Chief selects wrap up career transition
by Connie Hempel NAS Patuxent River Public Affairs
They have spent the last six weeks prepping for the next step up the career ladder, learning what tools and resources are available to them when they take on more responsibilities as the Navy's newest chief petty officers.
Twenty-four NAS Patuxent River Sailors were among 4,400 petty officers first class Navy-wide selected for promotion to chief petty officer this year. Since the selection list was released July 31, Pax's selectees have been going through their induction, working together completing various tasks and challenges created by the base's chiefs to give the selects a preview of what it takes to be a chief.
On Friday, these 24 will get a once-in-a-lifetime experience, unique to the Navy, as they pin on their anchors during the Chief Petty Officer Frocking Ceremony at 1 p.m. in the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1 hangar. All those with base access can attend.
Unlike E-7s in other branches of service, the responsibility and authority of a Navy chief is unmatched, NAS Patuxent River Command Master Chief William Lloyd-Owen said.
"Putting on the chief petty officer uniform comes with an inherent level of respect" he said. "We're the backbone of the Navy and garner respect from juniors and seniors alike."
Respect chiefs have earned for more than 100 years because of their wisdom in being able to lead their Sailors and expertise at their job.
While the six-week chief induction differs from location to location, the idea behind it and some of the rituals here are long-standing Navy traditions designed to teach the fundamentals of being an effective chief, Lloyd-Owen said.
At Pax, the selects spend one week in a Leadership Continuum class, led by chiefs from around the base. They also spend a day at Fleet and Family Support Center learning what resources are available because as a chief who takes care of his or her Sailors, they will be presented with issues that will require FFSC services. They participate in daily training sessions and group physical training. They also put together numerous fundraising events and will hold their first formal event, the Khaki Ball, donned in their new uniform.
While the daily training sessions may encompass issues they have experienced before, Chief select Aviation Ordnanceman Brandon Moyer said the sessions force them to look at the wide range of possibilities of every encounter, from what the problem may be, to where to turn for help.
"(The chiefs) throw curveballs in the sessions based on their different experiences and we're learning that if we're faced with a problem we don't know how to fix, there's probably another chief who has already dealt with it," Moyer said. "Being able to get beyond our pride and bring the problem to the mess for help is a big step in this process."
Spending these six weeks together also builds networking skills and teamwork among the chief selects.
"When you put a group of people through rough times together, eventually they're going to learn a thing or two from each other they never thought they would and it helps build camaraderie," said Chief select Hospital Corpsman Wil Morales.
Some of the chief induction rituals held here include creating a Charge Book and the White Hat Burial. For the Charge Book, selects must find "genuine" chiefs and compile words of wisdom and leadership principles. They must also create a vessel to store the book in. The White Hat Burial is a ceremony that signifies the selectees' promotion and donning of their new uniform, which includes a new hat style, the combination cover or "big hat" as it has been referred to in the past.
The induction culminates the night before they pin on their new rank. Over the course of final night, the chief selects are presented with numerous physical and mental challenges aimed at building teamwork and unity, Lloyd-Owen said.
"Ultimately it's so the chief selects learn to rely on their brothers and sisters in the mess," he said. "It also teaches them independence and builds their confidence so when they don the chief uniform, they're ready for it."