25 October 2007
A Breath of Fresh Air
I have been in the Navy now almost Six Years… in my time serving, I have had the best and worse when it comes to leadership and Chain of Commands. The other day I met a Master Chief that renewed my belief in the Chain of Command and in the rating of Chief Petty Officer. Don’t take what I am saying the wrong way… I have ALWAYS held the rating of CPO in the highest regards… I come from a family of Navy Chiefs and First Classes; so I understand the importance of the rank. Unfortunately in my job specialty, I tend to see a side of the coveted Anchors that has left me slightly disillusioned and bitter towards the ranking.
The rank of CPO is 114 years old. In the US Navy, and only the US Navy is the rank of CPO (or E-7) held with the highest regard and standard. Once obtained, it places the recipient into a whole new FELLOWSHIP (in the less-politically correct days this fellowship was referred to as a Fraternity) The phrase “Ask the Chief” is a common expression that refers to the fact that a person in the rating or rank of CPO is the subject matter expert in US Navy rules, regulations, organization, as well as their specific job specialty. So it would be assumed that all CPO’s are the best of the best or the cream of the crop… unfortunately this is not always the case…
The US Navy is as much a corporation as it is a branch of the armed forces. In corporations, you will sometimes have those who some how manage to sneak through the cracks and make their way up to the executive level positions. CPO’s are no exception. I happen to know Chiefs who were great leaders as First Class Petty Officers (E-6) but who fall short of anything resembling competent as Chiefs. Now, what I am saying is both sacrilegious and on the edge of treason; but in the few cases that I am referring to, this is definitely the case.
CPO’s are also hand selected by their peers (well, more like Master Chiefs or E-9’s). The selection is a result of certain criteria that changes from year to year (criteria such as: Duty Stations, time in the Sand Box during war efforts, awards received, distinctions, performance averages and so on…) The boards also have a maximum amount of people that they are allowed to choose depending on the particular rating being evaluated (but interestingly enough, they do not have to promote the maximum.) And there are times when a rating is so undermanned that a large majority of potential CPO’s are able to advance.
I was brought up to believe the following:
*A Chief always takes care of their people and will protect them at all costs.
*A Chief is revered and respected by Junior Officers (O-1 through 0-3) as a result of their knowledge and or expertise.
*A Chief should always be revered, respected, and feared.
*A Chief always had a coffee cup in hand, and if you ever made the mistake of trying to wash that cup, certain torture and death would fall upon you.
*If a Chief were tucking in or removing their anchors and trying to drag you to the tree line or a fan room, it was time for some “counseling” you should run or jump over the side in order to evade said counseling on pain of death…
*A Chief is never wrong.
*And lastly, a Chief’s place is in the Chief’s Mess; if you have to get the Chief for something, it should be to put a foot in someone’s butt because they are screwing up beyond First or Second Class repair.
But, like my belief in many things, I have come to find that almost all of the above stated are no longer applicable in today’s “kinder, more gentler Navy.” Factor in the Chiefs that fail to stand up for or protect their people, or the ones who are known as “Blue Falcons” (Buddy F-ers) and the whole mythology behind what was supposed to be sacred and revered, is destroyed like a child’s dreams when they discover that there is no Santa Claus.
Some of my best friends in the world are Chiefs and above, and they are the ones that help keep my old beliefs alive. In fact, I had become completely disenchanted with Chiefs before arriving on my first ship and serving with my former Senior Chief. He showed me that there were Chiefs that would go to hell and back for their people and put themselves out there to protect their personnel even if their personnel might not have been completely right in whatever the situation was. My current Chief is the same way… How I lucked out and got back to back Chiefs that were human beings and excellent leaders, I will never know or truly understand, but I did.
Back to my original subject though… there is a Master Chief that I will keep nameless for the time being, that is genuinely concerned about the sailors that he serves with. He WANTS them to succeed and is willing to go the extra mile to help them FURTHER their careers. He wants sailors to have the opportunity to grow as LEADERS, and doesn’t believe in micro-managing or treating the men and women who defend our country like children (which is common here in the FDNF) He’s not sitting on his excessively high pedestal crapping down on his subordinates. He is out and about, mingling with the crew, getting a pulse for what the overall consensus is amongst the deck plates. And he is quick to verbalize his desire to help, and even hands his business card out to junior personnel with the promise of helping them out in the future should they ever need it. And I firmly believe him to be sincere and genuine.
It’s funny what a little effort can do to someone’s moral… his existence onboard (although temporary) has been enough to fuel the fire of my motivation that was originally on the brink of decimation. He was a breath of fresh air to me, as well as a lot more of my fellow crew members. He makes me want to be a better sailor and a better leader, and it is because of men like him that I will have the opportunity one day. And when that day comes, I hope, and pray to god above that I will remember his philosophies as well as the leadership styles of the two previously mentioned Chiefs that I have thoroughly enjoyed working with and for. I only wish that certain Chiefs in the Navy would take a page from his book on Sailor’s and how they should be treated. If they did, then a little of the “Old School Navy” that most joined up for can be felt even in today’s Politically Correct, Kinder and more gentler Armed Forces.