J.D. Blevins is Amphibious Group One’s new command master chief.

J.D. Blevins is Amphibious Group One’s new command master chief. (Greg Tyler / S&S)

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The new command master chief for Amphibious Group One says “conduct assurance” — good behavior — among more than 2,600 sailors in his charge is in good shape, and he plans to keep it that way.

It doesn’t hurt that Master Chief Petty Officer J.D. Blevins has detailed knowledge of the force and the area: Of the 27 years he’s spent in the Navy, about five have been spent in Sasebo.

And he didn’t have far to move when assuming the post; he simply stepped off USS Fort McHenry and strolled down the India Basin pier to his new office.

Before being named the base’s top enlisted leader, Blevins, 44, had been Fort McHenry’s command master chief since January 2003 and also had served in Sasebo from 1998 through 2001 as senior enlisted leader on the USS Belleau Wood, which the USS Essex replaced.

“Right now, probably of all the issues I am working with concerning our sailors here in Sasebo, the No. 1 is conduct assurance,” he said Tuesday.

“I came back recently from a deployment with the Fort McHenry, and everywhere we’d go … and on all the ships making port visits … it’s hammered on heavily that if you go out on liberty, there are a set of rules that you have to follow,” he said. “If you break those rules, you’ll pay the price.”

Sailors must follow the Navy’s civilian clothes policy restricting certain unflattering or revealing dress, obey local laws, be sensitive to local culture and follow regulations pertaining to any other liberty rules that might apply, such as a curfew.

Blevins said the behavior emphasis isn’t because incidents and complaints involving Sasebo’s sailors are increasing. In fact, he said, initiatives such as the Exceptional Sailor Program have curbed incidents.

“If Sasebo maintains the record we have now, as far as the behavior that’s required of a sailor, I think we have no problems to worry about,” Blevins said. “Also, when we go overseas and are in port, we have an excellent record … with sailors representing the Navy the way we want them to represent us.”

The behavior emphasis, he said, is strong overseas because “unlike in the [United] States, where [crew from] those ships can just blend into the community, you can’t blend into the community here.”

When an incident occurs it’s not considered as a reflection “on an individual being a knucklehead,” the command master chief added. “It comes across as, ‘Look at that sailor. Look at that American sailor.’ That’s what they see.”

As to upcoming ship activities, he said the Fort McHenry will take part in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training exercise later this year and Essex is preparing for an inspection. Otherwise, the ships may remain in port for the near future — something always subject to change.

Master Chief Petty Officer Tom Howard, command master chief for Commander U.S. Naval Forces, Japan, is Blevins’ predecessor.

“Master Chief Howard did a great job here and brought this job a long way,” Blevins said. “I hope I can do as well as he did at this position.”

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