Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reviving the Chiefs' Mess


An interesting read below for your awareness. Please share this with your respective CPO Mess's and take the opportunity to sit in on their post read discussions. As I do site visits with commands over the next couple of months, my conversations in the mess will center around some of the things Captain Eyer (ret) mentions. His question "If we are even asking these questions, are we not by extension certifying that some problem exists?" seems to me to be ill stated. In any organization we have to continually ask ourselves "Are we hitting the mark?", "Are there things we should be doing differently to attain better results?", and to me the best question to always ask of a single Chief or the mess in general, "Given what you currently have in manning, training and money, how do we best utilize these to attain mission accomplishment, thus success, without burning out our Sailors?"
Some additional specifics that should be answered by each Chief based on the questions imbedded in the paragraphs below:

Q: Is the typical Chiefs' Mess nowadays ineffective? Why?
Q: Is there a delta in what was historically required of your mess and what is required today?
Q: Is your Chiefs' Mess able to overcome the weakest CPO's in the mess?

Some of the questions the retired Captain asks:
Q: If a decline [in the Chiefs performance and abilities to meet the standards] exists, what is the cause?
Q: Is it the result of some change in the individual Chief?
Q: Is it somehow connected to changes in how Chiefs' Messes are organized and led?
Q: What has happened to drive these changes, and is the benefit of those changes worth the cost?
Q: What does the Chiefs' Mess assure in this ship [command]?
Q: What do they [the Chiefs and Chiefs Mess] provide that requires little or no officer involvement?

The retired Captain takes a few mis-aimed shots at our selection of Chiefs and Command Master Chiefs. Although I read his comments with eyes wide open, I disagree with his assessment that we need to exercise more care in how Chiefs today are selected and the screening process in how CMC's are selected.

CMC's for the most part have reached the pinnacle of their professional source rating and without consideration for compensation or the opportunity to move up in promotion status, thus garnering higher pay, once selected they take on the additional requirement of enlisted responsibility and accountability with virtually no ability to "revert back" should the Command Master Chief role be more than they bargained for.

I'll close with the retired Captains last point. The expert operation of our ships [and all commands] and the leadership and training of our junior officers and young Sailors IS our priority today as it has been for as far back as I can remember. I don't believe we've lost our way, but I do believe we must continue to "Self-Assess" the sum of our parts (the Chiefs' Mess) and the Chiefs themselves both individually and their ability to work within and better the mess, which provides us the way ahead and ensure our Navy has the Sailors and units needed for years to come.

I look forward to your comments and have placed this in my blog so everyone can track comments posted by others.

Feed the engines Shipmates, I intend to go into Harms Way.

Fleet Howard

FLTCM(SW/AW) Tom Howard
U.S. Fleet Forces

"It cannot be too often repeated that in modern war,
and especially in modern naval war, the chief factor
in achieving triumph is what has been done in the way of
thorough preparation and training before the beginning of war."
~Theodore Roosevelt: graduation address, US Naval Academy, June 1902

Reviving the Chiefs' Mess

By Captain Kevin S. Eyer, U.S. Navy (Retired)

First, I am obviously not a chief petty officer, nor have I ever been one. But I have been a voracious consumer of chiefly product for 27 years. Thus, I think I am qualified to advance informed opinions regarding how well chiefs, writ large, are carrying out their responsibilities at sea.

Some believe that the Chiefs' Mess-the corpus formed by all the individual chiefs assigned to a ship-is somehow greater than the sum of its parts. We see the Chiefs' Mess as a powerful engine, deeply embedded in the ship and able to move critical levers with a collective flex of its will.

But today, this is not what really happens. Rather, the typical Chiefs'
Mess nowadays is by and large ineffective. Perhaps more correctly, it is not doing what it was designed to do nor what it historically did.

Of course, some would emphatically disagree with this assessment. But when asked on what metric they base their glowing views of Chiefs' Mess performance, it becomes apparent that they don't have much to offer.
Mostly, their disagreement reflects an admiration for individual chiefs rather than an evolved idea of how a given Chiefs' Mess produces desired effects.

