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NAVAL AIR FACILITY MISAWA, Japan — No doubt, Charmain Pardue is proud of her husband, Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Pardue, one of 24 chief petty officer selectees this year for the Navy at Misawa.

But she’s really looking forward to the Sept. 16 pinning ceremony, when the six-week “transition” period meant to prepare the petty officers for their new roles as senior noncommissioned officers comes to an end.

“During the training period, they’re gone most of the day,” Pardue said of the future chiefs. “We hardly ever see them.”

Navy leaders at Misawa are working to ensure the spouses are also prepared: Earlier this month, they offered a spouse indoctrination program — a day of training on what it means to be a chief petty officer and what it means to be married to one.

“It’s to first of all, congratulate the spouses … and to welcome them into our community and answer their questions,” said Chief Petty Officer Earl Burpo, NAF Misawa assistant environmental director, who along with Senior Chief Petty Officer Linda Brown led the training. “With making chief petty officer, there’s a lot of hearsay, questions and concerns that arise, ranging from what is expected of their husband as a chief petty officer … to uniform changes.”

In the past at NAF Misawa, spouses of chief selects would dine with the sailors’ sponsor and the NAF Misawa command master chief, said NAF Misawa Command Master Chief Michael McCarthy. Through the vision of Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Terry Scott, this year it’s evolved into a “full-blown indoctrination,” McCarthy said.

The training included advice from senior enlisted spouses at Misawa and information from the Naval Services Familyline, “Guidelines for the Spouses of Chief Petty Officers.” Topics discussed included protocol, customs, and courtesies; CPO pay and allowances; history and purpose of the CPO transition process; and uniforms.

Spouses also heard about CPO perks, from better housing and income to better seating at the Navy Ball. But the job, they also learned, carries much more responsibility.

“The saying is, ‘Ask a chief,’” McCarthy said. “They have to be a wealth of knowledge.”

That’s where the six-week transition period comes in, when the chief selects train for their new job on top of working a normal duty day. It’s a lot of studying, from learning how to write an evaluation to how to properly prepare a memorandum or an awards packet, McCarthy said. There’s also regular physical training, fundraisers and camaraderie-building activities, such as climbing Mount Fuji. It’s why, the spouses learned, the sailors are gone so much.

“It was helpful for the spouses to know that,” said Charmain Pardue. “It’s all to prepare them for the next level of leadership.”

Burpo said both the spouses’ and sailors’ training will come full circle at the Sept. 16 pinning ceremony. “It’s going to bring it all into perspective,” he said. “They’re going to see when they put on the uniform, things are going to look different … everyone is just, ‘Wow, I’m a chief now.’ It just hits everybody.”

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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