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Navy Chief Petty Officers have officially been around since April 1, 1893. Navy Chiefs are seen as the linchpin of the Service and is often regarded as the pinnacle of an Enlisted Sailors career. Through this paper I wish to address the important traits of a Chief, how I can make a difference in the Mess, the future Challenges of the Mess, and most importantly, Why do I want to be a Chief.
What is a Chief?
A Chief is a leader that has been crafted from lowest rank on the totem pole. They have been advanced through the paygrades and have demonstrated their technical knowledge, willingness to lead, loyalty, and devotion to the Sailors they serve with. When a Chief receives their Anchors, it is an acceptance of even greater responsibility they owe to those in their charge.
Being a technical expert is not something that you learn strictly through reading manuals. It is life experience. It is rebuilding the equipment onboard a vessel or installation. An expert is able to analyze, troubleshoot, and repair equipment in an efficient manner while doing it safely and in accordance with documentation.
A Chief must have the willingness to lead. That does not mean simply being a manager. It means developing subordinates and shaping superiors. A Chief will use their resources to ensure that Sailors are successful in fulfilling the mission. Loyalty can be a funny thing. It can lead people to do great things, or it can destroy an organization. Loyalty to Sailors helps to ensure that Chiefs make decisions that are in the Sailors best interest vs what they want. Blind loyalty does not follow the concept of forceful watch team backup with a questioning attitude. It will lead down a road where unethical or selfish decisions are made at the expense of mission and/or Sailors.
Future Mess Challenges
Times are changing. Every generation of Sailors has seen significant differences between themselves and “these new Sailors”. You often hear it in phrases such as “Back in my day”, or “When these kids weren’t such pansies”. It does seem that with American culture rapidly changing, the Mess will have to adapt to the “Social Norms” of the younger Sailors coming into the Navy. These Sailors are the ones who will eventually become the Mess in as little as 6 years. There are Rates whose advancement can occur so quickly, the Sailors coming into the Mess may not have the maturity or social knowledge required for Mess behavior.
Making a Change
Being in the Mess does not mean always going with the crowd. Chiefs are leaders and not sheep. Yes, the Mess is one unified voice and body. Sure, there may some differences of opinion behind closed doors. No, you do not have to agree. I can be a very critical person. It is something that I have been working on. Critical with solutions can be helpful in the Mess. It leads to innovation, out of the box thinking, and keeps matters fresh. Being critical with gripes – well that only leads to hatred and discontent. I am not afraid to challenge the norms. I am also not afraid to have a little bit of fun. Hopefully this brings a new energy and perspective into whatever Mess I am become a part of.
Why Do I want to be Chief?
I know I am not the best Sailor. I know I am not the most Professional. What I do know is that I love taking care of my Sailors. I love my Repair Lockers. I love Training my Crew to save the Ship and to save each other. I cannot begin to count the times that I have been frustrated by the process of which we do all the above. I want to be Chief so that I can pay forward. There has been a score of Chiefs who have ripped into me and saved me from myself. I understand why now. All these Sailors are ours, they all need guidance and a firm shake. Some more than others. There will periods of time that I will be frustrated with my Division. And there will always be that one Sailor who shows so much potential and actually uses it. And that Sailor excels beyond their expectations. When I met that Sailor for me it made me want to be the Chief more than I ever did before. I did my best to set them up for evals, boards, collaterals….I have seen how far they had gotten and that’s when I truly realized that I didn’t care about my own career as much as I did theirs. That’s why I want to be a Chief, because I owe them.
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