This lack of introspection regarding what is commonly referred to as "the backbone of the Navy" is somewhat understandable. After all, this topic is an uncomfortable one for many. In the end it may be easier to go along with the accepted idea that the chiefs, both individually and collectively, are the foundation on which all success in ships is built.
To look unblinkingly at what may be a downward trend seems an uncomfortable-even disloyal-indictment of sorts. If we are even asking these questions, are we not by extension certifying that some problem exists?

Demonstrable evidence, however, does point that way. While the recent trend of poor Inspection and Survey (INSURV) performance is merely a single example of a decline in Chiefs' Mess efficacy, it is a significant one. One would be hard-pressed to find a chief who would not firmly agree that INSURV, which is fundamentally a material inspection of a ship and her equipment, is mostly the responsibility of the Chiefs'
Mess. After all, the chiefs own, maintain, and operate all the examined equipment and systems. Commanding officers are ultimately responsible, but it is naive to think that the Chiefs' Mess is not the fulcrum on which the success or failure of INSURV rests.

This is not to suggest that this overall decline in performance can be attributed only to a shortfall in chiefly effect. Other important causes can and should concern us. Still, it seems certain that one of the key reasons must be a diminution in the capability of the Chiefs' Mess to meet the prescribed standard.

So, if such a decline exists, what is the cause? Is it the result of some change in the individual chief? Is it somehow connected to changes in how Chiefs' Messes are organized and led? More important, what has happened to drive these changes, and is the benefit of those changes worth the cost?

From Technician to Generalist

The truth seems to be that chiefs are now less technically expert in their respective ratings then they were in the not-too-distant past.
Schooling has been drastically and regularly cut at every level for some time now. Since they know less, why would anyone presume that they can maintain complex systems as well? Why should it be a surprise or an embarrassment that the results of INSURV are not flattering?

Average electronics-based technicians now are mere shadows, technically speaking, of their predecessors from the 1980s and 1990s. In those days, technicians spent months, if not years, learning the equipment and the system, inside and out, before they even arrived in a ship. Prior to the mid 1990s, all electronics-based technicians went to Advanced Electronics Technical Core (AETC) School before they even arrived at their respective "A" Schools. AETC lasted for six months and covered fundamental electronics topics, ranging from AC and DC current to solid state, digital, and superhetrodyne circuits. Students even learned how to solder, which may sound trivial, but isn't.

AETC is now self-paced, computer-based, and typically completed quite easily within a month. It is an empty shell. Further, the content of "A"
school, where the technician begins to work specifically on rating topics, has been trimmed, too. We no longer teach students fundamentals of synchro and servomechanisms or motors and generators. Rather, we teach "black box" replacement. This goes for only a discrete group of highly technical ratings, but similar changes have taken place in virtually every rating, technical or not. In short, our chiefs, through no fault of their own, have arrived, over time, at a place where they simply know less about their equipment.

Further compounding this reduction in formal education, and for complex reasons tied to concerns like retention and new distribution paradigms, enlisted technicians are no longer rigorously detailed into rating-related billets as they transition from sea to shore duty. Sonar technicians are just as likely to be sent to non-technical billets at a naval hospital or bachelor officers' quarters as they are to be sent to an Afloat Training Group or school house where they would train others.
We also no longer send technicians to regional maintenance centers, where in the past they helped to repair equipment on ships, learning immeasurably along the way. Now, we contract that job out to civilians.

Can we therefore suppose that this sort of approach wouldn't interrupt the technician's professional building process? Can anyone imagine that we are not creating a situation in which those shore-based technicians, quickly becoming senior enough to soon assume positions of at-sea leadership, will be returning to ships having forgotten much and learned little?

Interpreting the Signals

All of us respond to the signals transmitted by the system. If we believe that to succeed we must go to non-technical positions or that we need to get a degree of some sort, then this is what we will do. We all want to succeed, and if we are told by word or signal that to do so we must check specific boxes, then those most competitive will make sure the boxes get checked. Who is thinking about, much less looking at, the opportunity cost?

