Hail to the chief petty officers
September 18, 2003
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Hospital corpsman Todd Wende stood in line, khakis freshly pressed, to receive his anchor pins and assume the role of leader, mentor and chief petty officer.
Like the 34 other newly pinned chiefs at Yokosuka, Wende swore to uphold the virtues of his new position.
No other service places as high a regard on the rank of E-7 as the U.S. Navy, where chief petty officers wear different uniforms than other enlisted servicemembers and are afforded greater respect and responsibility.
“You’ll now be held to a higher standard,” Master Chief Petty Officer Mike Driscoll, regional master chief for Commander, Naval Forces Japan, told the selectees, before they were officially “frocked,” or pinned, with the chiefs’ rank signified by an anchor.
“You are the effective leadership,” he remarked, adding that the Navy is strong today “because of its strong khaki leadership,” referring to the color of the chiefs’ uniforms.
Across the world Tuesday, more than 4,000 petty officers selected by a special board from a pool of more than 17,000 candidates were pinned as chiefs, according to Navy reports.
On Okinawa, 24 sailors pinned on the new rank, while 15 others surfaced as chief petty officers at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan.
They no longer wear the typical uniforms of enlisted personnel, but the same khaki uniforms as officers, and take their meals in a separate chiefs’ mess.
“Officers run the Navy. Chiefs make the Navy run,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Denfield A. Thomas, a hospital corpsman and Wende’s mentor. “Not everyone can be a chief.”
Chiefs not only train junior sailors but also junior officers, and serve as conduits between the commissioned and enlisted ranks, said Rear Adm. (Select) Adam M. Robinson Jr., the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka commander.
“I know this is the highlight of my career,” Wende said. “A lot of people work their whole lives and [do] not get this chance.”
Wende, 27, CNFJ’s Sailor of the Year, is among the youngest chiefs selected.
At Sasebo, Wilfred Tayco, a storekeeper for the Fleet and Industrial Supply Center, was among those bumped to E-7 during Tuesday’s ceremony at the Harbor View Club on the main base facility.
“This is more than just another promotion. When you make chief, you are treated with a lot more respect,” he said. “There’s a big gap in that treatment between those who are E-6 and E-7.”
After 11 years of service, the 30-year-old Tayco reached the milestone rank “earlier than my counterparts,” he said. “I am very happy, and so is my family.”
The frocking ceremonies mark the end of six weeks of chief’s initiation, a secretive period of intense physical and leadership training.
The initiation was no less daunting for Chief Petty Officer Carmen Viduya, the only female among those promoted at Sasebo and Yokosuka.
“I just feel great. In a nutshell, this is the best day of my life,” said Viduya, 32, a Navy career counselor at Sasebo. “It’s just an amazing feeling. This is what I have worked for every day for 15 years.”
The initiation’s mental tasks didn’t faze her that much, she added, but the physical demands were a bit challenging.
“I’m a pretty good regular runner, so that part of it wasn’t any problem for me. But when it came to the push-ups and other upper-body stuff, it was a different story. But still, I was determined to keep up with my male counterparts,” Viduya said.
“At least now I have some nice biceps to show for it,” she quipped.
Fred Zimmerman contributed to this report.