Chief concerns


MCPON Campa outlines visions, goals for the mess


By Mark D. Faram


Staff writer


In case you hadn't noticed, there's a new MCPON in town. And he's quickly putting his stamp on key issues affecting the enlisted work force.


Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SW/FMF) Joe Campa Jr. recently has issued new mandates and vision statements to chiefs.


And more rules and regulations for senior enlisted leaders and their charges are coming down the pike.


Campa's goal is to have chiefs back on the deck plates doing what they do best: training junior sailors and officers, enforcing standards and being the backbone of the Navy.


To that end, Campa rolled out a series of new action items associated with his new "Mission, Vision and Guiding Principles" statement. Among the highlights:


E-7 chiefs will be admitted to the Senior Enlisted Academy beginning in February.


Chiefs' messes ashore will be restructured to mirror at-sea messes.


Chiefs will more strictly enforce conduct standards.


Chiefs will be chiefs, not officers. Campa made it clear he supports the Navy's "intentional, effective distinction between the wardroom and chiefs' mess."


And, borrowing another technique from the Navy's past, he wants more chiefs to sit down with their white hats and teach them the Navy's history and how it applies to their lives and jobs today.


Campa says these moves are just the first glimpse of his "way ahead."


And while chiefs are his main target, all sailors will feel the bow wave.


"These things will filter down to our petty officers through the chiefs' mess," he said.


Campa contends that petty officers aspiring to wear anchors should use the guiding principles as a roadmap to get there.


By the end of fiscal 2007, performance indicators such as evaluations and Sailor of the Year nominations should reflect how closely senior petty officers are following the guidance, he said.


Campa said he plans a staggered rollout of action items associated with his mission, vision and guiding principles.


"In the next several months, you are going to see 'Mission, Vision and Guiding Principles' lessons inserted into the training plans of every leadership school the Navy offers," Campa told nearly 300 assembled chief petty officers Jan. 8 in Millington, Tenn. "I'm going to task schools like the Senior Enlisted Academy with examining how it relates to our core values, our CPO Creed and our Sailor's Creed."


The Decatur experiment


Earlier this month, the Navy announced an end to the two-year experiment in which chief petty officers filled many of the 24 division officer jobs on the San Diego-based destroyer Decatur. While chiefs did the job successfully, officials said, the ship's overall leadership profile suffered. And for now, on most warships, the concept is dead. The reasons behind the decision directly mirror Campa's new vision.


"I don't believe in 'blurring the lines,'" Campa told Navy Times in a recent interview in his Pentagon office. "Leadership on the division and deck-plate level is a leadership dynamic that requires two people."


That's why, he told the Millington chiefs, he intends to make it "clear to the entire fleet that the there is an intentional and very effective separation between the wardroom and the chiefs' mess.


"That relationship that the officer and chief establish is the foundation for further success for both of them as leaders."


At-sea mentality


Campa's new direction for chiefs will be brokered through various chiefs' messes, both ashore and afloat, and even those organizations are in for some changes.


"Guidance will be released this summer that will detail the operations of chiefs' messes afloat and ashore," Campa said "No longer will there be realistic or philosophical differences between the two."


He stressed that a "chiefs' mess is a mess, at sea or ashore."


Good seagoing messes develop a special dynamic because the chiefs live, eat and work together constantly, he said. Campa said he wants to foster that same dynamic ashore.


Some messes are already doing this, he said, but many ashore chiefs' associations aren't clearly focused on sailor issues. He said he wants them to be less of a social or fraternal organization and more of an advocacy group for sailor development and leadership.


"I'm not saying what they are doing now is wrong," he said. "Those groups do a pretty good job of connecting commands to the community through many very valid projects, but I want to see what we can do beyond that."


Shore-based chiefs should continue to focus on community projects, Campa said, but they should also spend time focusing on issues that are impacting their junior sailors. In Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, Navy chiefs ensure their deployed sailors know how to properly wear the Army combat uniforms, and ensure sailors are put in for individual awards, then guide those requests through the system, Campa said. "And they have become advocates for the sailors in dealing with the Army's chain of command."


