NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- The rank of Chief Petty Officer (CPO) was first established in the United States Navy on April 1, 1893. Now, 125 years later, the anniversary of this monumental day is something that Navy Sailors still proudly recognize, from new seamen to seasoned admirals.
"As chiefs, we are the gate keepers of customs and traditions," said Chief Machinist Mate Dawn Turner, the leading chief petty officer of reactor propulsion division in the reactor department aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). "It's imperative that the history associated with where we come from, and where we are now, is passed down to our future Sailors."
Chiefs assigned to George Washington served lunch to the crew on the mess deck of the floating accommodation facility (FAF) Monday, March 26 in recognition of the upcoming anniversary.
"Serving lunch for the crew was a way to give back to the command, give some of our hardest working Sailors a break, and it was a time to provide mentorship," said Turner. "Mentorship isn't always sitting down at a table writing goals. Most mentorship happens during the brief conversations in the passage ways, stopping by the ship store or while serving tatter tots and fried cabbage."
The lunch was well received by the crew, with some surprised to find their food being served by those appointed over them.
"It definitely threw me off, seeing higher ranking people doing these jobs," said Airman Reilly McCourt, a Sailor assigned to George Washington security. "It was cool getting to connect with the chiefs in that way."
Turner said that she enjoyed serving lunch to junior Sailors, as well talking and getting to know them.
"I think junior Sailors often forget that we didn't enlist in the Navy as chiefs, and that in most cases, we have done the things that we task them to do, and even some of the things that we urge them not to do," said Turner. "I might have served the future MCPON (Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy) or the future captain of the USS George Washington. Hopefully seeing the chiefs sparked interest in what we were doing."
Turner said she was confident that a few of the Sailors probably looked up the CPO birthday, or went back and asked their chief about the history.
McCourt said that he appreciated the meaning of the lunch, and that it made him interested in the history behind the chief rank.
"Everybody in the Navy serves in different ways," said McCourt. "Everybody has leadership responsibilities too. In a way, this seems like a good representation of that. Chiefs are an important part of the chain of command because they guide through experience; they've been in our shoes."
The lunch was one of several events planned to help celebrate the CPO birthday.
"Various Chiefs will be serving lunch until Thursday," said Turner. "On Friday we will be taking a Mess photo. Monday, April 2, we will have a cake cutting ceremony. At the end of the month we will be having a dining in ceremony that actually has historical George Washington influence."
The efforts of the CPOs aboard George Washington did not go unappreciated.
"I'd like to thank them," said McCourt. "I appreciate their hard work."
However, being a chief is not about receiving thank you's.
"Being the chief is often a thankless job," said Turner. "When most Sailors see us, they only see the person that tells them to get a haircut, polish their boots or get their warfare designators. They don't see the person that is writing their evals (evaluations) or awards packages, nor do they realize that our decisions are based on the big picture that they don't always get to see. Servant leadership is something that all chiefs should strive for, and although the biggest efforts might go unseen I think we should all find the time to do the little things."
Chief petty officers shoulder numerous responsibilities. For 125 years, they have been an integral part of the framework making up the United States Navy, and as such, the anniversary of their origin remains a celebrated day in naval history. Their contributions throughout the years, great and small, are worth remembering.
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