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Around The Fleet

From High School Friends to Navy Chiefs

Grade School Buddies Reunite at SERMC, Pin on Anchors

Juan Chumpitaz and Jerieric (pronounced "Jerry-Eric") Hall Pringle met in grade school, the summer before sixth grade to be exact. They can't remember exactly how they met, but think it may have been a fight.

Chumpitaz and Hall Pringle lived a tumultuous life growing up in Westfield, New Jersey. They're no longer kids, though. They are newly pinned Chief Petty Officers, both Boatswain's Mates, both living in Jacksonville Florida, both working at the Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC) and both thriving in the Navy, but now fighting on the same side.

The two have been friends since scrapping against each other while attending rival middle schools, Chumpitaz at Edison Intermediate School, and Hall Pringle at Roosevelt Middle. They played sports together though, and found they had mutual friends. By high school, they were best friends.

"In high school, we were enrolled together in something called Project 79. It was a program for students who were under-performing," Hall Pringle said.

"We weren't idiots," Chumpitaz said.

"We just had poor academic habits," Hall Pringle finished.

They got into a lot of fights, and were in and out of trouble with authorities. To try to get on the right side of the law, they took advantage of a program sponsored by the local police. Friday nights were spent at Teen Night, a facility in the basement of a building behind the police station where teens could go to avoid the trappings of urban life, a place where kids could shoot pool and play other games in an effort to stay off the streets.

"There were never actually any police there though," said Hall Pringle. "And a lot of fights took place because there was nobody there to break it up."

We were really immature," said Chumpitaz.


They graduated Westfield High School at 18 years old - oh, and they were born three days apart - Hall Pringle on February 22 and Chumpitaz the 25th.
Graduation photo of Juan Chumpitaz and Jerieric Hall Pringle.

Graduation photo of Juan Chumpitaz and Jerieric Hall Pringle.


After high school, Chumpitaz knew he needed to do something to change the self-destructive direction his life was going and decided to talk to a Navy recruiter. He was easily sold on the benefits of military service. The next step was to convince Hall Pringle to join.

I'm not doing no Navy thing!" Hall Pringle told Chumpitaz.


"I tricked him to come over to my house," Chumpitaz explained. "And the recruiter was there."

"I was furious. There were pamphlets lying all over the place," said Hall Pringle. "Then [the recruiter] started hitting me with sea stories: 'I've been around the world...' things like that. It was actually pretty cool."

The recruiter managed to convince Hall Pringle to take the ASVAB with Chumpitaz. Hall Pringle scored higher than Chumpitaz, and the recruiter tried to get him to consider a different rate, but New Jersey loyalty runs deep.

"I want to stay with this guy," Hall Pringle told the recruiter. "Put me with him; I want to go where he's going."

Undaunted, the recruiter indicated it was possible, but was not quite ready to surrender to signing another undesignated seaman. He asked Hall Pringle, "What about you? What do you want to do with your life?"

"I want to rap!" Hall Pringle said. "So the recruiter said, 'ok, we have a program called the seaman apprenticeship program and you're going to be able to look at all these jobs during your first term, and it's the same thing Chumpitaz is doing.'"

"And they offered us each five thousand dollars to sign up!" said Chumpitaz.

They entered bootcamp together in September.

"I know I disappointed my parents a lot growing up," said Chumpitaz. "But when I joined the Navy, that was my dad's proudest moment, and when he saw me graduate from bootcamp was the first time I saw him shed a tear, hug me and say he loved me."

The two of them entered recruit training together, but along the way, Chumpitaz was set back six weeks for disciplinary reasons.

"That broke up the team," Chumpitaz said. "Jeri graduated and went to the west coast, and when I graduated, I went to the east coast."

They stayed in contact as best they could using email and a new social media site called 'My Space.' They missed each other many times when taking leave back home in Jersey.

"I may have seen him three times in the last 14 years," Chumpitaz said.
Photo by Dan Smithyman.

Photo by Dan Smithyman.


