Leadership is chief concern at innovative course on Okinawa
Stars and Stripes August 31, 2006
CAMP SHIELD, Okinawa — When new chief petty officers put on their khaki uniforms after being pinned with the anchors, they are expected to act, think and lead as chiefs — immediately.
Some chiefs on Okinawa think the usual process for preparing prospective chiefs for the significant promotion needs an overhaul, so they devised an intensive training academy they hope will catch on with the rest of the Navy.
This month, 32 prospective chiefs on the island attended the boot camp-style academy where they lived, worked and studied together for two weeks of temporary assigned duty.
Their days started at 4:45 a.m. for physical training before attending class from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. After a short break, the prospective chiefs gathered for another three and a half hours to teach back what they learned to their instructors, said Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Langley, who was camp commandant of the inaugural Carl Brashear CPO Academy.
Normally, during the six-week period from when they are selected for the rank to when they are pinned, prospective chiefs train at night while working at their regular job in the daytime, Langley said.
“The old way just wasn’t cutting it,” he said, adding it would take new chiefs several months to get up to speed with their responsibilities. “We had to step it up.”
Apparently chiefs in Europe felt the same way. About 100 sailors in Naples, Italy, are going through an academy similar to the one on Okinawa.
Although the two commands did not plan together — or even know about each other’s academies — they came to the same conclusion: Something has to change and an academy concept is the way to go.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Juan “Speedy” Gonzalez said the academy training puts the candidates months ahead of their more than 4,500 counterparts across the Navy getting ready to be chiefs on Sept. 15.
The academy put the students directly in the role of chief and was designed to teach them time management, thinking on the fly, responding to pressure effectively and functioning at a leadership level, he said.
The students had to act as chiefs during a variety of challenging scenarios, such as dealing with a junior officer on a power trip or a sailor who has committed adultery, Langley said. They had to follow through with the scenario from beginning to end just like in real life, paperwork and all. They also were taught practical skills like how to do an evaluation and put together a retirement ceremony.
“As a chief you are considered the one to answer the tough questions,” Gonzalez said.
Most prospective chiefs think they are ready for the promotion since they were selected for the rank out of a group of nearly 20,000, but they really don’t have any idea what is in store for them, Gonzales added.
Leaders of the academy captured the whole process on video and in photos so a comprehensive package could be presented at a conference of Pacific master chiefs in October by U.S. Naval Forces Japan Regional Master Chief Luis Cruz.