Ask the Chief: Seaman to Admiral program

While developing talented junior enlisted and officers into highly-skilled and effective leaders is a goal of the military in general, some leaders’ examples are more inspirational than others. During the late 1990s, aboard the destroyer USS PETERSON, commanded at the time by a former “snipe” (nickname for a member of the Engineering Department), the mission effectiveness and morale of the crew were exceptional, earning the ship awards from the combatant commander. It may have been his model of leadership that inspired a shipmate in my work center, and a Boatswains Mate (another division in the Operations Department) to apply and be accepted for, commissioning. Recently I learned that a peer Cryptologic Technician Maintainer (CTM), with whom I served in the early 1990s, is now a Captain who serves as Commander of Information Warfare Training Command, Pensacola, Florida.

I had the privilege of working for two commanding officers who had begun their careers as an enlisted Seaman Recruit and retired forty years later as Rear Admiral. Both were inspirational in developing military professionals, both officer and enlisted. Officers who modeled the standards set by these COs, became commanding officers in later years. These same units produced enlisted members who rose to become unit Senior Enlisted Leaders, achieve the highest rank of Master Chief Petty Officer in their respective Ratings, and some of these same MCPOs became their Rating’s Enlisted Community Manager.

It has been nearly thirty years since the Navy established a career path for enlisted Sailors to seek a commission. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Mike Boorda was the first Sailor to start a career as an enlisted man, receive a commissioning, and promote all the way to the highest rank and office in the Navy. It was he who instituted the “Seaman to Admiral Program”, now referred to as STA-21. Each year, exceptional male and female enlisted sailors may apply to become officers. July is the cutoff for applications to be received for the following year.

From websites such as Station Hypo, which posts stories of the history and personnel of the Navy Information Warfare (and Cryptology) community as well as the official website of the Navy Public Affairs office, the news that men and women have set the bar for others to model. Like the story of Mark Burns, Navy SEAL and Rear Admiral, his insight, having attained Flag rank, will inspire others to pursue what is possible.

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