learned in the classroom. He commands a permanent crew of six officers and 50 enlisted personnel who maintain the ship and provide a strong base of knowledge and seamanship for the 150 cadets and officer candidates undergoing training.
Jones has spent his life preparing for this command. With a BA in Marine Engineering from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, an MA in Applied Mathematics and Fluid Dynamics from Brown University, and an MBA from MIT Sloan, he worked his way up from deck watch officer and first lieutenant on board the Coast Guard cutter Venturous to executive officer on the cutter Harriet Lane. He taught courses in mathematics and leadership at the Coast Guard Academy and was a workforce and operations reviewer at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington. Before taking the helm of Eagle, he served for two years as Deputy Chief of the Office of Congressional and Government Affairs at U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington.
Jones says he channels everything he learned at MIT Sloan into his command on the high seas. “Going in to the Sloan Fellows Program, I had a whole lot of technical and maritime experience, and I certainly knew a lot about the Coast Guard. What I needed was to understand how organizations work and to learn—through experience—what makes teams flourish.”
As a fellow, Jones was eager to learn how different leaders, different organizations, and different cultures solved problems and achieved goals. He says he found what he was after not just working closely with peers from 22 nations, but also on class trips to New York, Silicon Valley, and South America. “In a relatively small operation like the Coast Guard, an entrepreneurial spirit is important. I learned firsthand how entrepreneurs in this country and in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil are surviving in uncertain times—creatively and intelligently.”
Jones's most recent travels have led him up the east coast from Charleston, South Carolina, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the helm of his tall ship. Along the way, Eagle docked at the Charlestown Navy Yard and Jones took time to host the current class of Sloan Fellows.
“The MIT Sloan Fellows are a strong network,” Jones says, “personally and professionally.” And the Coast Guard, he adds, has its own MIT Sloan Fellows network, starting at the top with Admiral Thad Allen, SF ’89, and Vice Admiral Vivien Crea, SF ’92, who was the highest-ranking woman in the military when she retired this month. “When the Coast Guard is anticipating a thorny challenge,” Jones notes, “they assign a Sloan Fellow to the job.”