Lieutenant Colonel Terry Baggett ’92, USMC (Ret.), remembers Midshipman Thomas R. “TR” Buchanan ’92, dashing out of their Bancroft Hall room to accept responsibility.

Baggett said when he or another roommate faced consequences for some minor infraction, Buchanan would quickly be by their side.

“If one of us was in trouble, all of us were in trouble,” Baggett said. “It lets you know you can really rely on somebody.”

Buchanan and Baggett were roommates from plebe year through their graduation in 1992. Baggett said his fellow systems engineering major’s intensity and loyalty translated into success for more than himself.

Always focused and forever running at maximum speed, Buchanan would dive into his studies and ensure Baggett was keeping pace.

“He doesn’t slack on anything, including dragging me along with him so I understood what was going on,” Baggett said. “He wasn’t going to let me fail.”

“He was always setting a high standard for himself and other people.”

Those qualities will serve Captain TR Buchanan ’92, USN, well in his new role as Commandant of Midshipmen. Buchanan took the reins from Rear Admiral (Sel.) Robert B. Chadwick II ’91, USN, on 28 May. Those who know Buchanan best say he is a tireless worker driven to deliver positive change. He’s a conscientious relationship builder whose sense of accomplishment is tied to his team’s success.

Family members and classmates expect Buchanan to tap his relentless drive to tackle his priorities as Commandant. Those include the ongoing objective to curb sexual assault and alcohol-related incidents.

Past successes don’t distract the United States Naval Academy’s 88th Commandant of Midshipmen from his next mission. Buchanan operates on the premise that “you’re only as good as your last event.”

A lesson in humility and leadership from Admiral Frank “Skip” Bowman, USN (Ret.), helped sharpen Buchanan’s focus. For Bowman, ego and arrogance had no place in the Navy and Marine Corps team. Buchanan served as an aide to Bowman, who was then director of Naval Reactors.

Buchanan said growth comes from putting constructive criticism lessons into practice. “If you always keep that in the back of your mind, you’ll always work hard to improve,” Buchanan said.


Buchanan’s post-graduate career includes service in attack and ballistic missile submarines. He spent time in Asheville, Florida and Norfolk. He also commanded Albany.

He was responsible for the training and certification of all operational Atlantic-based Strategic Ballistic Missile Submarines while commodore of Submarine Squadron Twenty.

Each assignment provided leadership and preparedness lessons. Buchanan was reminded of the value of those attributes after the submarine force changed its engineering readiness inspection policy. The policy change included more surprise exams, which came with only 72 hours’ notice.

Buchanan identified a team to perform exercises with a strike group and an opposing force vessel as his ship prepared to enter a shipyard. He said he took what he thought was the minimum personnel needed.

“We hadn’t planned how we were going to keep the teams sharp in preparation for what could have been a possible exam,” he said. “Because I had taken a longer view getting ready for the shipyard, I had key members of my team [performing other duties].”

“We hadn’t done the proper sharpening of our knives while we were underway to keep ourselves ready for a potential (inspection). We took our eye off the ball a little bit.”

He said his unit was training just to be ready instead of taking a broad approach to keeping everybody sharp. Buchanan said his team didn’t fail the exam, but the review didn’t reflect the level at which he expected his team to perform.

“It was a good lesson,” he said. “It humbled me and the crew.”

Success hinges on constant learning and improvement, Buchanan said. It also requires strategies that unite your group. Buchanan has leaned on those traits since arriving at the Naval Academy.

Finding ways to bring people together regardless of their talents is key, he said. It’s also crucial to fight complacency.

He embraces critiques as a tool for growth.

“You have to be receptive and willing to open yourself up to be taught by those around you,” Buchanan said. “That is a critical core skill that all naval officers need.”


After leading St. Patrick–St. Vincent (Vallejo, CA) High School’s soccer team to its first section championship during his senior season, Buchanan learned patience with the Naval Academy’s soccer program. Describing himself as a “grinder,” Buchanan started on the junior varsity squad. He says he wasn’t the fastest or most skilled player on the team, but he was always pursuing improvement.

He moved to varsity as a second class midshipman. As a firstie, Buchanan finally saw significant playing time. That team won 12 games, including a victory over Army.

