Story by Elizabeth Kearns, SRF-JRMC Corporate Communications
YOKOSUKA, Japan (Sept. 15, 2017) – Four Sailors onboard Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) were pinned to the rank of chief petty officer (CPO) in a ceremony, held at Purdy Gym’s pavilion.
The newest CPOs are: Chief Electrician’s Mate Frederick Gwekoh, Chief Navy Diver Alfred Pintor, Chief Cryptologic Technician (Technical) David Gans and Chief Cryptologic Technician (Maintenance) Barry Harmon.
“Being selected as a chief or raising to any new rank doesn’t change who you essentially are as a person,” Harmon said. “It merely expands your sphere of influence over others.”
Selection for promotion is based on the merits of a Sailor’s work, leadership and character. From a pool of roughly 22,000 applicants Navy-wide, approximately 5,000 candidates – or 20 to 25 percent – were promoted to the rank of CPO for fiscal year 2018.
The pinning ceremony is the culmination of six weeks of training and initiation. Each selectee chooses one or two individuals, usually mentors or family members, to affix the fouled anchor insignia onto the selectee’s uniform collar.
And, for the first time, the newly-minted chief is given a combination cover. The hat is placed upon the chief’s head by his or her sponsor, a mentor selected by the command to guide the advancing petty officer in understanding the complexity of his or her new role.
This particular advancement carries with it an increase in responsibility, unlike the advancements Sailors have previously experienced in their careers. As specialists within their rate, chiefs mentor young Sailors and help to develop the skills of the junior officers with whom they work closely.
One of SRF-JRMC’s four new chiefs, Harmon, hails from Culver City, Calif. He initially joined the Navy to avoid taking on student debt and ultimately found great satisfaction in his career.
Harmon said his deeply-held personal value is being true to his word. He doesn’t believe this will change now that he has advanced to the rank of CPO, he stated.
Harmon also said he has motivated himself to develop as a leader by setting achievable goals and following through on his plans to meet them. He hopes to use that new sphere of influence to help shape the Navy’s future leaders.
“I (encourage others) to challenge themselves and not be afraid to try new things or fear failing,” Harmon said. “These are important parts of growth and development.”
He reported that seeing one of his Sailors work hard to become chief was a memorable experience in his career.
Harmon was pinned by Senior Chief Gas Turbine System Technician Samuel Diggs and his cover was donned by his sponsor, Chief Electronics Technician Rexon Ilog.
The second new chief, Gwekoh, originally from San Diego, Calif., served his first tour of duty aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) in Yokosuka, Japan. He returned to San Diego for shore duty onboard Southwest Regional Maintenance Center and then executed sea tours in Sasebo, Japan; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Bahrain.
Gwekoh was pinned by his wife and his two sons. His cover was donned by his sponsor, Chief Fire Control Technician Richard Binnert.
The third new chief, Pintor, enlisted in 2007. He attended boot camp, diver prep and 2nd class dive school before reporting to his first command, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, based out of Little Creek, Va.
After integration into the Mixed Gas Company 2-3, Pintor executed two deployments to Bahrain and supported missions within the 5th Fleet area of responsibility, including personnel recovery in Bala Murghab, Afghanistan.
Pintor’s next tour of duty saw him attached to Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Mobile Unit 8 out of Rota, Spain. Pintor was selected to augment an EOD platoon during a six-month deployment to Afghanistan. He also supported several certifications and multilateral exercises with counterparts from European special operations units.
At SRF-JRMC’s dive locker, Pintor was named leading petty officer, a position he cites as “contribut(ing) heavily to his advancement to chief navy diver.”
Pintor was pinned by his father and his supervisor and mentor, Master Chief Navy Diver Michael Allison. His cover was donned by his sponsor, Senior Chief Fire Control Technician Billy Lawson.
The fourth new chief, Gans, hails from Boise, Idaho. He stated he joined the Navy to gain more life experience before college.
“I keep surveillance systems online and train Sailors how to maintain those systems,” Gans said, describing his daily work at SRF-JRMC. He looks forward to returning to a ship in his new role, in which he will have added responsibilities toward his petty officers and the chain of command.
Gans stated his most memorable Navy experience was participating in Operation Tomodachi, the U.S. Navy’s relief response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
“There is increased creativity, more understanding and respect for cultural differences,” Gans said, about working in a multi-national, multi-lingual environment.
Gans’s cover was donned by his sponsor, Chief Machinist’s Mate Nolan Tiqui. He was pinned by his wife and daughters, with extended family in attendance. Gans cites his family as his greatest motivator, helping him to achieve this career milestone.