For the Deckplates

Heritage Weeks Online

by USS Constitution Public Affairs | 27 November 2020

by USS Constitution Public Affairs | 27 November 2020

Welcome to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Heritage Training Weeks—Online. 

To begin, please watch this introduction video from USS Constitution’s Commanding Officer Cmdr. John Benda and Command Master Chief Jans Valdespou. 

VIDEO | 07:00 | Introduction to Chief Heritage Weeks Online

For more than 20 years, Sailors selected for advancement to Chief Petty Officer have come to USS Constitution in Boston, Mass. to spend a week living aboard Old Ironsides, immersed in naval heritage.

These chief selects are joined by senior Navy mentors—chiefs, senior chiefs and master chiefs from around the Fleet—to train in the same skills as 19th century Sailors and foster meaningful leadership development. 

The challenges and limitations caused by the global pandemic of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), prevented USS Constitution from hosting heritage weeks during 2020. 

In response, the crew of Old Ironsides produced this series of videos, Heritage Weeks Online, to give the Navy’s Chiefs Mess a resource to engage with the history of our early Navy and of USS Constitution. 

Make no mistake, watching videos is no substitute for the experience of Chief Heritage Weeks—whether climbing the shrouds of a 150 foot mast, heaving a nearly 3,500 lbs sail, drilling on a 6,500-pound long gun or firing a Brown Bess musket like an 1812-era Marine, it’s visceral and hands-on history training like no other. 

Before we start watching all the Heritage Weeks Online videos. We asked those who have come to CPO Heritage Weeks what the process meant to them, and are proud to share some responses with you…

“Without knowing the history of the Navy, a Chief cannot effectively pass on the customs and traditions that we are charged with doing. Knowing the history of Constitution and how Sailors lived then compared to how we live now is huge when talking resiliency with junior Sailors.”

~ Chief Yeoman Chris Brown, Carrier Air Wing 11


“Being able to interact with Chiefs from all different communities and areas of the world truly helped mold the Selects who attend. I got to see the different views and leadership styles rather than what I was used to at my community.

~ Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Ricardo E. Parr, Commander, Submarine Group 10


“Learning about Naval Heritage and the origins of nautical terms like “scuttlebutt,” “the head,” and “jury rig” makes everything materialize right in front of you. Classroom training can't compare. I have often shared my knowledge of naval heritage with my Sailors and most of it comes from what I learned during Heritage week.”

~ Senior Chief Master-at-Arms John Eagles, Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station, Pacific


“The most important aspect is the diversity of heritage week, you bring every rate, from every corner of the world to all come together for a common purpose. Because of heritage week you have Sailors who would have never had the opportunity to talk to 90 percent of these rates and to learn from their experiences allows us to be that much stronger as a mess.”

            ~ Command Senior Chief Joshua L. McCullough, Erbil Air Base, Iraq


“My most significant memory was being a part of what was most of those Sailors first Dining-in. Watching their reactions as the traditions of a dining in were played out, and as they drank the grog for the first time was unforgettable. That particular grog was horrible!” 

~ Command Senior Chief Gene Douglas, Stennis Space Center, Miss.


From those testimonials, you might get a sense of the how genuinely impossible it is to distill the training, networking, and camaraderie of Heritage Weeks into a video; however, we intend for the videos below to provide some of historic education that chief selects receive while living and working aboard Old Ironsides during CNO’s CPO Heritage Weeks. 

The first station you will view is the pike drill station. 

In this station our Sailors learn how early Sailors used pikes as weapons to prevent their ship from being boarded by enemy combatants. 

VIDEO | 09:55 | Pike Drills - Chief Heritage Weeks Online

The second station is the gun drill station. 

USS Constitution is a 44-gun frigate, and each of those guns would require seven to fourteen Sailors to operate. The guns weigh approximately 6,500 pounds and could fire a 24-pound cannon shot up to 1,200 yards. 

VIDEO | 06:25 | Gun Drills - Chief Heritage Weeks Online

The third station is the Marine musket station. 

USS Constituion’s crew was not complete without her complement of 50 Marines, who maintained good order and discipline, led boarding parties and served as snipers during ship-to-ship battle. 

USS Constitution has a wealth of Marine Corps heritage. General Archibald Henderson, the “Grand Old Man of the Marine Corps” and 5th commandant, served on USS Constitution during the War of 1812 as a lieutenant.

Marine Lt. William S. Bush became the first Marine to die in combat at sea, when he fell to enemy sniper fire during USS Constitution’s War of 1812 battle with HMS Guerriere. 

VIDEO | 07:06 | Musket Drills - Chief Heritage Weeks Online

The fourth station is a tour of the USS Constitution Museum.

The Museum is a civilian organization that has a long-standing partnership with the Navy to serve as the memory and educational voice of USS Constitution by collecting, preserving, and interpreting the stories of “Old Ironsides” and those associated with her. 

The museum maintains a treasure trove of Navy artifacts from Isaac Hull’s dress sword to a ship’s biscuit that was baked in 1854. 

In this video, the museum’s displays are used to present USS Constitution’s three major naval battles during the War of 1812. 

VIDEO | 37:57 | US Constitution Museum Tour - Chief Heritage Weeks Online

The fifth station is the sailing station.

The five days of Heritage weeks culminates with taking USS Constitution underway in Boston Harbor, and the chief selects join the crew to climb aloft and unfurl and furl her sails. 

VIDEO | 07:05 | Climbing the Shrouds - Chief Heritage Weeks Online

The final station is the aft magazine station.

The mission of the crew is to protect, promote and preserve USS Constitution, and during this station, the chief selects join the crew in preservation by shining the aft magazine. 

This is where the ship’s gunpowder would be stored. The copper lining the rooms prevents sparks and keeps the gunpowder as dry as possible. 

The aft magazine is in one of the few areas of the ship where you can still see some of the ship’s original wood. 

VIDEO | 04:22 | Aft Magazine - Chief Heritage Weeks Online

These six stations are a small sample of some of the training evolutions that occur during Chief Heritage Weeks. 

Other events include rowing gigs, gunpowder passing drills, and a military dining-in ceremony.

Heritage Weeks also include a number of guest speakers that have included Medal of Honor recipients, Master Chief Petty Officers of the Navy (MCPONs) and other senior military leaders.

For our online Heritage Week, we are proud to have Force Master Chief David Carter as our virtual guest speaker. 

VIDEO | 18:13 | Guest Speaker Naval Information Forces Force Master Chief David Carter - Chief Heritage Weeks Online

In our final video Command Master Chief Jans Valdespous is joined by two USS Constitution Chiefs, Chief Boatswain’s Mate James Gainey and Chief Mass Communication Specialist Elliott Fabrizio, who led Heritage Weeks in 2019, for closing remarks. 

VIDEO | 06:43 | Closing Remarks - Chief Heritage Weeks Online

Thank you for participating in Heritage Weeks online. We hope this set of videos serves as a useful resource for heritage training throughout the fleet, and helps prepare those attending a future CPO Heritage Weeks. 

We encourage you to share feedback by contacting the USS Constitution’s social media. We would love to continue the conversation. 



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