USS TORTUGA, At Sea (NNS) -- Chief petty officers from USS Tortuga (LSD 46) gathered with fellow shipmates to reflect on the duties and long history of the Navy's highest enlisted rank for the 119th birthday of the chief petty officer, April 1.
The chiefs presented the rich history of their rank, and described what responsibilities fall to the leaders of each division. They spoke of the struggles and day-to-day stresses of their lives; and also the rewards and the fantastic pride that each of them carry for their rank.
"Chief means deckplate leadership. As masters of their individual crafts, chiefs pass on their knowledge and guide younger Sailors to the best of their ability," said Damage Controlman 1st Class John Follis, the ship's damage control training leading petty officer.
"My chief always made himself available for in-rate training," said Information Systems Technician Seaman Apprentice Haley Young, part of the operations electronics division. "I feel privileged that we have such great leadership aboard the Tortuga."
Printed on a mirror placed inside the entrance of the Chiefs' Mess is the message, "Your people are not a reflection of you, you are a reflection of your people."
This message is never as true as it is today. Chiefs are needed more than ever to shape and guide their Sailors into the leaders of tomorrow.
Junior sailors looking to make the Navy into a career, and officers look to the people who hold the rank of chief petty officer as an example of how people should be treated and how a division should be maintained.
"I feel like the chiefs are the center of gravity on the ship," said Cmdr. John Barnett, Tortuga's executive officer. "The ship is going to move in the direction that the Chiefs' Mess moves."
The history of the chief started April 1, 1893, and the message remains the same: take care of your Sailors, and they'll take care of you.
The Sailors' fierce loyalty to their chief reflects on their quality of leadership, said Yeoman Seaman Laurel Wallace, shipboard administrative recordskeeper.
"I love my chief," said Wallace. "He teaches me everything I need to know and does his best to make my workflow easier."
As much pride as Sailors feel for their chiefs, the chiefs feel the same amount for the people they guide.
"I have the best job in the Navy. I lead sailors and I make the mission happen," said Senior Chief Electronics Technician Troy Snyder, operations department leading chief petty officer. "My Sailors work really hard, lots of long hours, and they deserve the best leader I can be so I always try to make myself the best leader I can be for them."
As the chiefs move forward towards another year, they carry the lessons of chiefs past and present into the future to build a better Navy for the people who will follow in their footsteps.
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