DIEGO GARCIA, British Indian Ocean Territory (NNS) -- Six Sailors donned anchors and combination covers for the first time during a ceremony in the Turner Club’s Island Room onboard U.S. Navy Support Facility (NSF) Diego Garcia, Sept. 13.
Capt. Blake Tornga, commanding officer of NSF Diego Garcia, read an excerpt about the expectations of a chief from a 100-year-old copy of the Bluejacket’s Manual. The manual has changed little since it was first published in 1902, but its essence remains the same: Guide Sailors, from the most junior to the most senior.
“The position of chief petty officer is one of special honor,” Tornga read from the well-worm pages. “It shows not only that you have served successfully, but that your service has met with the commendation of your seniors, that you are proficient, trustworthy and reliable.”
Tornga finished the passage and extended his congratulations to the chief selects waiting for their sponsors to step forward and pin gold fouled anchors on their collars and don the long-awaited combination cover, the headwear of chiefs, senior chiefs and master chiefs, as well as commissioned officers.
Achieving the rank of chief petty officer (CPO) is more than a pay raise for these Sailors; it’s a career milestone for all those who earn it and one many only dream about.
“It was one of the proudest moments of career,” said newly pinned Chief Air Traffic Controller Jay Kline. “Because of the time difference in Diego Garcia, the chiefs came and knocked on my door to tell me [I had been selected]. I opened my door to see the entire chief’s mess, 30 people, plus the executive officer. It was a big shock that so many people came out to tell me that I had been selected for chief.”
The ceremony was the culmination of a six-week training period known as CPO 365 Phase II, an annual rite that began when the CPO advancement results were officially released Aug. 2.
For the last six weeks, these six Sailors have endured some of the most arduous training. Training to become the Navy’s newest senior enlisted leaders. But along the way they haven’t been alone. Every step of their Phase II training was carefully planned ahead of time by the chiefs whose ranks they joined today. At each base around the globe, chiefs have been preparing more than 4,700 first-class petty officers to initiate them into the mess. Each mess chooses one senior enlisted Sailor to lead the initiation season, for NSF Diego Garcia that honor belonged to Senior Chief Information Systems Technician John Lundquist II.
“I was honored to be this year's initiation season lead,” Lundquist said. “To have a hand in molding the chiefs that will carry on the as the Backbone of the Navy.”
When results were released six weeks ago, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith told selectees to reflect on their time in the Navy and to remember those who raised them to become the outstanding leaders they are today.
“Everyone who has ever advocated for you, empowered you, trained, taught or developed you put you in this position, at the precipice of a new way of life,” said Smith. “Recognizing that is important, because it highlights your sacred duty to learn how the chiefs mess operates, how we transcend the sum of our parts to make the Navy better as a whole - to network and share, and to build winning teams so that we prevail in combat.”
It’s not just the selectees who looked back on their past, but many members of the chiefs’ mess as well.
“I don't know a single chief who doesn’t look back at their own [chief] season, whether it was initiation, induction or Phase II, to draw from their lessons learned during and since their transition from a first class petty officer to chief petty officer,” said Lundquist. “One of the great things about this training event is that each base or command conducts a "season," but no two are alike. The people and places are all different and the lessons each chief takes away from the season is different every year.”
As selectees were tested and tried at every turn, the hardest part for the selectees seemed to be the time spent away from their loved ones, made even more difficult here on a ting atoll in the British Indian Ocean.
“The most difficult part of the chief season was the time away from our families,” said Kline. “We’re already isolated on this tiny island, but during the season, sometimes we would have to go a few days without talking to our families and that was a little difficult at times. But when we did chat, it meant that much more.”
The rank of chief petty officer was established April 1, 1893, and these six newly pinned chiefs joined the ranks of their long and proud history.
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