Birth of a Chief Petty Officer

written by CTRCS(SW) James Strader

Years ago our Navy required nothing less than the very best from its people.

Numerous Chief Petty Officers today started out as Seaman Recruits working their way through the promotional aisles, each requiring harder effort as the path became more rugged.

The goal, "Be the Chief!" This goal should and has always been a young Sailor's motivation for doing well and working so hard. To meet this goal one could choose a couple of motivating paths of behavior; selfless or selfish.

The selfless path required putting self aside, taking the hard tours, going where the Navy needed you most to satisfy mission objectives at all costs regardless of how many hours a day it took.

The self-serving path, the one that leads strictly to great evaluation reports; forcing one to keep positive perceptions and image alive just for the mark.

Some Chief Petty Officers today really earned their right to wear this proud uniform, they chose the path where an echo of "I" or "me" was inaudible. They not only dedicated numerous hours at their designated watchstation but also many more hours motivating, training, counseling and disciplining their Sailors, the junior ones:

Mission and people, people and mission, that was their "in the Navy 24 hours a day" job.

The self-serving CPOs on the other hand "earned their right" to wear the uniform as well. They played the game, they dedicated numerous hours at their watchstations and spent many hours being at the right place at the right time, taking as many collateral duties as possible. They were their Chief's "right hand man." Right hand because that's where he or she always seemed to be, again, right place, right time (blunt sarcasm).

It is these past motivating behaviors that seem to collide in today's Chief Petty Officer's mess and significantly impacts on the command. Chief's who grew up loving their people learned it all, developing into a multi-purpose platform, skilled enough to handle any crisis. The selfish Chief's who were more concerned with "making the grade" denied themselves an opportunity to learn what being a shipmate is all about.

For those Chief's who truly love their Sailors, being completely concerned with their welfare now and in the future know the term shipmate means more than just wearing the same uniform. It means being committed to each other, it means being in this thing together having nothing without each other. Based on this theory, who is the better Chief Petty Officer?

The Chief who musters his/her personnel on a regular basis for training and communication sake
The Chief who doesn't want to pry or take up much of their Sailors time.

The Chief who listens when the Commanding Officer speaks and then puts it into action as if the idea was originally his or hers.
The Chief whose ideas are much different than the Commanding Officers and doesn't take action. Assumes the "I'm sorry I didn't get the word on that" method.
The Chief who personally ensures his/her personnel are up to date with command mission and events
The Chief who zaps out an email and saves it for future reference in case a report chit is required.
The Chief who counsels and mentors his Leading Petty Officer and actually holds him/her completely responsible for his/her division or section.
The Chief who gives the title to a Petty Officer but never lets them exercise the authority until a counseling is required.
The Chief who knows it all but does nothing
The Chief who knows very little but tries.
The Chief who is concerned with image and takes it very personally when a Sailor embarrasses him or her.
The Chief who is concerned with the matter at hand. The Sailor was bold enough not to do as he or she was instructed.
The Chief that says "We will all muster tomorrow at 1400." All personnel show up because they know the Chief will be there PLUS it won't be pretty if they don't
The Chief that says "Don't forget PRT, pick a date and don't be late." 3 personnel miss PRT, the Chief included. The Chief counsels both Sailors.
The Chief that answers questions with "Check with admin, maybe they'll know."
The Chief that says, "I'll find out."
The Chief that says "You need to take on collateral duties because it will make you competitive."
The Chief that says, "Your personality would be perfect for this collateral duty, its right up your alley. The command needs Sailors like you leading this program."
The Chief who says, "My bust sir, it won't happen again."
The Chief who says, "I told Petty Officer (whoever), I'll counsel him."
The Chief who says, "What are they gonna do, make me retire?"
The Chief who says, "Oh man, I missed the meeting. I better give a courtesy call and apologize.
The Chief who says "When I was a Seaman I didn't need to be told what to do, I just did it."
The Chief who says "If it wasn't for my Chief and LPO I probably wouldn't be a Chief."
That's enough questions to help support the main point and that is; it's irrelevant which path YOU chose to be selected as a Chief Petty Officer if you understand one thing. Your only function now as a Chief Petty Officer are the Sailors that depend on you. Their dependence is involuntary, it's the way the Navy is. As First Class Petty Officers our job was to support the Chief, be a loyal follower looking up to the higher rank. As a Chief Petty Officer you are now required to look up and down the ranks. Both are equally important and should not be taken lightly. Junior Sailors are adults yes, but that does not in anyway make them mature Sailors.

It all paid off, you are a Chief Petty Officer. Now, be the Chief!

Last preventive maintenance on this page December 30, 2005.