WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The United States Navy Memorial hosted the official kick-off of the Year of the Chief and the 119th birthday celebration of the chief petty officer during a ceremony April 2.
For the first time in history, the Navy Memorial is casting a spotlight on the history, heritage and contributions of chief petty officers.
The guest speaker for the event was Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert. Remarks were also given by both Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) (SS/SW) Rick D. West and former MCPON James L. Herdt. Former MCPON Duane R. Bushey was also in attendance.
"The chief is the center of gravity," said Greenert. "There is not a seaman, petty officer or officer out there who cannot turn and say, 'I had a chief petty officer take care of me and get me where I am today.'"
The ceremony was attended by chiefs from across the nation who came not only to be a part of the official kick-off, but also to see the Memorial transformed into a Chiefs' Mess, resplendent with history and memorabilia spanning 119 years.
"We are becoming a part of history today," said West. "I see retired veterans in our midst and I am proud to carry on down a path they've laid for us so long ago. I couldn't be more pleased to be spending this day with representatives from so many commands. To stand in front of a sea of fouled anchors as your MCPON, and know that we are as much making history as we are a part of it ... I am truly humbled."
After the ceremony, guests were invited into the Memorial for the cake cutting. Visitors were then encouraged to walk through the Memorial, which has been decorated to reflect historical uniforms, anchors and other iconic symbols from the colorful heritage of CPOs.
"Happy birthday chief petty officers, you've earned it," said Greenert. "Absorb the moment, have a great year, remember your legacy and what got you here."
West added his expectations and appreciation for chiefs serving today.
"You are bold and accountable, executing the Navy's mission wherever you are, and developing the next generation of Sailors," West said. "Thank you shipmates - including those who have gone before us and those who are no longer with us - you have served your country well and will continue to do so as long as we sail the seven seas."
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