The role of chief: Backbone of our Navy, providing leadership

(Via Ho’okele News)

Rear Adm. Rick Williams

Rear Adm. Rick Williams

Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific

Last year at around this time, I shared some thoughts in a commentary about the hard work, perseverance and strong commitment it takes to become a chief petty officer.

Some of those thoughts are worth repeating and expanding upon this week as chief-selectees participated in “phase II” and the Legacy Academy.

We saw—and often heard—groups of Sailors running in formation, training and communicating. Chief-selectees also received intense mentoring about leadership and teamwork at the next level.

Pearl Harbor is rightly one of the sites for the Legacy Academy, where enlisted leaders learn about the history and heritage of our Navy. Other Legacy Academy sites include aboard USS Constitution in Boston and aboard the USS Midway (CV 41) Museum in San Diego, among others.

Here in Pearl Harbor, Sailors learn about cornerstone history of our Navy. They visit USS Arizona Memorial, which represents the beginning and end of World War II in the Pacific. And they learn aboard Battleship Missouri Memorial. “Mighty Mo” was the location for the signing of the Instruments of Surrender on Sept. 2, 1945.

Through phase II and the Legacy Academy, Sailors turn into leaders and find the passion to make the Navy a career.

To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, who was a Navy veteran who served in World War II, now is the time Sailors stop thinking about what the Navy can do for them and instead think about what they can do for the Navy.

The good news is our chiefs and selectees want this challenge. It defines them. It is their calling. There is no longer a transactional relationship of bonuses or duty station assignments. It is instead transformational.

This year’s Legacy Academy in Pearl Harbor included participants from MSC Far East in Singapore and the American Embassy in Fiji. Here in Hawaii, Sailors who are selected to become chief petty officers learn about the importance of our mission as part of the rebalance to Asia-Pacific. Perhaps they learn a little about themselves, too.

In the Legacy Academy, chiefs-to-be learn from other chiefs and former enlisted leaders—Navy veterans—about teamwork and placing others over self. They learn that becoming a chief is not the end but another beginning. We all count on our chiefs as the backbone of our Navy.

When I think of the importance of our chiefs, I am reminded of the famous quote by Adm. William “Bull” Halsey, namesake of our guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) now deployed forward in the western Pacific.

Adm. Halsey once spoke to a journalist about the importance of chief petty officers to the development of his own career and the careers of all Sailors. “You see those battleships sitting there, and you think they float on the water, don’t you? You are wrong,” Halsey said. “They are carried to sea on the backs of those chief petty officers.”

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy MCPON Stevens talks about how chiefs are passing on their legacy—not only through Phase I and II and the Legacy Academy but also through CPO 365, Navy Ethos and Navy Core Values as well as CNO’s tenets of warfighting first, operate forward and be ready.

Stevens said, “This is your success story, brought to life by creatively blending … prominent tradition with a passionate commitment to provide the leadership our Sailors demand and should expect from the chief petty officers’ mess.”

These last few weeks – and especially next week’s pinning ceremony should be a reminder to the rest of us of the importance of our Navy and the “Goat Locker” where Sailor life is truly defined and where the legacy continues.

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