Buchanan’s high school and college teammates credited his success to a tireless work ethic. His desire and determination pushed others to reach their potential.

“That pays dividends over the long haul,” Buchanan said.

Captain Rich Bassi ’92, USN, was Buchanan’s teammate at the Academy. He said Buchanan wouldn’t be outworked.

Midshipmen will benefit from his drive and commitment, Bassi said.

“His desire to excel has been evident since day one,” Bassi said. “He goes 100 percent at everything he does … It didn’t surprise me that TR was in command as often as he was. He was all about putting his people first.”

“It was about the success of the team. There were times he didn’t play, and there was no pouting. That’s what makes him such a good leader. His success comes from the success of his people.”

Buchanan’s even temperament and modesty make him a natural leader, said high school teammate Duane Gee. Although Buchanan was the star midfielder, Gee said he treated everyone equally.

“He has the ability to bring everybody up to be the best they can be and to work for the greater cause,” Gee said.

The challenges and adversity Buchanan faced fighting for playing time reinforced the value of perseverance. While rigorous and, at times, daunting, fulfilling the requirements needed to get to graduation day prepares midshipmen to be leaders.

“The greatest lesson of this experience was perseverance,” Buchanan said of his time at the Academy. “It will beat you down. You have to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and get on with it. You have to continue to grind and be resilient through adversity.”


Buchanan said his time aboard submarines helped shape his leadership style and highlighted the importance of teamwork. He said the two-party verification process required when rigging a ship for a dive illuminates the significance of trust, competence and job ownership.

Attention to detail and procedure are paramount when every life on a submarine depends on each individual doing their part.

“Everyone is a damage controlman,” he said. “Everybody fights the ship, whether you’re in the engine lower level or in the control room. Everybody has a role to play. We want everyone on the submarine to be a valued contributor to the operation of that submarine.

“If there’s a problem, everyone responds.”

Although he followed a similar path as his father, Rear Admiral Richard A. Buchanan ’68, USN (Ret.), Buchanan said joining the submarine force wasn’t compulsory. The new Commandant said his father steered him toward options other than submarines.

Rear Admiral Buchanan served much of his 30 years in the Navy aboard or commanding submarines. Buchanan said his course was set after his first class cruise, when his ship provided support following the 1991 Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption in the Philippines.

He said he was sold when he saw the tight-knit operation of the crew.

“There was an attractiveness put into my mind that it would be a good fit for me,” he said.

That pivotal moment sparked a career which includes serving on the Chief of Naval Operations’ staff and serving in the Middle East as the officer-in-charge of Commander, Task Force 54 Detachment Bahrain. He was the lead shipbuilding analyst in the Programming Division of the CNO’s staff. He served as special assistant to the Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command, and recently completed an assignment as the executive assistant to the director of the Joint Staff.
As commandant, Buchanan is responsible for the day-to-day conduct, military training and professional development of more than 4,400 midshipmen. His role is similar to the dean of students at a civilian university.

Entering his new role, Buchanan plans to build on the efforts of his predecessor with respect to educating midshipmen about and preventing sexual assault. While the Academy has made strides reducing alcohol-related incidents and sexual harassment and assault, more work is required, he said.

Buchanan wants midshipmen to be leaders and consistently demonstrate the morals and ethics expected of them.

“We need to be better than our peers in that regard,” he said. “We ask them to serve in positions of responsibility. There’s no place for [sexual assault or harassment].”


Friends marvel at Buchanan’s work ethic. His former Academy soccer teammate Bassi compared him to the Energizer Bunny because he always seems to be in motion.

Buchanan’s drive started at home. While his father’s career included commanding the Trident missile submarine fleet, his mother, Theresa, became a registered nurse, then earned a law degree.

Buchanan’s intensity is balanced with humility and the ability to pull people together, friends and family said. His wife, Kelly, said his personality will be an asset as Commandant.

“He’s not shy about reaching out and engaging people,” she said. “He wants to know peoples’ stories, where they come from and what challenges they may have had in their lives.”

“He will know their names and where they’re from. That’s very important to him.”

Watch the Video: A Word from the 'Dant on Faith Formation


Source: Shipmate: July-August 2019