News: Sharing promotions becomes commonplace for brothers selected for master chief
Story by Chief Petty Officer Ahron Arendes
BANGOR, Wash. - When siblings join the Navy, many go on separate career paths only to see each other during the holidays. Two brothers stationed in the Pacific Northwest submarine force, however, have shared several milestones in their careers including pinning on the rank of master chief petty officer together May 2.
Master Chief Machinist’s Mate (SS/DV) Chris Konopka, the elder of the two, is the Engineering Department master chief on board USS Kentucky (SSBN 737) and Master Chief Electronics Technician (SS) Jeremy Konopka is the USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730) Blue Crew Chief of the Boat (COB). In a ceremony at Deterrent Park, Bangor, Wash., they pinned on the rank, and it was the third such time they’ve been able to share in a new rank.
“I can’t even describe it. It was just awesome to see us both on the list,” said Jeremy. “We were both up for it last year and neither of us made it. I’m so happy everything worked out the way it did. It’s probably one of the best moments, I think, brothers can have.”
Chris and Jeremy, whose mother was a chief hospital corpsman, grew up together moving frequently due to permanent change of station (PCS) moves. The one place they both consider home though is Pensacola, Fla.
Both joined the Navy in 1995. Jeremy, having joined 11 months prior to Chris, convinced him to join the submarine force, and they ended up being stationed together at their first duty station, USS Boston (SSN 703). During that tour, they both advanced to E-5 on the same advancement cycle.
In 2009, Chris and Jeremy were both Chiefs stationed at different locations, and when the Senior Chief Petty Officer advancement results came out Jeremy saw he and his brother had made rank together a second time. Only this time, Chris was in the middle of a PCS move and didn’t have access to the selection board results. Jeremy gave him a call to tell him they made it, but just as a brother would, he teased him with the results.
“Jeremy calls me up to tell me he made it, so I asked him if I made it. Then he asks me, ‘Are you sure you want to know? Are you really, sure you want to know? – Yeah, you made it.’ Then, my wife and I were doing the happy dance.”
Eventually, the Konopka brothers ended up being stationed in the same geographical area, serving on ballistic missile submarines, and when the Master Chief selection board results came out May 1, history had repeated itself yet again for the them. This time they wanted to do something special, so during the ceremony, they decided to pin an anchor on each other at the same time.
“This is only the second time our career paths have crossed since both of us joined,” said Jeremy. “We’ve followed each other in our careers, and it’s great to be stationed close to him, but this is just the icing on the cake that we could be pinned together.”
When the brothers joined the Navy, they had said their goodbyes to each other and never expected to see each other in the fleet, much less be able to share three important career milestones.
“I never would have thought looking back when we were both on our first boat together that we would be putting on Master Chief at the same time, much less pinning each other,” said Jeremy.
For Chris, he feels very lucky to have had things work out the way they did.
“It’s just awesome!” said Chris. “We not only got to make 2nd Class, Senior Chief and Master Chief at the same time, but neither of us was at sea when the results came out. I should buy a lottery ticket!”