What seems to be required to become a chief today is what might be termed "broadening." What have you done, other than spend time at sea, working in your rating? Have you done a tour as a recruiter? Have you trained those recruits? Do you have a suitably varied service record?
More important, where is your degree? And what, by the way, do you do to improve your local community?

If you don't have compelling answers to these questions, your chances of being selected begin to dim. Our Sailors get this. On the other hand, being a technical expert in and of itself is no longer a path to success, no matter how invaluable you may be. Since 1990, not a single senior chief sonar technician, trained as an acoustic intelligence
(ACINT) expert (the absolute creme de la creme of our antisubmarine experts), has been selected for master chief. Expertise in one's assigned rating is not rewarded, and this observation is not wasted on our young Sailors.

There are only so many hours in a day, and it makes sense that if you are pursuing that degree or coaching little league, it is probably true that you are taking that time out of learning how to be technical expert or honing your managerial and leadership skills. The truth of this gets submerged today. In our promotion deliberations, if we conclude that you have good evaluations, you must be a fine technician and an experienced leader, even if you haven't spent much time working at either.

This is not to suggest that these other pursuits aren't worthy. But it does suggest that the efficient, safe, and professional operation of ships and the provision of consistent leadership to the Sailors who serve is more worthy. It is, after all, why we even have chief petty officers in the first place.

Is the Sum Still Greater than its Parts?

Even though individual chiefs are less expert in their respective tasks, they do bring a more broad perspective to the Chiefs' Mess when they arrive. Is this counterbalancing the loss of technical acumen? Is the synergy-which may have, in the past, meant that the sum exceeded the parts-still there?

Two legitimate questions to ask in any command are: "What does the Chiefs' Mess assure in this ship? And what do they provide that requires little or no officer involvement?" The captain should be able to ask the Chiefs' Mess to take care of something important, and in an idealized world, that would be the end of it. Actually, the captain shouldn't even have to ask. The chiefs would know what needed to be done, without signal, simply through their collective breadth of knowledge and experience.

This is not what happens. The sum is no longer greater than its parts, and that collective engine of expertise and experience is faltering.
Indeed, to guarantee success it has become necessary to find some new engine to bind and drive forward motion. Short of that synergistic Chiefs' Mess, the disconnected nodes and fragments and individuals of a ship are now, we hope, driven in the right direction by a few individuals who vary, ship-to-ship or unit-to-unit. Certainly, some of these driving individuals may be chiefs, but the idea of the Mess being the engine that organizes and informs all activity is not generally the case.

Who Leads the Chiefs' Mess?

In the past, leadership of the Mess fell to the "alpha" chiefs of any given Mess. The strongest leaders were typically highly experienced, highly respected senior and master chiefs. They drove and bound the Mess, teaching their juniors and junior officers, too, and setting the ship's agenda. That has changed. Simply being a natural leader has been deemed insufficient, and so the command master chief (CMC) position was established.

The idea was to professionalize and align leadership of the Chiefs'
Mess. Unfortunately, it appears that the characteristics necessary for selection to the CMC program are not necessarily yielding the sort of leadership that may be required to ignite synergy. We now have leadership that may be aligned with approved Navy views, but we have also experienced a concomitant loss in the sort of charismatic leadership that was the natural order in the past.

To become a command master chief-the single official leader of the Chiefs' Mess in any command-one must apply for selection. It might seem counterintuitive, but no board looks at the universe of chiefs and picks only those deemed to be best of the best. Rather, CMCs are selected only from the pool of applicants, whoever they might be. It makes sense that there may be a difference, and there probably is, between some of the chiefs who want to be a CMC and some of the chiefs who are ideally suited but for whatever reason don't apply.

With regard to selection, candidates should be qualified in multiply warfare areas (even if this dilutes you in terms of experience; many of the chiefs you lead could have more time in, for example, combat ships than you do). You should also have a good record, as measured by competitive performance. But how do we know if you can lead other chiefs? Surely we all have served with command master chiefs who were disastrously ill-equipped to lead the complex and disparate people who make up the Mess.

