News: Chiefs changing lives since 1893
Story by Lance Cpl. Jennifer Pirante
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNIA, Japan -- More than 50 local Navy service members celebrated 118 years of leadership here April 1 to acknowledge the impact chief petty officers have on the growth of young sailors and the naval service as a whole.
The U.S. Navy chief petty officer status includes three ranks: chief petty officer (E-7), senior chief petty officer (E-8), master chief petty officer and master chief petty officer of the Navy (E-9).
The rank of chief petty officer was established April 1, 1893 and in 1895, all petty officers first class were automatically shifted to the new rank with the exception of schoolmasters, ships’ writers and carpenters’ mates.
Many naval service members pay homage to Jacob Wasbie, a cook’s mate serving on board the U.S.S. Alfred, which is one of the first Continental Navy warships during the Revolutionary War. Wasbie was promoted to Chief Cook June 1, 1776. Although Ship’s Cook was the official rating title at that time, Chief Cook is the earliest example of the use of the term “Chief.”
“It is special to us to see and recognize our chiefs as our higher-ups,” said Seaman Apprentice Scott Digman, Branch Health Clinic corpsman assistant. “They are the cream of the crop.”
Sailors began their celebration with a twomile motivational run around the air station in the morning and then carried out the plan of the day in proper uniform attire for the occasion.
CPOs wore their dress service khaki uniforms and khaki combination covers, which was commonly worn during World War II and the Vietnam War era. The chief’s cover is deemed a rite of passage and an emblem of accomplishment.
“The chiefs’ cover also symbolizes authority and tradition,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Alex Flores, Marine Aircraft Group 12 Navy senior enlisted leader. “We uphold Navy traditions and keep those traditions dear to us to ensure they are passed on to the junior sailors.”
CPO uniforms are also intended to be identical to that of an officer’s uniform but with different insignia based on rate and job.
“We are the liaison between the officers and the junior enlisted,” Flores said. “We set the tone for our junior troops to follow.”
The essential mission of chief petty officers in the Navy is not only to specialize and become subject matter experts in their field, but also to supervise and mentor those who fall under their charge. Therefore, they hold the responsibility to set the example.
Chief Petty Officer Adrian Figueroa, BHC administration leading chief petty officer, is a perfect example of CPO leadership, Digman said.
“Chief Figueroa always personally comes in and makes sure I’m doing well,” he said. “Chiefs are just great motivational tools.”
CPOs also help to ensure the personal and professional well being of their younger sailors.
Whether a younger sailor has an issue pertaining to family, health, administration, finance or career, CPOs maintain an open line of communication and enthusiasm to problem solve.
The CPO community is tight-knit, Flores said.
“I can call up chiefs anywhere in the United States or around the globe and ask ‘Chief, will you be able to help my sailor,’” Flores said. “We get things done easier that way.”
CPOs also share common values when it pertains to working as a group and making sure to properly train future leaders.
“Once you reach the level of a chief, it’s not about you anymore,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Ron Hunter, 11th Dental Company Navy senior enlisted leader. “It’s about what you can do to bring junior sailors up to where you are.”
CPOs continue to serve as a vital element of naval command, providing a solid backbone, source of motivation and expertise.