Ask the Chief: the “i” in Chief means “invested”

With the pinning of newly-selected Chief Petty Officers (CPOs) on October 21, 2022, these men and women will be expected to lead their division enlisted personnel in accord with 129 years of tradition and responsibility that comes with the uniform. Anywhere and at any time, a junior enlisted sailor -trying to find a personnel office or an Officer needing stores to be on-loaded, may see that uniform and have an expectation that the Chief will get the job done. While no CPO is assumed to have instantaneous knowledge of every given situation, it is well-known that the Mess can be counted upon to have its collective wisdom to impart.

During the weeks or months preceding the pinning ceremony for new CPOs, a period of training, team building and familiarization known as “Initiation” was a period of ritual, physical conditioning, and service to others. However, there were accusations over the years that some had been victimized by shenanigans that were not in keeping with Navy standards of conduct. Between the early 2000s and 2014, “Initiation” was no longer an authorized term for this training. But during the tenure of MCPON (Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy) West and then Stevens, the program was revamped to align with the core values of the Navy. Under MCPON Giordano, in 2017, “initiation” became an acceptable term again. In a 2021 letter distributed to leading Chief Petty Officers, then-MCPON Smith reiterated, “

“Command Senior Enlisted Leaders will ensure that all selectees are guided through the Teaching to the
Creed syllabus, as these sessions form the backbone of our training effort. Each of our selectees must
understand what is expected of them as a Chief Petty Officer, and leveraging our Creed as the primary focus will accomplish this goal. Additionally, a specific Culture of Excellence and Warrior Toughness training session will be conducted; training materials and instructions will be provided. Other training topics that have historically been included as “additional items” should be carefully weighed to determine the actual value they provide. Laying the Keel (May 2019) remains in effect and provides guidelines and a framework for a successful Initiation. The legacy CPO Selectee Leadership Course (CPO Indoctrination) is officially “sun-downed,” and a new CPO Leader Development Course will be launched next year as part of the Enlisted Leader Development continuum.
The focus of our season is “preparing” our newest Chiefs to enter the Mess, not screening them out….”

Among those who are actively participating as members of the Mess, this testifies to a sense of duty to foster future enlisted leaders that transcends a Chief Petty Officer’s current status (whether serving on Active Duty, in the Reserve, or as a retired “Old Goat”), community (Surface, Submariner, Aviation, etc.), or location (aboard a frigate, working on a Joint Base, or perhaps, a retired “Goat” who works with Reservists as a civilian manager in a local commercial company).

“I decided long ago to become a Chief Petty Officer, and waited until the uniform caught up”

– Senior Chief Petty Officer, Naval Reserve Center Phoenix **

investment is personal

Forty-five years ago, my career aspirations to become a member of this unique ‘salty’ fraternity (male and female) began while I was in a sort of limbo pending the outcome of a medical board deciding my re-enlistment eligibility. I had been assigned duties akin to Brig duty, monitoring misfit sailors in custody prior to being administratively discharged. The Senior Chief Petty Officer a prior Marine Gunnery Sergeant, gave me a “life talk” I still remember. I re-enlisted in the Navy several years later, and was at one point assigned to the Pentagon. There, a Master Chief would pull me aside to ask me what my plans were for a career and to give me suggestions how to proceed to reach them. Though it took nearly twenty more years, ship – and shore- assignments and transfer to the Reserve, I faithfully followed his advice.

Several outstanding Master Chief Petty Officers, who were respected civilian professionals out of uniform, were no less dedicated as Reservists. One after the other, the career and leadership capabilities of enlisted personnel, some recently promoted to Chief Petty Officer, were honed. The Global War on Terror saw many deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, where some lead their Base Chiefs Mess working alongside Army, Marine and Air Force operators (Joint operations became a reality over the last 20 years of war). Returning from the war zone, the experience lead to some to become outstanding leaders and mentors, just as their own mentors had done for them. As a Chief Petty Officer, “investment” is as important as the core values of “Honor”, “Courage”, and “Commitment”.

** The quote from the unnamed SCPO was in response to his own question to a “selectee”, as to when he “became” a Chief Petty Officer. (He intentionally sought out greater responsibilities and mentored his peers, akin to the role of a CPO, until he was himself selected)