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!

Posted by CTR1(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III in Navy

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    Thanks YN2! Today is a good day in the CPO community. And good day for the Navy too. I was proud to read your post. I expected to see something about CPO pinning on this site today, but I was happier that it came from you. I am also glad the CPO pinning has a positive affect on you. It appears you had a good Chief or two in your career that made a positive affect as well. My only advice then is follow your heart. We won’t be mad at you for leaving the enlisted corps. From what I have read of yours over the months, you appear to be mature, educated and respectable. You will do just fine on whatever path you decide to take. The CPO community however, will be here if you decide that this is your path. Best wishes shipmate! Stay safe as well.

    R/ CMC
    aka. NVYGUNZ

  • Byron

    I think Henry would make a damn fine Chief. Period. Dot.

  • Fouled Anchor

    YN2, great post. The scene your described was repeated (probably hundres of times) throughout the world. I was fortunate to witness the same evolution and have taken part in 24+ hours of events that led up to it. I agree with NVYGUNZ – it’s great to see this post come from a PO2 and know that the ceremony has such an impact outside the CPO Mess. And well it should…it is a damn proud day for every Chief, but it’s a proud day for the families of the new Chiefs, the command, and the Sailors we lead.

    Like NVYGUNZ wrote, we will be here for you if you decide this is your path, but we will also be here if you choose a different path. Chief Petty Officers lead, guide, and train enlisted Sailors and junior officers. That guidance and advice carries over to senior officers and civilians as well. No matter what path you choose in the United States Navy, a Chief Petty Officer stands ready to raise the Bravo Sierra flag, provide advice, serve as an honest broker, and help all members of the DoN succeed and reaches goals beyond their imagination.

    Well done shipmate.

  • CTRC(NAC/AW) Cohen


    Awesome article! I’m sure a lot of the mess will see this and agree that is definitely worth the read! Good luck to you. May you have success in any path you take, but whichever it is, make sure it is the right one for you.


  • 9212forlife

    YN2 Gauthier – Thanks for taking the time to write and post this. Your impressions and perspectives remind me of how I felt as a PO2 attending CPO pinning ceremonies. Your enthusiasm and pride are inspiring and well… genuine. It may not make sense to say so, but I am proud that you are proud. I pray that all the Navy Chiefs you encounter embody the ideals you describe above – and continue to make you proud of your service.
    I hope you save your post from this day and have it to reflect on, should you chose the path of the CPO. I echo the others who’ve responded to your post, we’ll support you on whatever path you chose.
    Thanks again – and keep sharing our pride, tradition, and heritage with your Army buddies – its good for them too.
    Stay safe and best wishes!
    …a random Senior Chief

  • SCPO Bates

    Shipmate, thank you so much for posting this amazing story! well done. I found your story via facebook and it continues to be circulated. Stay safe out there and know that you are in the thoughts and prayers of your brothers and sisters in arms back on the home front. Come home soon and safe.

  • LCDR Richard Bensing

    YN2, you wrote a fine article and it painted a very compelling picture. Not many junior sailors appreciate the chief petty officers, and they certainly do not publically praise them. I certainly didn’t. It took me more years, and the opportunity to work with some fine chiefs (and several Sailors who one day became fine chiefs), before I had the level of respect for the chief that you have gained in a relatively short time. Your pride in your service is as impressive as your clear-headedness. Well done.

    LCDR Bensing

  • Good article. Proud to have you as a step son.I hope some day you will be wearing the CPO Anchor.

  • SCPO USN Ret

    That was one of the better descriptions of a pinning ceremony I have ever read. Those folks who wear anchors have a lot to live up to – should be required reading for the entire Mess. Maybe our brothers and sisters who have forgotten the lessons of September 16 of however many years ago could stand to have a reminder of why we need to take initiation so seriously.

  • JW – MCPO, USN (Ret.)

    A recently retired Shipmate of mine use to tell his Sailors all the time, “Drive, or be driven”. That adage can be looked at from several perspectives and readily adapted to the situation/topic at hand. You, Shipmate, are clearly in the “driver’s seat” of your vessel.

    Not only will you continue to experience great things while serving in OUR Navy, but in your life overall. That’s your destiny, which is CLEARY defined by your attitude and pride in service.

    Thank you for your service YN2. God bless you and yours.


  • LCDR Rob Tryon

    Great post! Glad to read an article from a fellow SAN ANTONIO alum. Thanks for your service-
    LCDR Tryon

  • YN2(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III

    LCDR Tryon,

    Sir, it is good to hear from you, and congrats on your promotion since last I saw you. I hope all is well for you, where-ever the Navy has you these days.

    So that everyone knows, LCDR Tryon is one of the best OODs I’ve ever served with–he showed me how to use a sextant.

  • Byron

    YN2, just as important, you wanted to learn. That’s a good sign in a young sailor. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have great officers either 😉

  • MMC(SW) James M. Zeigler, Sr.

    Thanks YN2. Being one of those Chiefs up there getting pinned was phenomenol. I myself stood a little taller and my chest stuck out a little farther. Thanks for the article. Sailors like you make me love my job more and more everyday.
    God love ya and thanks for going NAVY!

  • CMC(SCW/EXW) James P Clarke

    All I can say is YN2 had some great mentors along the way. This is what CPO’s live for. Having a positive affect on junior sailors and junior officers. We tell other branches of the service about it but they will never understand what it means to be pinned with the GOLD FOULED ANCHORS! I couldnt have said it better myself shipmate. Stay the course and become a CHIEF. I promise you will impact more lives and never regret your descision. I will be there when you get pinned. Bravo Zulu…

  • Swift Intruder

    YN2, Today your article link was distributed among the Chief at Camp Pendleton , CA. Your article reflects a great amount of tradition and pride. You witnessed one of the greatest traditions in the Navy. We, Chief, at our Unit devoted months and months of preparation to ensure Sailor walk 2” taller at the end of the Ceremony. I am very sure you mentor is very proud of you and I am sure one day you will be a Great Chief!

  • Cary Kellogg

    My Navy is in good hands! This young Sailor will go far.
    Thank you Shipmate for making my day,
    Retired Senior Chief Cary Kellogg