WASHINGTON, DC (NNS) -- The master chief petty officer of the Navy shared one message with Sailors who make up the Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) in Japan -- warfare programs are critical, and every Sailor should work toward qualifications, regardless of rank.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) (SS/SW) Rick D. West says if a program is available, it should be mandatory for every Sailor.
In both the surface and aviation forces, program regulations state any Sailor, E-5 or above, must be actively working toward attaining his or her primary warfare device. West sees value in expanding that to all ranks and has asked the force and fleet master chiefs to review the programs for expansion.
"I've had lengthy discussions with both [Fleet Master Chief] Tom Howard (Atlantic/Fleet Forces Command) and [Fleet Master Chief] John Minyard (Pacific), and they are working a proposal to move ahead."
"I see no reason why a seaman or airman apprentice, once they've completed their basic shipboard qualifications, can't start moving toward getting their pin. Many commands and Sailors do this already, and you can certainly see a difference."
West, speaking after pinning the enlisted surface warfare device and the submarine warfare device, known in the community as "Dolphins" on Sailors aboard USS John S. McCain (DDG 57) and USS Michigan (SSGN 727) July 2 in Yokosuka, Japan, said that a ship that is working toward an entire crew of warfare qualified Sailors is one that will be more ready for any situation when called upon at sea.
"The phrase 'Ship, Shipmate, Self' truly defines who we are as Sailors, and that phrase is also very much relevant and clarifies the importance of our warfare qualification programs. I know that when I see a Sailor wearing a pin, I'm looking at a warrior who has more than the basic shipboard knowledge it takes to fight their ship in a time of need."
West said he anticipates receiving recommendations regarding improving the EAWS and ESWS processes by the end of the summer. Strengthening enlisted warfare programs has been a public goal of his since taking office last December, and West said he feels the time is right to act.
"Simply put, it will make us better individually, as a team and as a Navy.
"I've had the opportunity to see some really great programs as I travel about the fleet. I've also seen some that could be stronger. Our goal is to find the balance and ensure our Sailors are getting what they need to become more professional warfighters."
West said the key to a warfare program's success is the oversight from chief petty officer (CPO) leadership throughout the fleet.
"The command master chiefs should oversee the programs, but I look at the CPO mess and those with the warfare devices - whether you are a newly qualified E-4 or E-6 - to execute the program."
Some have expressed concern about making quals mandatory for all ranks, but West feels strongly about the initiative.
"I've received some feedback that if it's mandatory people will just sign off the requirements. I don't see that happening. Our Sailors who wear the warfare devices will hold the line to ensure our programs 'meet the mark,' and our CPO messes will ensure that happens. The warfare programs should be strong but not impossible."
West said the ESWS/EAWS programs should be less about flying a pennant signifying a qualified crew, which commands are authorized to do once all eligible Sailors have earned their primary devices, and more about every Sailor possessing the right skills and knowledge to extinguish a fire, fight an enemy or save their shipmate.
"Show me a crew of Sailors where every one of them earned their pins through a tough, comprehensive warfare program and I'll show you a group of warriors who can fight together and accomplish any mission.
"That," said West, "is what the goal should be."
MCPON is in the middle of his first trip to Japan as the Navy's senior enlisted Sailor, spending 10 days at Navy installations to meet and talk with Sailors stationed in the U.S. 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility.
For more news from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, visit www.navy.mil/local/mcpon/.