A Rear Admiral was honored Monday as an honorary Chief Petty Officer (CPO). It was also the occasion of that warrior’s retirement ceremony at United States Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
The retired and active Chiefs, Officers, military members, and friends came to Nebraska to celebrate her career. Cryptologist. Linguist. Commanding Officer. Warfighter. One speaker rightly said, that those of us whom she lead during her 38- year career “would have gone through a brick wall had she asked”.
The choice of the 16th of September for the Admiral’s retirement ceremony was deliberate. It is the traditional date of pinning new CPOs with their “anchors”. It was also to honor her late elder brother who inspired her 38 years ago to enlist in the Navy. His untimely passing twenty years ago, her husband’s (a retired Marine Colonel) 30- some years support, and Sailors under her command, made her the “Sailor’s Admiral”.
In the USA, fewer than ten percent of living Americans have ever served in the military. Among these, far fewer have served in units dedicated to Command, Control, Communications, Combat Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR). In the Navy Reserve, those Cryptologic and Information Warfare Sailors currently serving at the highest enlisted ranks might fill a conference room. Similarly counted, are those Navy Officers who began careers as enlisted members. When selected to Flag rank, Rear Admiral Sommer-Weddington was one of a very few selected who embodied the “Sailor to Admiral” career. Someone, paraphrasing the commanding general of STRATCOM, whose character, leadership, and ability to do the difficult jobs allowed her a role of gravest national responsibility.
But above and beyond that, we celebrated her as that rare individual whom the Chiefs Mess (with concurrence of the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy) elevated to Chief Petty Officer. Her late brother would have approved.
“Navy Chief! Navy Pride!”