PEARL HABOR (NNS) -- Twenty-two chief petty officer (CPO) selectees from Navy Region Hawaii graduated from the Navy's inaugural USS Missouri (BB 63) CPO Legacy Academy during a ceremony on board the Battleship Missouri Memorial Sept. 7.
Following the ceremony, establishment of the Battleship Missouri Memorial CPO Legacy Center took place below decks.
The CPO Legacy Academy is a five-day training period held in conjunction with CPO induction, which is steep in naval history and brings chief selectees, chief petty officers and veterans together to focus on naval heritage and leadership.
"Witnessing history is one thing, and being a part of history is another," said Command Master Chief (SW) David Lajoie, assigned to Commander, Navy Region Hawaii (CNRH). "There was a vision a very long time ago to have a CPO Legacy Center aboard the Missouri. There was another vision of having a leadership academy. I was approached by someone that talked about having our own academy right here, and with all the history out of Pearl Harbor, why not try to do it?"
The vision and driving force, which made the concept a reality, came from Command Master Chief (SW) Matthew Welsh, assigned to Afloat Training Group Middle Pacific (ATG MIDPAC).
"A couple years back, some chiefs got together with retired Chief Boatswain's Mate Harold Estes, a founding father of the USS Missouri Memorial Association; and retired Capt. Don Hess, president of the [Association]. They put their heads together and came up with the [idea] for the CPO Legacy Center. I fed off that to develop the concept of the CPO Legacy Academy," said Welsh.
After brainstorming the idea, Welsh organized his Chief's Mess to get underway with the project and began organizing the rehabilitation and restoration of what would become the CPO Legacy Center spaces on board the Missouri.
"We put the word out to the chief's community around the island, and every Wednesday we would come and get the place fixed up," said Welsh.
From July to September, the island chiefs committed their time to fixing heads, tiling decks, painting and repairing the equipment necessary on board "Mighty Mo," bringing the Missouri CPO Mess and legacy center spaces to life.
After the 2007 CPO results were announced, individual commands of the Hawaii region sent their inputs and nominations to the Command Master Chief, CNRH. Based on those recommendations, an inaugural CPO Legacy Academy Class was formed to participate in the historic event.
The CPO Legacy Academy course, which is intended to be a full five days, convened Sept. 3, and the CPO selectees of Class 001 were underway with their training.
Course curriculum was based on the 'Chief Petty Officer's Guide,' and each selectee was issued a copy of the book at the beginning of the course. Training events were centered on teaching CPO leadership and naval heritage through a variety of tours, exercises, guest speakers, physical training and written assignments.
"We tried to focus on naval heritage and leadership. Those were our two key elements," said Welsh.
The 22 selectees and LCPOs stayed on board for the duration of the course; eating, sleeping, and living in the CPO mess just as it was in the early 1990s after the ship was activated for the Gulf War.
The heritage portion of the training consisted of various visits to historic naval sites and landmarks in the Pearl Harbor area, sharing and discussion of first-hand experiences from veterans and guest speakers, and a heritage run around historic Ford Island.
Leadership training included presentations, discussions and case studies, which were centered on the four core competencies of a U.S. Navy CPO: leading, developing, communicating and supporting.
"The bottom line is - it's an enhancement to the induction season. Naval heritage is one of things that the [MCPON] is stressing in his mission, vision and guiding principles," said Welsh.
"This academy is different than any other academy out there. It brought together traditions, heritage, and history of yesteryears and tied them with today," said U.S. Pacific Fleet Master Chief (SW/AW) Tom Howard.
The process resembles the training chief selectees receive aboard USS Constitution on the east coast, but by placing the academy here on board the Missouri, Sailors were able to experience naval heritage and leadership training from a Pacific Fleet perspective.
"Spending time aboard the Constitution means to truly go back to where our Navy began. They do rigging; they do things on wooden ships," Howard said. "But, for our group on the Missouri, the time aboard opens the selectees' eyes to the local Navy history, the war in the Pacific and things that have happened here in the last 70 years."
Howard also addressed CPO selects, participants and attendees as the guest speaker during the graduation ceremony on board the Missouri.
"You can't know where you're going until you know where you've been, or in this case, until you know what those who've gone before you really went through. This week, 22 CPO selects found out in a most historic way, what those Sailors who have gone before them went through as they lived a week in their shoes. You learned more naval history and anecdotes concerning leadership expectations in four short days than you have in your collective naval careers to date," said Howard. "The question now is - what are you going to do with it? My answer to you is simple - lead, lead Sailors."
"What we received here this week was immeasurable. This class was an awakening for strengthening leadership inside ourselves," said CPO Legacy Academy graduate, Chief (Sel.) Fire Controlman James Williams. "We'll all remember these four days for the rest of our lives."
For related news, visit the Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cnrh/.