While being a CMC may be broadly analogous with being a commanding officer, the process for sorting the elect from the manque is different.
Command boards at least get to see how an officer has done across a range of at-sea leadership billets. For officers, the standard is and always has been sustained superior performance at sea, as measured by performance in increasingly complex leadership positions. On the other hand, how can a board know if a chief has the right leadership characteristics? How can a board know whether it has the best possible competitors for the few CMC billets chosen in a given year? Do they even consider whether the applicants have spent time at sea? We all have worked with CMCs who have little, if any, sea time.

Reversing the Decline

Several connected issues have had an impact on the decline in performance of the Chiefs' Mess. First, we have established policies and procedures that have diminished the technical expertise that chiefs bring to the Mess. Second, it is not evident that having broad, degree-bearing chief petty officers has in some way made up for the diminution in technical acumen; consider INSURV results. Third, we have established a Mess leadership position that probably does not assure only the best of the best are chosen to preside over individual Messes.

At a minimum, we need to exercise more care in how chiefs are groomed and selected and what messages we are transmitting to them along their path. We should be careful to more clearly reward attributes that have historically been desirable in chief petty officers; recognized leadership, technical expertise, sea time. These chiefs, and only these chiefs, should be rewarded with the privilege of serving in afloat Chiefs' Messes. From these select few we should select those qualified to lead the other tigers.

As for Chiefs' Mess leadership, commanding officers should be given a quota-a very small quota-of CMC nominations each year. The small number would limit the amount of "gifting" that could occur, and it would save the CO from endlessly justifying himself to those not nominated. From this pool, the immediate superior in the chain of command would select a smaller number of people for ultimate CMC training and assignment. This method would almost guarantee that only the right chiefs ever get to be CMCs.

Further, selection as command master chief should not guarantee repeat assignment to CMC billets. After all, while some will arrive truly ready for the job and some may eventually grow into it, others will be simply not up to the task, and they never will be. These should be prevented from further CMC assignment, but this is not what happens now. Indeed, a provision in the rules allows for CMCs to be transferred, without prejudice, out of a troubled situation. This esoteric rule was probably implemented to guard the reputation of the CMC community, but it only serves to guarantee that "once a CMC, always a CMC." In the end, it is far easier to fire a captain for incompetence than it is to fire a command master chief.

This discussion, of course, only scratches the surface. Other significant questions remain to be addressed, and should be. Evidence suggests that the Chiefs' Mess is not doing what we want it to do. And that means a public dialogue needs to be undertaken. After all, if the expert operation of our ships and the leadership and training of our junior officers and young Sailors is not our priority, then we have truly lost our way.

Captain Eyer commanded the USS Thomas S. Gates (CG-51), USS Shiloh (CG-67), and USS Chancellorsville (CG-62). He retired in 2009.

(The original article is in the January 2010 Proceedings from the U.S. Naval Institute. The article is available online for Naval Institute members to read and comment at

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

21 December 2009
Maritime Warriors, Shipmates one and all,

While most of the world is close to home celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah this holiday season and looking to bring in a New Year, I want to tell you “Thank You” for what you’re doing and where you’re doing it at. The sacrifices that you and every Sailor who’s ever worn our uniform make cannot be overstated.

No matter whether you serve in non-traditional Navy roles in Iraq, Afghanistan, Horn of Africa, Guantanamo Bay or Southern Philippines or the more maritime role in a scheduled or surge cruise, your individual and combined efforts are making a difference during this global war on terrorism.

We are all on the forefront of naval history during this period of time and you find yourselves away from your loved ones as you execute the mission assigned. Whether your mission is a part of an internment facility, a provincial reconstruction team, medical support, counter-IED, security on an off-shore oil platform, base or staff support or the myriad of missions or assignments throughout the world, you are in the thoughts, hearts and prayers of Shipmates, family and friends back home.

For your spouses and/or family members who continue to sacrifice on the homefront,
they too are heroes in more ways than the average American can relate too. Their continued effort leading and taking care of issues back home are more than most will ever know or understand. As my own wife Lesia and kids have done, they make it possible for you and me to focus all of our attention on the mission at hand.

