A "Mess?" A Brotherhood? An Association? If Chiefs want their "Mess" to feel like a brotherhood, then the love will have to come from within each of us and not just from our President or leader. Many Mess Presidents be they Master Chiefs or elected representatives' normally let "the Mess" dictate where it wants to go. Hopefully all Mess leaders will do the same. But, then begins the time for the "Mess" to look at itself and ask, publicly, where do we want it to go? And if we know, then how do we get there? How? That is a big question. Many times we know what we want or where we want to go, but we don't know the "how" to get there.
There were many people involved at many levels of the initiation process in years gone by. That has always been commendable. But afterwards, the question must be raised: how many Chiefs have enjoyed the fruits of the "Mess" without giving something of themselves to bring up its quality. How many people looked at all of the newly selected Chiefs and realized how important it was to train them right. How many thought that the only opportunity to train them right came only once during the period from selection to pinning and stopped training immediately following September 16th. How many new Chiefs know, that even though they wear the khaki uniform and understand that we are all equal in the "Mess," that there is a difference between a seasoned veteran and a junior Chief Petty Officer? How many new selectees just survived until the 16th and did not really open themselves up to real training, or just thought that the fun and games were simply just that, fun and games? And alternately, how many new Chiefs did not receive quality training when they needed it because it was simply not there to be had? How many of us as Chiefs are guilty of amusing ourselves at the expense of selectees without simultaneously providing them the benefit of quality training. How many of us are really interested in a "Mess" where Chiefs routinely spend time having intelligent discussions about people, places, and equipment and in doing so, draw off of each other in order to become better Chiefs and in turn better the Command and the Navy?
If you take these questions or comments personal, that is fine, because in the mess, you need thick skin. Maybe your skin is too thin to field this type of scrutiny. Maybe you take it personal because you see yourself as "Full up and round." But does a "24/7/full up round" Chief really worry when he or she hears comments calling for the rethinking of what his/her anchors really mean. Or maybe you blow it off because it really doesn't matter to you for reasons like, "I'm retiring soon." Do we really retire from being a Chief? Or maybe you don't care anymore due to a bad experience you had in the past. Where would our Mess be if bad experiences truly dictated what our participation level ultimately is? Maybe there is a misunderstanding of what the sanctity and the privilege of the "Mess" is really all about. Shouldn't take that personal. Isn't it time to take something personal? Maybe it is time to get pissed off at something. Maybe it is time for each member of each Mess to
ask him or herself, all of these question, and then be truthful in their answer. It's time to think about the future of Chiefs! We all need to remember that it is OK to not be as talented as others. It is OK to not have all of the tools we aspire to have, right now. It is OK to not be as good of a "Plate Spinner" as the next person. In a true "Mess" we need to not be afraid to let our shortcomings be known, because a true "Mess" receives all with open arms. Each person brings something unique to the "Mess." What is wrong is, forgetting "the Creed," and riding on the benefits and built in respect the uniform alone brings. We are responsible to uphold the traditions and values of those before us. Are there some negative images of the past that we need to eliminate? Of course, but much of what was gained in the past, may be inadvertently lost if we do not recognize it and strive to maintain it. it. One way for us to do that is through our "Mess" and Chiefs associations across the Navy.
Yes, the "Mess" is social, but it is a whole lot more. And I will venture to say that if we make every "Mess" a "Bar Raising" organization, then the fun we expect and need will simply follow. Look at some of the problems we face. We can't even agree to enforce nor follow Uniform Regs uniformly (i.e. the top button on the all weather coat requires buttoning, look it up you will see!). And, Oh by the way, that is a "Mess" issue. But Oh I forgot, that's right, this is not a "Mess," this is an association where all we do is network with each other. Or you've heard people say, "This is shore duty," or "this is my last tour." Or "I'm not into it like those guys in the cliques." You have heard all of the excuses. But let's never forget that we are all in the same Navy. The Navy where this fraternity, we call the "Mess," was developed. Furthermore, if we don't strive to maintain our identity as Chiefs, we stand to lose a whole lot more than many of us can possibly imagine. I guess what I am trying to say is, "This is a call for all 'Players' to please stand up."
Very Respectfully, ICCS(SW) Fontenot