Ready to earn their khakis
Pacific edition, Monday, September 3, 2007
Some 4,170 sailors are preparing for a career milestone this year — pinning on the rank of chief petty officer.
But those already wearing the uniform say it takes more than putting on khakis and a set of fouled anchors to make a chief.
“Sailors have certain expectations of chiefs,” said Senior Chief Juan “Speedy” Gonzalez, with Okinawa-based Marine Wing Support Group 17. “They expect chiefs to be the subject matter experts in everything.”
So, chief selects first go through a training period to ensure they are prepared to be the Navy’s technical experts and enlisted leaders when they don their khakis Sept. 21.
Chief Petty Officer (sel.) Matt Leonard is well aware of those expectations.
“You’re held to a higher standard,” he said. “Chief petty officer is an iconic rank for the Navy.”
Chief Petty Officer Derrick Law, president of the Chief Petty Officers Association at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, said taking time to mold Sasebo’s 14 chief-selects is a reflection of great expectations.
“Only in the Navy do you have a rank with a transition time of eight weeks because there is so much responsibility associated with it,” he said.
At Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, induction training is done in addition to prospective chief petty officers’ normal jobs. The selectees and chiefs coordinate training PT together three times a week and then find time for classroom training.
Chief Petty Officer (sel.) Benigno Adones said that although time management was a challenge, one of the more difficult hurdles was learning to forge the 38 selected chiefs at Yokosuka into a team.
“We have so much we have to do,” said Adones, with Afloat Training Group Western Pacific. “We approached the problem by forming multiple committees under a single class leader.”
Selectee Rafael Benton, also with the Afloat Training Group, agreed that teamwork was the focus of this year’s induction.
“I think morning [physical training] is where everyone really comes together,” he said.
“Three days a week, the whole class gets together to workout. No one can start until everyone is there,” Benton said. “If one person is late, we are all late.”
On Okinawa, this process of “building the team” started Aug. 12 when the 36 prospective chiefs based at units around the island met for the first time.
“We started out as a bunch of individuals,” said chief-to-be Dennis Douglas, with Commander Fleet Activities Okinawa.
But Douglas said countless hours of physical and classroom training, working at fund-raisers and volunteering within the local communities made a difference.
“We’ve made quite a team … in such a short time. More than team, but an actual family,” he said.
Unlike their Yokosuka counterparts, Okinawa’s soon-to-be chiefs are attending the second annual two-week Carl Brashear CPO Academy on Camp Shields, Okinawa, which began Aug. 19.
Once the academy concludes, they meet three times a week for PT and complete additional training on the two Fridays left before Sept. 21.
But, Gonzalez said, “we can’t do it all in six weeks” even with two weeks solely dedicated to induction training.
“What we can do is give them a huge network” of others within the chiefs’ mess “that they can always go to for help,” he said.
Stars and Stripes reporter Travis Tritten contributed to this report.