You are patriots dedicated to the preservation of freedom and democracy. You do it with
no expectation of reward or even thanks. You continue to do it today for the same reasons Sailors have done it for over 230 years, because it’s our calling and because now we all have Shipmates that are counting on us to watch their back and perform that which is expected of us.

Keep up the extraordinary work you are doing. I am honored to serve with you during this important time in our nation’s history. May God bless you, your families, our Navy and our country and keep you safe as you go into Harm’s Way.

My sincerest gratitude,


Tom Howard
Fleet Master Chief
U.S. Fleet Forces Command

Friday, December 4, 2009

Shipmates, was posed with a question I thought I would pass to you for consideration.

"One of FRA's special committees is considering a new support program concept for spouses of deployed Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel who may be in need of individual laptop computers for use in communicating with their respective deployed spouses. The Association would seek a corporate sponsor for the program and promote and administer same. In conjunction with this concept, can you please provide some insight on the computer needs of enlisted spouses to enhance communications with their respective deployed service members? And if this is not a viable program concept, are there other enlisted spouse/service member needs to which a new program may be developed?

Love to hear from those of you who have an opinion on this!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

NWU - Camoflague for the deck

Heard people talking about why the particular camoflague pattern for the new Navy Working Uniform? Think the attached photo tells it all! Have a great day and thanks for all you do! --Fleet sends

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Honor Bound - Sexual Assault Prevention

Hey Shipmates,

Returned a short while ago from the first day of the DON Sexual Assault Prevention Summit in DC. Opening remarks were provided by Secretary Mabus who talked about the importance of the Chief’s Mess and Staff NCO’s to set the tone within a command and provide an atmosphere of non-retribution. He mentioned that research has shown a lack of understanding of what sexual assault is and the difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Following the SECNAV was Ms. Claudia Bayliff, Esq. who is an attorney and educator who works on issues related to violence against women. Her brief was extremely informative.

The Chief Of Naval Operations was accompanied by Mrs. Roughead and he spoke about the correlation of our Core Values: HONOR and the summit banner of “Honor Bound”; COURAGE and how it relates to those who come forward or intervene; and COIMMITTMENT to addressing and correcting the activity.

I’ll add that our effectiveness as a unit is our ability to trust each other to watch our back or “cover your six” at times of high interest or combat. Sexual Assault tears away and erodes the very trust within that unit.

In addition, we have to continue to stress the deglamorization of alcohol as most if not all sexual assaults happen under the influence of alcohol.

A few additional talking points:
. Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program is a top priority for the Secretary of the Navy. Navy and Marine Corps leadership are committed to eliminating sexual assault and ensuring that the goals of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Programs are achieved by all commands, responding to victims, and holding offenders accountable.
. We work toward these goals by sustaining a robust sexual assault prevention and response policy, identifying and eliminating barriers to victims reporting, ensuring that care for victims of sexual assault is available and accessible, and by providing continuous, relevant, and effective training and education on sexual assault prevention for our Sailors and Marines.
. The impact of sexual assault on Navy and Marine Corps readiness dramatically effects morale, unit cohesion and operational readiness. It is the most under reported violent crime in society. It is incompatible with Navy and Marine Corps ethos and core values, and high standards of professionalism.
. A multi-disciplinary approach is critical for effective prevention, victim response, and offender accountability. The key stakeholders include the command, BUMED, NCIS, Judge Advocate General, Training Command, Chaplains, and Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs).
. Victims who receive advocacy, medical, legal, investigative and counseling services are more likely to participate in the legal system than those who do not. One of the strongest predictors of conviction is the victim's participation in the process. Fleet sends

Sunday, July 19, 2009

NC of the Year

Hey there Shipmates,

Wanted to tell you of a great opportunity I recently had to recognize one of our great Sailors. On Friday, 26 June, I found myself onboard USS NITZE with none other than NC1 Verner, the ships Senior Sailor of the Year. You may remember NC1, she was also one of the finalists for the USFF Sea Sailor of the Year competition as she was the SURFLANT Sea SOY.

