This week and up to July 1, 2008, chiefs across the Navy and the nation are in stand-down reflecting on heritage and traditions, and enhancing knowledge and skills. On the yard specifically, the senior enlisted are reflecting on the privilege of service, development of future leaders, humility, equal opportunity, and the value of diversity.
The rank of the Chief Petty Officer was established in the Navy on April 1, 1893, with Masters-at-Arms, Boatswain's Mates, Quartermasters, Gunner's Mates, Machinists, Carpenter's Mates, Yeomen, Apothecaries, and Band Masters serving as the first Chief Petty Officers.
One hundred years later, on April 1, 1993, then-Chief of Naval Operations ADM Frank Kelso II said, "The example set by Chiefs for the last century inspires our young men and women of today. Indeed, what Americans see in our impressive young Sailors is the tradition of devotion and dedication the first Chiefs established with their sacrifices and valor."
Now, 15 years later, those words still ring true. Today, Chief Petty Officers serve in many vital roles at the Naval Academy.
They are Senior Enlisted Leaders within Bancroft Hall. They are Craft masters aboard the Yard Patrol Craft. They are instructors in Engineering & Weapons, and in Seamanship & Navigation. They are leaders within the Naval Academy Band. They lead Sailors in mission-accomplishment, ensuring the YPs and sailboats are ready to train; ensuring medical staffs are ready and able to provide high quality care to active duty, family members, and retirees; ensuring the Sailors standing watch at our gates are trained and equipped to carry out the mission. These Chiefs serve every day as role models to thousands of future Navy and Marine Corps officers, providing the standard of excellence in leadership we should all expect from our superiors.
There is a common tale about the critical role of Chief Petty Officers that has roots back in the days of ADM William "Bull" Halsey, Class of 1904, Fleet Admiral and Commander of the Third Fleet during the Pacific War against Japan. At the end of World War II, legend has it that the city of Los Angeles had a ceremony on the steps of the county courthouse to honor their home town hero, which included a line of sideboys. According to the story, the sideboys were all active duty and retired Chief Petty Officers who had served with ADM Halsey. ADM Halsey approached one of the retired Chiefs, and they winked at each other. At a cocktail party later on in the evening, one of the guests at the event asked the Admiral about the wink he shared with the Chief.
The story says that ADM Halsey explained, "That man was my Chief when I was an Ensign, and no one before or after taught me as much about ships or men as he did. You civilians don't understand. You go down to Long Beach, and you see those battleships sitting there, and you think that they float on water, don't you?"
The guest replied, "Yes sir, I guess I do."
To which ADM Halsey stated, "You are wrong. They are carried to sea on the backs of those Chief Petty Officers!
As we honor the 115th birthday of the Chief Petty Officers, please take a moment to reflect upon the significance of those fouled anchors and the years of experience, wisdom, and deckplate leadership they represent.