NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- “I wanna be a chief!” echoed through the streets of downtown Norfolk, before the clock struck five. Hundreds marched through Towne Park singing cadences and showing their pride. These are the newest chief selectees participating in Hampton Road’s annual Chief Heritage event.
More than 200 chief petty officers (CPOs) and CPO selectees from throughout the Hampton Roads area participated in the 19th annual CPO Heritage Days August 20-22, held aboard the decommissioned, Iowa-class Battleship Wisconsin permanently moored in Norfolk, Virginia.
This event celebrates the rich heritage, distinction and continued excellence of U.S. Navy chiefs and their comradery.
The event kicked off at 5 a.m. with all participants mustering at Harbor Park Stadium. They arranged in formation and marched from there to the Wisconsin while singing cadence and showing off their Navy pride to set the tone for the day to come.
“I tell my Sailors all the time ‘if you can dream it, you can do it,’” said Master Chief Mass Communication Specialist Reggie Buggs, leading MCPO of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) media department. “From E1 to E9, it wasn’t an easy path, but I’d travel that road again any day.”
During CPO Heritage Days, the CPO selectees get the opportunity to learn about CPO heritage, the Navy’s mission, vision, guiding principles, and most importantly, values.
The Hampton Roads Naval Museum, Nauticus, master chiefs and local CPOs play a major role in teaching the CPO selectees everything they need to know to become “the chief.” The selectees were split into groups and spent three hours going through eight different training stations which were divided between the Wisconsin and the Nauticus Museum.
“I think it’s important to understand history, so you won’t repeat the same mistakes,” said Retired Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Duane Bushey, a station leader during the event. “I think there’s a lot of value to it, and it’s not because I’m doing it but because it’s a good experience.”
Each station had something different to offer the newest selectees, and topics ranged from women’s history in the Navy, the symbolism and history of the chief’s fouled anchors, and chiefs who made history. Selectees also spent time getting to know their fellow selectees and current CPO mess members.
“Earlier this morning, when everyone was marching and singing cadence, I had a chill go through my body.” said Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Antoinetta Lilley, a CPO selectee from Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center, based out of Naval Station Norfolk. “We all make each other laugh and sometimes tick each other off, but we always get it back together.”
The rich heritage of the chief petty officer goes back 126 years and continues to be a role of distinction among Navy enlisted personnel. The guidance chiefs provide to junior officers and enlisted Sailors, as well as the trust and comradery within the Chiefs Mess as a whole defines what it means to be a chief.
Some of that esprit de corps was put to the test during a friendly competition between the different messes to see who would win the title for “Best Mess.” CPO selectees from different commands had to create with their own cadence for their mess and perform before a panel of judges to show why they think they are the best of the best.
“We took a lot of brainstorming and ideas from each other,” said Lilley. “I wouldn’t want to go through this season with anyone else. All of us bring something different to the table.”
Many distinguished guests from the Chiefs Mess came out to assist with the training and inspire the soon-to-be Chiefs. Two retired fleet master chiefs, a force master chief, and a retired master chief petty officer of the Navy all attended to pass down their knowledge and help instill pride in the selectees and build upon the foundation of brother hood only found in the Chiefs Mess.
“We’re all about working together as a team and showing our shipmates what needs to be done,” said Retired Fleet Master Chief Thomas Howard. “We have to provide that technical expertise in every aspect of what we do.”
On September 13, hundreds of Sailors will receive their distinguished fouled anchor collar devices and will assume the role of being called “the chief”, from the Hampton Roads area and fleet wide. They will transition into their khakis uniforms and continue to uphold the longstanding tradition of distinction, excellence and the meaning of brother hood. These incoming chiefs will be responsible for the raising up the junior Sailors for who will one day become the leaders of the future.
For more news from Navy Public Affairs Support Element, visit www.navy.mil/local/npasehq/.