YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — There’s a saying in the Navy: “If you have a question, ask the chief.”

So, how does a sailor go from blue shirt to answer-man? Let’s ask a chief …

The answer lies in the chief petty officer transition course gearing up to start as soon as the selectee announcements are made, Yokosuka Naval Base Command Master Chief William Holz and Chief Mike Skaggs said Wednesday.

While the names of the selectees had not been released when they spoke, planning for the six-week training has been in the works since January.

Usually about 10 percent to 15 percent of those tested advance, Skaggs said. That worked out to be 44 new CPOs on base last year.

“It’s a full-time job getting ready for this,” Holz said. “It’s a lot of work.”

It’s come a long way since the CPO initiation days when Holz and Skaggs got their anchors, they said. Then, training was more like fraternity-house hazing than anything else.

“I learned humility,” Holz said. “But not a lot to prepare me for that first Monday morning as a chief.”

Today’s “transition” is more job-relevant, with leadership and management courses, said Skaggs, who is one of the organizers of this year’s training at Yokosuka.

“This is a lot better than initiation — it’s structured to have actual work value every step of the way,” Skaggs said. “We’re giving the CPOs a box and filling it with tools, rather than pea soup.”

The course is a combination of classroom learning — with titles such as “Situational Leadership,” “Self-Management” and “Managing Change” — team-building and community service, Skaggs said. It encourages the new CPOs to bond and network, so they can rely on each on either in the future … when they need to ask a “chief” a question, he added.

There is also some fun folded in, such as a Mount Fuji climb, sports tournaments and family events, Holz said.

CPO spouses have their own indoctrination Aug. 14-16 with sessions on chief pay, identification cards, Fleet and Family Service Programs, and a Q&A with a master chief panel.

Everything must be completed by Sept. 16, when CPO-selectees Navy-wide will get their anchor pins.

In the Navy, the move from E-6 to E-7 means an exponential leap in responsibility, Skaggs said.

It also means a change in uniform colors, from blue to khaki (the base will have special store hours to allow new CPOs to shop after the announcement).

“It’s the only military branch where you not only change your standing, but your uniform,” Skaggs said. “You go from worker bee to management in one day.”

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