NC1 Verner was recognized by the Navy Counselor Association at their recent symposium as the Navy Counselor of the Year to go along with her many achievements.

When I met with her this day, I was accompanied by some very big fans of NC1’s. My staff CMC, CMDCM Andre Green, my Administrative Assistant, YN2 Michelle Flood, the Fleet Counselor for USFF, NCCM Kevin Sullivan and the SUFLANT Force Navy Counselor. While meeting with NC1, I asked her why she thought she has been so successful and her reply was;
"For me, being successful within my career has come with a lot of hard work and dedication. In fact, it has meant a lot of hard work and dedication from many others as well. My faith has been paramount; and the commitment from my shipmates, family, and friends has come second to none. Personally, I am driven. Professionally, I am focused. Spiritually, I am grounded. Socially, still a work in progress, although I do believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I've always been driven and have tried to do everything within the best of my ability. Realizing that time passes by quickly, what else do we have to show about who we are than the contributions we make today. To me, life should be filled with purpose. Why do anything if not the intent to be committed and do it well? I am not satisfied with being mediocre at anything. Someone said it best, "You either meet my standard, or exceed my standard!" I choose to do both!

Obviously, being successful isn't an easy task. Assuming numerous collateral duties in addition to my job as Independent Command Career Counselor has been very challenging to say the least. However, I do believe the approach we take toward helping accomplish the mission and reaching our goals is what makes it all so rewarding. My mindset is this: Mind over matter; Obstacle – Resolution; Challenge – Overcome; Pessimist – Realist; Critical – Ignore; Constructive – Listen; Tired - Pray for strength; Laziness - Not an option…

At the end of the day, I know that I have given my all. Hopefully my efforts will have helped a shipmate reach a new height within their career, within their life, and or to find their purpose."

Shipmate, we’re all proud of you and look forward to hearing more about your interactions with Sailors! Bravo Zulu – Fleet sends.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Aloha Pacific and hello Atlantic!

Aloha Shipmates,

I wanted to take a moment and wish all our Sailors in the Pacific Theatre, a place my family and I have called home for the last 7 1/2 years, a fond farewell. We’ve taken our last tour and moved to U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia and set up a home in the local Hampton Roads area.

Our time in theatre was one of the most memorable times in our 27 year career. To have spent time in Sasebo and Yokosuka Japan, traveled throughout Asia and then a 23 month tour in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the home of U.S. Pacific Fleet, was in a word, “incredible.” The Sailors, Marines, Navy civilians and family members are among the elite of the U.S. Navy and set the tone for the rest of our service. Those operating in the FDNF (Forward Deployed Naval Forces of the Western Pacific) exercise leadership 24/7 every day of the year, and I can’t thank them enough for their daily sacrifices.

As we begin our last tour I’d like to put on the record a few things. As I told the Sailors (Second Chance Sailors on CARL VINSON) the other day when one of them asked me who I worked for, “I work for you. I was hired by Admiral Greenert to report to him and his staff the challenges our Sailors face, the state of the force he commands, and to state the expectations of Sailors to Sailors for the U.S. Navy to remain the very best Navy the world has ever had, but I work for you, the Sailor to hear your concerns and issues and at the end of the day, make life a little better than we found it.” The life of our Sailors in many ways is much better today than it was 20 years ago, but some of the demands we have on our Sailors are the hardest they’ve been in many years. I am committed to identifying areas we need to address and fixing them. The team of Master Chiefs throughout the USFF domain are an incredibly talented and experienced group of professionals and working with them in support of the MCPON, there’s nothing we can’t get done.

So secure for sea Shipmates, we’ve taken in all lines and the course we’ve plotted will take us through Sea State 9. -Fleet sends

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pacific Fleet Sailor Of the Year

Aloha Shipmates,

We recently finished our PACFLT Sailor Of the Year (SOY) competition and just like previous years, this years 8 finalists were great examples of “Deck-Plate Leadership.”

