Friday, August 10, 2007


by RmOlano

The word “chief” according to Collins English Dictionary,“ is the head, leader or the most important person in a group or body of people.” In the Old West, settlers called the old man with most feathers in his bonnet and the leader of the tribe, - the chief. Even today, a chief means a head honcho of some sort. Chief Executive, Chief of Staff, Commander in Chief, Chief Auto Parts, you name it but I am more interested in a Navy Chief.

“Ask the Chief,” is a household word in and out of the Navy. Newly commissioned officers are taught to listen and observe how the Chief gets things done. To stay out of the way and to learn from these veterans is a virtue for the rookies. Recruits learn quickly not to argue but do what they are told by this mean-looking and sounding person called the Chief. Who are these people anyway? Where in the heck they did get that swaggering attitude that the Chief can’t be wrong. It seems like they do what they want to do to get the job done without a second thought of the consequences. What is so special about these people that they believe they are different from any other E-7 from other Armed Services?

We do not have to look farther or dig through volumes and stacks of regulations and legal proceedings, just read the Chief Petty Officer Creed. It’s on the fifth paragraph. I mean these people are down right something! When somebody can declare that their “privileges, responsibilities are not on print, no official standing, can not be referred by name, number or file,” that means someone is really serious about his role in the organization. It is like receiving a signed blank check! The CPO creed also states, “That no other armed force has the rate or rank equivalent to that of the United States Navy.” This is a true statement, if we forget about the Coast Guard. They also have a CPO rank but who cares, they are almost Navy anyway except, they work for the Department of Transportation and putt around with motor powered canoes. Lets see, in US Air Force, their E-9 is called Chief Master Sergeant, well, when you let your male troops wear earrings while off duty inside military installations, you can tell they don’t have a real Chief to set things straight. The US Army and Marine Corps has a Chief Warrant Officer rank. But anybody who can not decide whether they want to be an officer and a gentleman or an enlisted person, should be counted out, too wishy-washy.

The creed further declares that no other armed forces in the world gives responsibilities and grants the privileges to their enlisted personnel than what the Navy Chief has. That is a strong statement and powerful enough to convince Congress that a when Petty Officer First Class is promoted to E-7 rank, (while other services just change insignia) they need a completely different set of wardrobe er, uniforms. You know, like three sets of shoes, black, brown and white to match uniforms. Color coordination—a gospel according to Calvin K.

Another striking difference from other services is that the boot Chief undergoes an initiation. It is not mandatory for every selectee to participate, but you know what a chicken can do to you other than being a mascot of Col. Sanders’ Bird Watching team at Kentucky. Every September 15th, around the world, ashore or afloat, all present and occasionally former Chiefs gather for the CPO Initiation Day. It is an occasion comparable to a college fraternity ritual where candidates are subjected to indignities and humiliations. Mind you, this is not a secret affair, first paragraph of the creed attest that day and the eighth paragraph explains the reasons behind it. Teaching humility through humiliations, to suffer indignities to be dignified, and to bear such silliness with good graces are the main themes of the event. I wonder if Dr. Pavlov has ever been a Chief.

We are now a gentler and kinder Navy with an attitude of don’t ask, don’t tell or smoked but did not inhale or something like that. The truth of the matter is that the change is everywhere, the society, the Navy, the big bad wolf, the mean-looking-coffee-drinking Chief stereo typed has changed. An Admiral recently remarked that today’s Chiefs is different, they look leaner and more polished than the CPO we knew back then. It is true that Navy Chiefs come and go in different forms, sizes and gender but one thing is still constant—the old man with fancy headgear is the head honcho and that feathery bonnet was not on sale at Wal-Mart.


No comments: