Story by Keiichi Adachi, FLEACT Yokosuka Public Affairs Office
Chief Petty Officers (CPOs) from U.S. Naval Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) assembled in the courtyard of SRF-JRMC Headquarters to celebrate their 121st birthday, April 1.
On April 1, 1893, the U.S. Congress approved the creation of the chief petty officer rank in nine ratings. For 121 years, CPOs have been the deck plate leaders, the foundation for setting standards among crewmembers, and “the backbone of the Navy”.
The commemoration kicked-off with a re-enlistment ceremony for Chief Sonar Technician,Surface Jennifer Brett. The event held special meaning for her, because it gave the audience time to reflect on the men and women who have paved the way ahead of her as Chiefs.
“I feel pride in being trusted by my country to wear the hat of a CPO and represent our nation,especially in Japan. Reading the creed rekindles a fire in me that I felt when I had my anchors pinned on by my brother and sister CPOs,” said Brett.
Brett said she takes pride in the knowledge that the petty officers who will wear the hat in the future will have new and different challenges to overcome, and that they will draw on the strength of the past to overcome those obstacles. She added, “I enjoy the event each year because I can celebrate with my sisters and brothers, both active and retired, and enjoy some good food and fellowship.”
The program included chiefs presenting the “History of the Chief”, “Gold Fouled Anchor”, “the Legend of the Chief’s Hat”, “Chief’s Pledge”, and “CPO Creed.” SRF-JRMC Executive Officer Capt. Conrad Alejo was the guest speaker.
“As we celebrate 121 years of the United States Navy Chief Petty Officer, we are not celebrating another year of Chiefs serving the Navy, but rather we are celebrating everything it means to be a chief. ‘Ask the chief’ – I was told not to forget that if I wanted to succeed in my career. I would not be in this position today, if not for the guidance and dedication of a chief petty officer. Chief Johnson, whom I admired, taught me lessons about good leadership. He took time taking me aside as a Fireman Apprentice and told me that every situation requires different leadership style, but being a consistent leader is the most important,” said Alejo.
Alejo concluded, “There is a saying, ‘Once you are a chief, you will always be a chief.’ I will carry that honor not only throughout my career, but it will go on all of my living days. It is going to be within me. I am always proud to be a chief.”
Chief Gunner’s Mate Justin Hoffman was the event coordinator and the master of ceremony. He said that celebrating the CPO birthday each year helps to remind chiefs of those who have gone before them. “The reading of the creed holds a special meaning for each of us individually. It cannot be explained. It is something each chief experiences on the day it is first read to him or her. It is filled with memories, and with each reading, we remember those memories. Some happy, some sad, some funny, some angry, and even those that need to be forgotten, but never will be,” said Hoffman.
Master Chief Machinist’s Mate Albert Lapid, the oldest chief at SRF-JRMC, stated, “We expect that all chiefs and promising petty officers will always make the right decisions concerning their sailors’ careers and be a deck plate leader.”
Chief Gunner’s Mate Alicia Wulf, who participated in the cake cutting at the conclusion of the ceremony, expects the same high standards and values that have been instilled in current chiefs to be taught to future CPOs and carried on by them.
“It is our duty to each other, and the 121 years of chiefs before us, to ensure that happens,” said Wulf. Brett said, “The ‘U’ [in USN] symbolizes the unity of the CPO mess; the ‘S’ represents service to one’s god and country; and the ‘N’ is the navigation that a chief is expected to provide each Sailor, every Navy ship, and the entire Navy.”