Our candidates go through a rigorous selection process having to go through competition from the Department level, to the Command level, to the ISIC level and then the TYCOM level. Our eight finalists consisted of four that would compete for the Sea Duty selection and four who would compete for the Shore Duty selection. The SOY chosen for Sea duty is eligible to be meritoriously promoted to Chief Petty Officer during the CNO program in July and the Shore SOY chosen will compete at one more level, that being the VCNO Sailor of the Year competition later in May, held in Washington, D.C.

Our Sea SOY’s and the reporting command they represented:
Representing Commander, Naval Surface Forces Pacific, Shipmate - Air Traffic Controller First Class Alea Creighton;
Representing Commander, Naval Air Forces Pacific, Shipmate - Aviation Structural Mechanic First Class Christopher Green.
Representing Commander, Marine Forces Pacific, Shipmate - Religious Programs Specialist First Class Patrick McCormick.
Representing Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, Shipmate - Special Warfare Operator First Class Marcos Ybarra.

Our Shore SOY’s:
Representing Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Shipmate - Operations Specialist First Class Terrish Bilbrey.
Representing Commander, Naval Air Forces Pacific, Shipmate - Aviation Electronics Technician First Class Ethan Clark.
Representing Commander, Marine Forces Pacific, Shipmate - Religious Program Specialist First Class Patricia Hernandez.
And representing Commander, Naval Surface Forces Pacific, Shipmate – Hospital Corpsman First Class James Nicholson.

Trying to select just one from each stellar group was much like trying to select which Sailor looks the best from a group consisting of members from the U.S. Navy’s Ceremonial Guard!

In the end the board (consisting of the Force Master Chiefs from AIRPAC, SURFPAC, SUBPAC, and CMC’s from 3rd Fleet and MARFORPAC selected Aviation Structural Mechanic First Class Christopher Green as the Sea SOY and Hospital Corpsman First Class James Nicholson as the Shore SOY.

These eight candidates are the representatives of 100,000 E6 and below Sailors throughout the Pacific Fleet and the way they carried and handled themselves were as true professional Sailors. Congratulations to all our Sailors who wear the uniform in this all-volunteer Navy! I couldn’t be prouder of each of you. –Fleet sends.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What's happened to the "Mess?"


Thought it relevant for me to send this out to you for your interest as I received the original from a friend of mine in Japan who didn't know Paul Harvey's version of "the rest of the story."

Much like some of the emails that surfaced a year ago regarding a CPO select in one of our regions, there is always a second version of the story that needs to be heard before passing judgment.

John Heck is a heck (no pun intended) of a CMC and is doing great things in GHW BUSH.

Sail safe and thanks for leading Sailors and taking care of the issues they and their families have. Fleet Sends

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 2:38

Morning All, many of you may have received or heard of the below email
recently generated by retired Chief Petty Officer Brian Harman, a MARMC
worker embarked onboard CVN 77 for Acceptance/Sea Trails. Below is Chief Harman's email and CVN-77's CMC response and sincere APOLOGY for this simple misunderstanding. I only ask that those who forwarded the original email, please read and forward the CMC's complete response and possibly see this issue from all sides. There is much blame to had, including Chief Harman, his employers embark policy and indeed CVN-77. Our Navy and every Chiefs Mess honors and respects the Chiefs that have served our Great Navy and Nation, they are and will always be WELCOMED in our Chiefs Mess. V/R, FORCM Fred Pharr Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic

-----Original Message-----
From: Heck, John W., CMDCM []
Sent: Monday, April 13, 2009 16:08


I'll dispense with the adjectives and just give you the meat of the issue which resulted in this Chief's e-Mail.

Never in my wildest dreams would I turn away (or allowed to be turned-away) any Active or Retired CPO from our Chief's Mess. This was a mistake and my sincere apologies go out to the individual involved.

GEORGE H W BUSH has been to sea a total of four (4) days.

