When I wandered over to the Paint desk at my local Lowes, I had been tasked by my favorite “Admiral”, my spouse, to rehab our kitchen. This is where “Boats” comes in. Retired Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate, was, appropriately enough, working the Paint counter at Lowes the day I came looking for “cabinet” paint. I was wearing one of my favorite Retired CPO shirts, and we connected. During my career afloat in the Navy, I learned that salt water corrodes metal seven days a week, so it was a continual task for our Deck Division to chip paint and remove rust, and apply new. When it was needed, all hands took part in priming and painting.
Though our residence has never put to sea, periodic painting inside and outside is considered routine. At least, for married homeowners. My neighbor across the street completely rebuilt their kitchen at the behest of his spouse. Fortunately, I have a fiscally understanding Chain of Command. Since I am not a professional painter, Boats told me about cabinet paint and how to prepare the surfaces for painting. I bought a small can of primer, tinted to what we think we like, today. With friends coming over to dinner this week, I only got started before it was time to pack it up. Long ago, the mission would have been ’round the clock, to prepare everything for dignitaries arriving. Unfortunately, Senior Chief will be unavoidably detained.
A Thursday evening discussion with an acquaintance over cigars, as retired Navy Chiefs, we were amicably discussing the Navy “salty” life, adventure, and places familiar to each of us around the world. With a lifetime of experience including travel to the same parts of former Soviet bloc countries, we then opined on 21st Century socialist nations. While rigid politically, some tacitly approve of workers ‘capitalist’ use of an underground economy to support their families. He illustrated discussing the merits of fine Cuban cigars he obtained. Skilled cigar rollers have access to tobacco, paper and other accessories to make – after the day’s production was completed and inventoried – some personal cigars to provide under-the-table income. He learned of accessing such side channels during global business travel. And tonight, the ‘entrepreneurial’ wheels in my mind started turning. In a Progressive future, there will always be those who obtain – and those who will then purchase – a premier cigar.
It’s a birthday celebrated by a whole lot of people. Navy people, specifically, and to whom, the shortened form of applicable address, such as “Good Morning, Chief”, “Senior”, “CMC”, etc is heartwarming even to a Chief retired now for nine years. On April 1st, 1893 the United States Navy formally instituted the paygrade of Chief Petty Officer (CPO). How does one become a Chief? To echo a Brother Senior Chief many years ago, posing the question of a “Selectee” (and then answering her bewildered look), “I decided to work and act like a Chief Petty Officer. Then waited for the uniform to catch up.”
Together with rating examination scores, selection eligibility criteria, and a service record review by a board of senior Chief Petty Officers, candidates are selected. And once selected, a process of mentorship, instruction, leadership exercises and camaraderie ensues. This had been, and after a brief adjustment period, was reinstituted: the CPO initiation. Those of us who were selected to the rank of CPO, in whichever specialty rating we served, whether male or female, Active Duty or Retired, are all Brothers and Sisters in a worldwide fellowship, the Chief Petty Officer Mess. And in the grand scheme, the CPO takes care of the enlisted, mentors junior officers, executes the mission, all while leading from the Deckplate level.
For more on the history of the Chief Petty Officer, see this link to the Navy publication All Hands.
A long time ago I was a young sailor. On a couple of occasions I recall seeing a Chief Petty Officer wearing his Dress Blues, and the hash marks (service stripes) on his sleeve ran from cuff to his elbow. One time I saw a Second Class Petty Officer in his dress blues who I joked crewed with Noah, by the years represented on his uniform. More often than not I would see “red” instead of the “gold”. For those who are unfamiliar with hash marks, or Navy uniforms, these once represented four-year periods of service (now they represent 3-years). After twelve years of “good conduct” – we earned a “Good Conduct” medal/ ribbon for each four-year period – we had the right to wear gold-threaded rating badges and hash marks on our service blues – either the “Cracker Jacks” for junior Sailors, or the Chief’s Dress Blues.
The Chief pictured here, and in particular, the Master Chief (the rating badge with two stars, red stripes, and hash marks to his elbow) seems to be a shipmate of mine from the days of Sail. However, he screwed up somewhere. Probably chewing out a junior officer over one of the Sailors – or stupidity that the Officer committed. And he didn’t get punished badly. He just didn’t earn a “Good Conduct” ribbon somewhere in the previous twelve years!
But you do not become a Master Chief Petty Officer by being a screw up. Or a “politician”. We could use a few more of these “Salty Sailors”, particularly in our universities and halls of Government. But then they would never earn gold hash marks. Too much stupidity. Too many opportunities to cuss out kids, professors and politicians for unprofessional conduct.