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Around The Fleet

Lucky Number 13

MCPON Michael Stevens prepares to retire

Thirteen has been a lucky number for the Navy. As Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike D. Stevens, the Navy's 13th MCPON, gets ready to retire, the legacy he is leaving behind will continue to thrive.

Hailing from Montana, Stevens shipped to Recruit Training Command in San Diego in June of 1983. He had no idea at that point, that 29 years later he would be serving as the top enlisted Sailor in the Navy.

After I got in the job, I had a few people say to me, 'I remember when you were a petty officer; you said you were going to be the master chief petty officer of the Navy and now here you are.' I don't recall that conversation."- MCPON Mike Stevens

"Like a lot of Sailors, I was just coming to work and doing my best every day and trying to survive. So no, I never thought about it, not even one time. Really never even thought about it until Adm. John Harvey, who was the fleet commander at the time for U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said he'd like to put me in for MCPON. At that moment it struck me that, wow, I might get the opportunity to compete for this job."
Three photo collage of MCPON Stevens throughout his career as the 13th MCPON.

Prior to that, Stevens was getting ready to retire. He and his wife, Theresa, were all set and ready to start another phase of their lives.

"So I went home and talked to Theresa and said, 'what do you think? Adm. Harvey wants to put me in,' and she said 'sure, I think we've got some life left in us, let's go do this if we can.' So I went back to Adm. Harvey and said 'sir, it would be an honor to have the opportunity to become the MCPON, it would also be a relief not to.' I was under no illusion of the challenges of the job and the things I would likely take on, and I realized those things could potentially be difficult. With that comes a lot of hard work and a lot of hours, and stress from time to time, but it was a calling. It was a duty. You put your retirement aside. I don't say 'no' to four stars, when they ask me to step up to the plate, I step up."

When Stevens first got to the office, he wasn't 100 percent sure of what his goals were.

"I had an idea of what I wanted to do," he said. "I knew what the MCPON leadership Mess was doing; I had a pretty good sense for the direction the Navy was going and so I had formed some general thoughts and ideas but hadn't fully formed what I wanted to do going into the future. So I gave myself about three months of just speaking with Sailors out and about in the fleet and then I came back and tied all that information in with what I was thinking and that's where I came up Zeroing in on Excellence which consists of three areas: Developing leaders, good order and discipline, and controlling what we own. So that became the genesis for just about everything else that we did from that point forward."

Developing leaders was especially important to Stevens.

As leaders we have a responsibility to establish and maintain the conditions that provide an opportunity for all of our Sailors to be successful." -MCPON Mike Stevens

"Now remember I didn't say MAKE them successful, I said provide an opportunity to BE successful. And most importantly we must do all this while treating one another with dignity and respect. I believe much of the work we did, especially in the area of developing leaders, whether it be CPO 365, our CPO Fleet Training Teams, the Senior Enlisted Academy, the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Executive Leadership Symposium, all talked a lot about what it means to be a leader, leading yourself, treating people with dignity and respect, and proper ways to influence your Sailors."

One of the initiatives Stevens is most proud of, and a program that most will consider his legacy, is the CPO 365 program.

"Something that is near and dear to my heart is CPO 365," he said. "When we rolled that out in the way that it is today, there were 30,000 chief petty officers not to mention the 50,000 first class petty officers that were involved in this; and for CPO 365 to grow roots and get to the point where it's at today - a really, really good professional training program - took time and patience. My hope is that people will remember the reasons why CPO 365 started, and that it will continue to be something that has a positive impact on the Fleet."

CPO 365, along with eSailor and the changes to the Senior Enlisted Academy were just three among many initiatives the MCPON accomplished throughout his tour. But he said time will tell just how successful he was.
Three photo collage of MCPON Stevens throughout his career as the 13th MCPON.

"I think I need to wait and see what history says," Stevens said. "Our Sailors know better than I do, but even sometimes the Sailors don't know until you give these initiatives and things you've done, a little bit of run time. What I say is that sometimes history will indict you and sometimes it will vindicate you. I'm hoping that I'm vindicated in the things that we did, but we will have to wait and see how that plays out. I will say that I feel good about everything that we did. And I know that all of our efforts that we took were genuine and came from a lot of conversation with our Sailors. We wanted to make sure that we were at least doing our best to try and help the Navy get better and grow and be more efficient, more effective. So from that side yes, I feel good that we tried really hard and we slept well at night knowing that the decisions we made were for the right reasons. How they play out, history will have to tell us."

As he prepares for the next stage in life Stevens is humbled by the incredible opportunity to have served as the 13th MCPON.

"I've said this before and I really mean this; I don't believe anyone deserves to be the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, and nobody is less deserving than myself," Stevens said. "We just wake up one day and our career paths have taken us to a point where we're provided this opportunity. We should make no mistake about it, there are a lot more Sailors out there that have sacrificed much more than I have, that are far more capable and competent, that have tremendous skills and passion, and are committed to our organization and Navy, but for whatever reason their career paths didn't lead them to this point. Therefore it is my responsibility as their MCPON to represent them. So you take this opportunity that you've been blessed with and you do your absolute best each and every day so that you do represent them and the Sailors of our Navy to the best of your ability."

Looking forward, Stevens and his wife have purchased a home in Pennsylvania and plan to go up there shortly after his retirement ceremony. Stevens will start work for a company that serves the veteran community.

"I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work for an organization that still does things for veterans," Stevens said. "That was important to me. You can't do this for 33 years and then just walk away. I couldn't anyway. I felt compelled and a desire to try and find an opportunity where I can continue to serve and help our men and women who have served, find opportunity and success in their lives."

In his last month in office, Stevens admits he owes a debt a gratitude to everyone he has met and served with - that he is sorry he will never be able to repay.

"I remember sitting down four years ago to do this interview, but I was in the other room, the one Fleet Master Chief Steven Giordano [the Navy's 14th MCPON] is at right now," said Stevens. "MCPON Rick West was sitting in this chair doing his outgoing interview, and that moment in time took about one second - to be in that seat and now this seat, that's what it feels like. It's almost surreal."

To be able to serve as the 13th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy and finish my career with more than 33 years in this magnificent organization we call the United States Navy and to serve the people of our Navy -- it has been the honor of my lifetime, one in which I will never forget." -MCPON Mike Stevens