Campa's message well-received by chiefs


By Mark D. Faram


Staff wroter


Aboard the frigate Samuel B. Roberts - Frigate life is tough, and chiefs out here are busy preparing their ship for deployment.


But that doesn't mean the message being broadcast to the Navy's chiefs by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SW/FMF) Joe Campa Jr. isn't being heard on the deck plates. They just don't have a lot of time to acknowledge it - yet.


"We are very busy out here, but we're getting the word, and so far we like what we hear," said Command Master Chief (SW) Keith Taylor, the senior enlisted sailor on the Roberts, a Mayport, Fla.-based frigate.


He said chiefs are welcoming Campa's push to get them to teach Navy heritage to sailors and enforce Navy standards, both on duty and off.


Taylor says he thinks chiefs actually are enforcing standards quite well aboard ship and on liberty overseas; where they need work is in their home ports.


"I've rarely seen chiefs reluctant to confront sailors overseas who are engaging in questionable conduct while on deployment," Taylor said.

"They don't hesitate because it's important, first because it can reflect badly on the United States, but it's also about taking care of sailors, too, and ensuring they don't do anything to hurt themselves."


But at home, with the constant pressure of staying ready to deploy at a moment's notice, he feels chiefs "just want to get away," and may be more inclined to turn a blind eye if it is not one of their sailors.


"That's not an excuse, it's just a fact," he said. "And it is something we can stand to get much better at."


But that's not to say it doesn't happen, he said. Taylor says he got a call from a chief stationed locally who discovered a Roberts sailor eating in a local restaurant in his dungarees.


The chief identified herself to the sailor, discussed the fact that dungarees are allowed for wear to and from work and that stopping at a gas station or getting a few groceries on the way home may be authorized, but eating in a restaurant is strictly forbidden.


"I also went and talked to the sailor and we discussed the situation first," Taylor said. "But the 'oh by the way' to all this was I was able to tell him that my brother and sister chiefs are out there watching you, too."


Taylor also welcomes the idea of teaching sailors Navy heritage.


"Heritage can give them a sense of purpose and can help define just what it really means to be a sailor and show them that their day-to-day sacrifices have a meaning," he said.


It also has another effect, Taylor said, and that is to put their lives in perspective.


"When you hear these stories of what sailors went through in World War II, you sometimes come away with the impression that you don't have it so bad, either."


Being on the Roberts makes it easy to bring that immediacy home. The World War II record of the first "Sammy B" has been much chronicled, and the current ship has a plaque in its main passageway dedicated to those gallant sailors who fought on and ultimately lost their ship.


But the new Roberts survived a mine strike that almost sank the ship from fire and flooding, as well as almost splitting it in two.


"It sure makes it easy to hammer home the idea that you have to be ready and even the most mundane training scenario could in a moment become the skills needed to save their own ship," he said of the 1988 incident.


But it's not just what Campa is saying that is getting Taylor's attention, it's what Campa is doing.


"The fact that he's looking into the necessity for chiefs to need associate degrees to make senior chief is a big plus," Taylor said. "And that's not going unnoticed."


He's hearing the cry from the fleet that with the war on terrorism raging around the world, and the waterfront under the pressure of being constantly ready under the fleet response plan, the policy needed a second look.


"Look, you have a chief who comes here for a four-year tour and hasn't taken any or minimal college, the reality is, he won't have the time to get that associate degree during that four years," Taylor said. "There is a very real chance this could prevent good people from advancing, and we applaud him for having the courage to take a hard look at it - it makes us feel like someone up there is listening."