The next time they would see each other would be in Jacksonville Florida where Boatswain's Mate First Class Hall Pringle was working at SERMC. He heard that a new BM1 would be reporting soon from USS Philippine Sea (CG 58). Curious about the new guy's name, he asked about him.

"His name was written on the board, 'Chump,' and I asked if this guy's name was really 'Chumpitaz,' first name Juan. Juan Carlos Chumpitaz?" Hall Pringle recalled.

When Chumpitaz's identity was confirmed, Hall Pringle was elated and demanded to be assigned as his sponsor. That was August 2014. A year later, they were both vying for what is arguably the highlight of any enlisted Sailor's career, advancing to the rank of Chief Petty Officer.

"When they announced only four people had made it out of 41 eligible at SERMC, we were like, 'oh man,'" Hall Pringle said.

"I kept praying for him, and he was praying for me," Chumpitaz said. "When they said only four guys made it, we thought we didn't make it."

"And now we're going through the season together," Hall Pringle smiled. "It was our first time up. First time for all four of us, actually."

Chumpitaz says he couldn't have done it without his longtime friend.
  • Photo by Dan Smithyman.

    Photo by Dan Smithyman.

  • Photo by Dan Smithyman.

    Photo by Dan Smithyman.


"I didn't have the right study habits, never have," said Chumpitaz. "Jeri taught me how to study, and what to study, and this time around, I scored the highest exam score I ever have in the Navy."

"I helped him study for the exam, and because he was married to a yeoman, he helped me with my Chief package," Hall Pringle said.

Looking back, the transformation of Hall Pringle's career, and indeed life, began long ago when faced with getting out at the end of his first enlistment or staying in. His Chief saw potential in him, despite a previous Captain's Mast case, and made him the leading petty officer of a new division. Since then, he has worked hard to stay out of trouble and be a better example for those he was leading. Last year was another major turning point when he gave his life to God, and is now enrolled in Biblical studies at school. He doesn't drink, smoke, or curse, and can be found anytime reading his Bible.

"He's not the Hall Pringle I grew up with," laughed Chumpitaz. "In my case, when I met my wife, I changed too. I wanted to be a better man for her."

Chumpitaz met his wife when they served together aboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65). It wasn't until he was due to transfer off the carrier that things got more serious between them. They married soon after and she took orders to the Personnel Support Detachment in Mayport while he was recruiting in Miami.

Chumpitaz had his own struggles early on in his career. He made E5 in three years; professionally, things were looking good, although he would remain a BM2 for the next eight years. He continued getting into minor disciplinary scrapes, and his poor study habits prevented him from advancing. While in Miami, he suffered a devastating motorcycle accident that broke a femur, some ribs, an eye socket, nose, cheekbone, and left him bed-ridden for eight months. He was nearly discharged for medical reasons. Chumpitaz was permitted to resume his career after a medical board determined he was fit for full duty. Returning to the fleet, he was hungry.

"I ended up coming to Mayport after recruiting, and went to a frigate, the [USS] John L. Hall," Chumpitaz said. "I told myself I've got to make first class. I can't stay a second class anymore."

He committed himself to a pair of mentors, an Operations Specialist who was the reigning Sailor of the Year aboard USS John L. Hall (FFG 32) and his senior chief, Joe Godwin, who now works as a civilian at SERMC. Chumpitaz would be selected the following year as the Junior Sailor of the Year and meritoriously promoted to Petty Officer First Class at the command Christmas party.

After USS John L. Hall decommissioned, Chumpitaz transferred to USS Philippine Sea where, as a new BM1, filled the vacant role of the Chief. He excelled in this challenging role, something he credits for his selection to Chief Petty Officer.

The two best friends have endured the challenges of CPO 365 Phase 1 and 2 together. They continued to 'watch each other's backs' as one might expect.

Chumpitaz and Hall Pringle were pinned to the rank of Chief Petty Officer Sept. 16, and are now looking ahead to more exciting Navy adventures together as Chiefs.

"I guess we did alright," Hall Pringle said about their ascent from Jersey buddies to Navy Chiefs.

Chumpitaz smiled with satisfaction, "We sure did."
Photo by Dan Smithyman.

Photo by Dan Smithyman.