SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- In the United States Navy chief petty officers are described as strong and dedicated, but first and foremost they are leaders.
At Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) preparing first class petty officers to become chiefs is considered vital and there are programs to set them up for success.
"Bringing 'first classes' up used to be a closed door policy," said Chief Hospital Corpsman Barryon Starks. "Now, that's all out of the window. Now, first classes get ingrained in what we [chiefs] are doing. The LPO [leading petty officer] and chief should have a good relationship. I take pride in that. Most times, my first class will observe what we (chiefs) are discussing and I won't kick them out. That's important."
Chief Hospital Corpsman Jessica Wentlent and Starks share many similar views when it comes to preparing first classes to wear anchors.
"The first class should think like a chief before putting the anchors on," said Wentlent. "I ask my LPO what they would do in situations, before I tell them. It will only help them be better chiefs in the department after getting pinned. They need that foresight."
At NMCSD most chief petty officers believe in having an open door policy, said Starks. As much as formal training is important, the informal training and mentorship is just as important.
For more book-based training, NMCSD runs an Enlisted Advancement Review Course (EARC). EARC is a three-day training review of everything an enlisted Sailor may see on the advancement exam. The EARC helps Sailors get through the exam to make board.
Because NMCSD believes that mentorship is so important in shaping Sailors' futures, that once the list is released announcing board-eligible first class petty officers, the Chiefs Mess holds a package review. The review gives the Sailors a chance to look at their records and take ownership of how their career is portrayed on paper.
"This is the hardest portion for the Chief's Mess because you have to be honest and sometimes you have Sailors that have been doing a phenomenal job for the last two years but the three preceding years tell a different story," NMCSD Deputy Command Master Chief Joe Murphy said. "You have to look at a Sailor's entire career and not just the last five years to figure out trends."
The package review helps Sailors figure out where they are in their records but NMCSD's focus for the CPO 365 program is to help make them better leaders.
Phase one of the CPO 365 program helps current chief petty officers shape tomorrow's leaders, through physical and mental training, covering topics including deck-plate leadership and CPO pride.
NMCSD has nearly 300 first class petty officers on board, so during phase-one training, they split into "ships" named after past CMCs. Each ship earns points by attending trainings, physical fitness sessions, and community relation events. The points all add up until the final event of phase-one training - the CPO 365 Olympics.
"At NMCSD we have the CPO 365 Olympics to close out phase-one of training," said Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman LaKeil Auguste. "Our olympics are a two-day team building event between the first classes and the chiefs."
The NMCSD Chiefs Mess sets up a series of physical games and also training challenges for the CPO 365 Olympics. These events range from quizzing first class petty officers on rates and the Battle of Midway knowledge, to competing in volleyball and plank contests. The main goal of the Olympics is to build a bond between the Chiefs Mess and the first classes who are hoping to become a part of the mess.
"It is meant to teach them how to stay inside the box at the same time to think outside the box to utilize their resources to answer simple and sometimes complex questions," said Murphy.
At the end of the olympics the winning ship receives a pendant for their flag staff and bragging rights for the next year.
When the results are released, the selectees will go through Phase 2 of CPO 365 and after the pinning ceremony they will resume the cycle of mentor, EARC, package review, and CPO 365. The NMCSD chiefs will pass on what they have learned to create better leaders, both in their mess and throughout the command.
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