POLARIS POINT, Guam (NNS) -- "You have to have a lot of inertia in the same direction to have a successful organization," said Command Master Chief Wade Tandberg, assigned to the submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40). "You must motivate people."
Since their creation on April 1, 1893, Navy chief petty officers have been doing just that; from the beginning ensuring that enlisted Sailors had better representation, development and leadership.
"When I first joined, I thought I'd do my four years and get out," said Senior Chief Electronics Technician Latoya Corker, from Monroeville, Alabama, laughing and shaking her head. "But, I had awesome Chiefs in my life that changed my view of the Navy. They made me realize I have the power to make a difference. Any time I can help a Sailor reach his or her own goals, or allow them to see their own potential... that is the greatest gift."
Chiefs are expected to provide solutions and inspire development when nobody else can. The Navy asks more from Sailors than just to be seaworthy and skilled in their jobs. Sailors are expected to hold each other up as a community, challenge personal standards and build a network for professional influence.
"The world is bigger than me and it's not about me," said Corker. "Chief petty officers must give all we have and believe in our Sailors. We've always had the vision of leadership, but over the years we've learned that there can be many ways to meet an objective. We've learned we have better resources within our Sailors. Those are gained by working alongside our Sailors and supporting their growth."
Though the guiding principles behind chief's leadership have not changed, the perception of what that leadership embodies has morphed throughout generations.
"I see a lot of change in the mess," said Tandberg. "When I first came in (the Navy) I didn't think I would make it. It used to be chiefs rolling with chiefs, sometimes before family. There was a bit of a party culture after the work was done. I don't partake in alcohol, and I thought that would hurt me. It didn't. Being a chief has always been about leadership, but now there's a lot less nonsense, and more dignity and respect."
Chiefs are expected to hold Sailors to a standard, which requires setting that standard.
"It takes more than leading by example," said Corker. "You must be the example. I feel that's what being a chief petty officer embodies. Being a chief petty officer developed me personally and professionally. It instilled in me a sense of pride, self-accountability and put me in a position to be an example. I can't fail. I can't fail my Sailors."
On average, a Sailor will have 13 years of service before advancing to chief, and many continue to serve after the 20-year minimum for retirement.
"Yes, I still like coming in to work," said Tandberg. "What I like seeing most is people fulfilled in what they are doing. On my level, I get to empower people. It's great to see chiefs, like our chief in the machine shop working with his Sailors, finding ways to inspire them to challenge their own selves. "
Over the years the growing importance of Navy chiefs has meant entrusting them with more responsibility and has led to the expansion of the chief rank itself. Since the inception of chief, the ranks of senior chief and master chief have been added.
"We use each other as resources and we try to exceed the standard," said Corker. "One of the greatest feelings is welcoming a Sailor to the mess that might've been a more challenging individual. We are just like any other family and it doesn't matter past or present. Being a chief never dies. We hurt together, we rise together, and the sense of pride that has been instilled in me from this experience is greater than I ever could have imagined for myself."
One hundred and twenty five years old and counting, they must be doing something right.
Frank Cable, forward deployed to Guam, repairs, rearms and re-provisions deployed U.S. Naval Forces in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
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