Today was not the typical groundhog-esq day in Kandahar. For today, I watched my Navy pin 18 of the newest Chief Petty Officers.
I was reminded of the ceremony being today by my Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge (LCPO in Navy Parlance) after their stand up. They didn’t really know what to call it, “There’s this pinning thing today for CPOs. YN (They don’t call me YN2, they just call me ‘YN’. Or, more humorously, they sometimes call me H20) what’s this ‘pinning thing’ all about? What’s a CPO?” My eyes lit up, and I got rather animated when I explained to them everything that happens at these ceremonies. I explained to them what a Bos’n’s Pipe is, and everything that is awesome about it. What sideboys are. Most of all I explained to them just how ‘effin important it is when a Sailor makes Chief. There is no analogue in the Army to compare to a Chief. Though, the Army has First Sergeants (E-8) and Warrant Officers. I explain to Soldiers that our Chiefs are a combination of their First Sergeants and Warrants (they have WO1s, and you can become a Warrant at E-5) .
I walked to the ceremony from my office with a Sergeant First Class (E-7) and a Lieutenant Colonel that work in the same building as me. When we got to where the ceremony was being held, I was amazed to see how many people were there, not just from the Navy and Marine Corps, but from the Army and Air Force as well. As far as I could tell, every Chief from Kandahar was present. A Brigadier General gave a (long) speech that was very well informed and spoke eloquently regarding the history of Chief Petty Officers.
The Chiefs marched in front of us while singing all three verses of Anchors Aweigh. All Sailors stood at attention as we recited our Creed, it was loud and proud. Aircraft taking off for combat missions temporarily drowned out the National Anthem as it was being sung, though that seemed very poignant and in a way, proper. One of the Seabee CMCs on base gave a speech as well, he told the new Chiefs that they are a part of a distinguished fraternity that comes with responsibilities that could not be found in any manual, directive or instruction. He said that this tradition is now in their hands, what it means to be a Chief will be decided by their deeds and actions. Maggie’s favorite BMCS piped each aboard after they were pinned.
After every pinning ceremonies I always walk about two inches taller. My Chiefs make me proud to be a Sailor. You can’t help but hear history talking to you during these ceremonies. The way Chiefs talk to each other, how they at once chide each other and decide how to carry out the Plan of the Day. All the hash marks on their sleeves–the sea stories.
I dream big things for myself, imagining stuff like working at senior levels of policy making and such (dream job: SECNAV). But, when I seriously contemplate doing something like that, it makes me sad. Because, it means I will not be able to be a Chief, that I will have to devote my life to a different path. But, watching Chiefs being pinned, and just being around Chiefs, I want to be that. I think I may even want to do that more. I can easily point to things I don’t like that my Navy does, I can even explain how many things could be done better. But, when it comes to our Senior Enlisted, I have very little in terms of things that are wrong. Chiefs get so many things right on a daily basis it is mind boggling. As senior as Master Chiefs are, it is amazing how well they can listen to you. Everything I hold as being right and good with my Navy is represented in the Gold Fouled Anchor. HOOYAH CHIEFS!