Shore-based messes should focus on such sailor-oriented priorities, he contends.


Lead sailors, enforce standards


The principals of good deck-plate leadership have not changed much in 110 years, Campa said.


"I think our sailors respond best to leaders who walk the talk," Campa said, "You must first and foremost lead by example."


To that end, Campa is telling chiefs that he expects the chiefs' mess to enforce all the Navy's standards, both occupational and military.


He said a common misconception is that enforcing standards only applies to correcting sailors when it comes to the proper wearing of uniforms.


"We've used that as an example for years, because it's easy to understand - but this [new direction] goes way beyond that," he said. "Chiefs are the experts. They know what the standards of performance are in their specialty, and they must see to it that their sailors know their expectations," Campa said.


He wants chiefs to exercise dynamic initiative. Don't be afraid to stop a young sailor whose work may be passable, but not optimal, he said.


"If nothing else, it's an opportunity to teach. If you show interest in what your sailors are doing, you'll enhance their performance."


But duty as a chief doesn't stop at the watertight door to the work center or even the brow of the ship, he said.


"We must talk about standards of conduct with our sailors, both on and off duty," he said.


This means if a chief sees any sailor doing things that are questionable on liberty, a leader should never turn a blind eye just because that sailor belongs to a different division or even ship.


"We just can't do that," he said. "A chief would not be doing their job, would not be living up to the full measure of their duty, if they did not engage sailors they see involved in less-than-acceptable conduct.


"The thing about being a chief is that every sailor belongs to you, and I would expect them to do what was necessary to get that sailor back on track - even if it means engaging that sailor's chief, as well."


Be relevant


Campa said today's sailors have different expectations of their leaders than those of a generation ago.


"We have a responsibility to keep up with them. and that's quite a challenge," he said.


These young sailors are smart and well-informed, so their leaders should be, too, Campa said.


"You have to be an engaged leader; you must know what the issues are in the world, the Navy, as well as on your ship and in your work center."


But, despite urban legend, he said it's not possible for the chief to know everything. And a good leader must maintain credibility with their sailors even if it means telling them the chief doesn't know something.


"Don't be afraid to tell them that you'll get back to them on an issue," he said. "I do it all the time, and it makes us better as leaders to go back and do our homework and get smarter on that issue."


An eye on the past


When he was a young sailor making his first port visit, Campa said, his chief left a lasting impression on him with a simple history lesson.


"I was a young seaman on the [dock landing ship] Odgen, when we made a port visit to Pearl Harbor and my chief took our division to the USS Arizona Memorial," Campa said.


"Not only did he tell us the story of the battle, he told us of the service and sacrifice that those sailors made that day - but not in the way you read it in the history books - but in the way the story had been passed down to him by his chiefs.


"On that day, I understood what it meant to be a United States sailor - what my chief gave me that day was the gift of our naval heritage that I carry with me to this very day."


He wants more sailors to get these kinds of gifts from their chiefs, too.


"This is why I believe that our chiefs' mess is the keeper of our heritage which goes beyond simple customs and traditions," he said.


The Navy does a good job of laying a foundation of history and heritage in boot camp, he said, but doesn't keep that momentum.


"We get it right there, teaching them about their 'ship' and all its history," he said. "But it tends to stop there."


That is why he wants his chiefs to be knowledgeable in the Navy's history and their ship's or rating's history, as well, and work to teach their sailors about it at every turn.


To help the concept take hold, he plans to deliver resources for leaders to use, though what form they will take has yet to be worked out.


"I've tasked those going through the Senior Enlisted Academy to take a look at our heritage and identify the things that sailors need to know," he said. "Then we need to find a way to keep those stories alive and pass them down to our junior sailors."


But he doesn't want them to research in libraries and books; that's not the kind of living history he wants sailors to hear.


On the contrary, he wants his academy researchers to seek out previous generations of sailors and ask them the same questions.


"I want them to talk to veterans who have served at different times in the past, and I encourage all our sailors and leaders to do the same," he said.


"Those World War II veterans are becoming a scarce commodity, and if we don't sit down and talk with them and keep their stories alive, then we are missing out. I want that connection to our past because it defines who we are today."