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History and Heritage

Always Anchored

A family's tradition of deckplate leadership

Ask any Genuine Chief - we LOVE this time of year (and of course later in the summer).

I sat down in the hallway of my building to think about how I would write this piece. I wanted to write something that didn't evoke images of "Hooyah" or knife-hands. I wanted something that would showcase the true meaning of wearing those anchors.

Interestingly, at that very moment, a civilian friend of mine came up to me. Years ago he was in the Navy and wanted to share a story about how his boss really took care of him one time. My friend, a young Sailor serving at an isolated overseas duty station at the time, was going through a bitter divorce. He and his wife had one young daughter and were living in base housing. Things were getting bad, and his boss immediately recognized the need for him and his daughter to live elsewhere. After calling in some favors, the boss was able to secure a safe room in the barracks for the both of them until the wife could vacate housing and return stateside. It was an unorthodox approach, for sure, but it turned out to be the right thing to do in this case.

The Sailor got through it and went on to complete his enlistment with an honorable discharge. He never forgot the care given to him and his daughter through an undoubtedly tough period, or his boss, who turned out to be my dad.

This suddenly made me realize the life lessons dad had imparted to me and my brother (also a Senior Chief now), and how much these sounded like the sage advice of any Genuine Chief. It now all made sense: "Always try to leave 'it' better than you found it, and ALWAYS do the right thing."

My brother is about to retire, and my father has been retired since 1999. I asked them to share their thoughts:

Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Tom Jones, Jr.
I can remember many years ago a small, wooden plaque that hung on the wall of my dad's office. He had told me it was a plaque that when he was a Chief, he and a fellow chief petty officer he served with presented to each other in the early 1980s. It's a simple piece of wood, cut from what looks to be a plank, with an old piece of brass that's etched with a quote from our then Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Thomas B. Hayward.

That quote on that old plaque didn't mean much to me way back when -- even after I too had joined the Navy 25 years ago -- but it took on a more significant and deeper meaning for me 17 years ago. It's the same quote that adorns the vessel I made to carry in it that most sacred of tomes for this tested, selected and humbly initiated, and proudly accepted, chief petty officer ... now an old senior chief petty officer.

That quote reads: "I'm looking for the Chief Petty Officer to take the initiative in shouldering a major part of the division leadership. I'm looking for seniors who establish high standards for themselves and then demand similar performance from their juniors -- seniors who will not tolerate laxity, slackness, indiscipline, unmilitary behavior by the relatively few who just can't seem to conform -- and seniors who are offended by such a lack of professionalism."

Those words were uttered by Adm. Hayward on Jan. 9, 1981, two and a half years into his tour as CNO. He was an officer, I expect, that was very well led, mentored, developed and trained by some damn good chiefs in his formative years as a young naval officer.

(Remember, senior and master chief petty officers did not come into existence until 1958 and although the chief petty officer has always held a well-defined position of responsibility in the chain of command, the roles of the senior and master chief petty officers have been the subject of considerable debate almost since their beginning days. It became apparent that senior and master chief petty officers received little additional responsibilities than what they had as chief petty officers. This resulted in a return of the old trend where many senior enlisted members left the Navy shortly after completing 20 years of service.

In 1979, the Adm. Hayward took concrete steps to end that debate and stated that the Navy would expand the role of the senior and master chief petty officers. Their roles would no longer be that of senior technicians; instead, their role would be that of mid-level management.

What was telling to me then and what rings true to me this moment: the standard of professionalism expected of a U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer and we that won't tolerate those who just can't seem to conform.

As a chief warrant officer and former senior chief petty officer, my dad didn't conform to me. He expected me to raise to his and every other chief petty officers' standard of excellence. He led me. He guided me. He initiated me and shaped me into the chief I am now. And for 17 years, I have never forgotten that greatest day of my life. And for every year I've worn my anchors with pride, I never forgot where I came from because he, like all those other chief petty officers in my career taught me: it's never personal; always professional. And if I take it personally, I'm probably not the professional I think I am.

That old plaque ... well, it was very simply and unceremoniously passed from that old chief petty officer to this new-old chief petty officer ... and it now hangs proudly on the wall of my very own office, waiting for that moment when I, too, can pass it on ... along with those other customs, honors and traditions that made and make our Mess, and our Navy, so great.

Chief Warrant Officer Tom Jones, USN Retired
Those old enough to remember a "real" Chief's Initiation and the purpose behind it including the wording of the Chief's Creed will probably agree with me that "Honor, Courage and Commitment" from our days of service is a rare commodity in the civilian business world of today.

As a retired Chief Warrant Officer I was lucky enough to be hired by a large company at a very good salary, but while I enjoyed the work, the operating rules and corporate polices were the opposite to many of the beliefs I held as a Chief Petty Officer. For example in one of the many manager classes I attended I learned that "the purpose of a company is to make a profit for the stakeholders, not to employ people."
This was completely contrary to my ethos of being a Chief and caring for the morale and welfare of those in my charge before there was a morale and welfare department. But that same professionalism I learned as a Chief Petty Officer served me well in that same scenario.

I was selected by and from my peers to be the project manager as they knew I put their well being first while meeting and exceeding the corporate requirements. Things I learned as a Chief Petty Officer. I would say to the Chiefs of today: Take care of your people first. Teach and trust your Division Officer and prove to him or her that they can trust you. Support your fellow Chiefs and if you have a problem with one of them, work it out in the Chiefs Mess not through the Officers, however if you see illegal or immoral activities, your integrity requires you to report it to proper authority. Honor, Courage, Commitment, while this idea doesn't have an expiration date, It's just as important today as it was when I was honored to join the Chief ranks 38 years ago.

There's a comfort in knowing that no matter how the ranks of the Chief Petty Officer evolve over the years, the fundamentals of being a Good Chief remain.

If you see a Genuine Chief, past or present, and they've made a positive impact, go up and say "Thank You". It'll be the best birthday present you could give.

Happy Birthday Chiefs.