During the first two (2) days (builder's sea trials) the ship had
approximately 900+ Civilians aboard from various agencies and companies, as well as 200+ Active Duty (in Uniform) from different commands all around the country. Everyone was here for different reason and purpose, whether they were here as a Northrop Grumman employee, or as someone sent here to inspect a particular system, the types of jobs numbered in the hundreds. The reason I mention this is because everyone has an employer, or a Chain of Command somewhere who issues rules and guidance. The guidance that everyone received at check-in was similar to what all Ship Riders are supposed to receive (Where berthing is located, Man overboard muster locations, EEBD Indoctrination, locations of where the Mess decks, CPO Mess and Wardroom are located, etc). The group at-large received briefings by
their various employers or Chains of Command (where applicable), but they were also issued security Badges which indicate where their messing arrangements are located. It is the responsibility of everyone to know (and go) to where those locations are at mealtimes.

During our Last Underway, it became a free-for-all in the CPO Mess anyone who wanted to come down, did so with no control or sanity check. The food was gone, the place was a wreck, and our FSAs and CSs were rode hard until we could get them some additional help from the other Departments. In the Mess, we were expecting an additional 220 guests (on top of the ships crew) but received more than 350 at each mealtime until we got the situation under control. We also had to secure the Mess at different times of day and night just to get it cleaned-up, because it was becoming a "Lounge" for certain riders, and in a state of disarray at different times. I can go on and on about this, but I'll stop at this point and give credit to our young Sailors who were the ones who stood out and helped keep the place at the standard where it needed to be. The Chiefs helped by challenging the guests who they
didn't know. And by the way these youngsters maintained our Mess without complaining of all the extra hours either in the Mess (or in taking care of cleaning up all of our berthing compartments afterwards).

The lessons we received out of this were of crowd control. We needed to actually post MAs outside the Chief's Mess to check credentials and
basically validate who was allowed in and who wasn't. People who couldn't produce a security badge that said "CPO Mess" on it, or produce some other type of proof that they are a CPO, were not admitted. Not addressed before this underway period was the necessity of having a better accounting of the Active and Retired CPOs to expect, because we really didn't have as good a visibility on that as we would like.

Basically what we had were three distinct groups of folks:
- Workers who were authorized guests, whether their badge said that or not.
- Workers who were guests of the ship and were supposed to be elsewhere.
- All CPOs in uniform.

Fast-forward to this previous Underway period - (2) days (of acceptance
sea trials and INSURV) - we were expecting roughly the same numbers,
possibly less, approximately 700+ Civilians and about 200+ Active Duty.
Again, the group at-large were supposed to receive briefings by their
various employers or Chains of Command, as well as get their Security
Badges. During this two-day U/W, several came in the CPO mess with retired Chief's credentials, and even though these workers were programmed (by their employer) to eat in the general mess, we made an allowance for these workers to eat in the CPO Mess anyway. The effect strained the CPO Mess above 250 guests, without any extra support, but we handled it. That wasn't a problem.

Not having good visibility on exactly HOW MANY we were supposed to get, and understanding how unique these sets of circumstances were (this will probably never happen again with this many riders) - that WAS the problem. We could not get an accurate count from all the different agencies, commands and workers who were coming, with the understanding that any Chief would be allowed to enter the Mess, whether badged correctly or not.

Somewhere in all of this, this particular situation had slipped through the cracks. The MAs who were told to do their job did it to the best of their ability and checked everyone's credentials. They turned-away several people who without proper badges. This individual should have been allowed to enter the Mess.

Concerning the CPO (Retired) who generated this email, I never met him. At no time was I ever contacted by him, his employer, or by anyone else
associated with MARMC - or - in their group. I carry a radio.
I am mobile and available. I honestly feel bad that he got turned away, and I should have been called when it happened. That was not supposed to happen. He DOES have an open invitation to come back. Bottom line here is that it would have been an easy situation to diffuse, had he Simply contacted me. In his conversation with CSCM he didn't show his I.D., so I probably would have told him to eat in the General mess also. I consider this an isolated event.

Since I have been on board (23 Jan), I have had three CPO Hail and
Farewells, numerous CPO Meetings (the Whole Mess), and one CPO Dining-Out in downtown Norfolk. I constantly go to the Mess for meals and business. I am also doing CPO Career Development Boards. If there are two CPOs who don't know me, then I'd like to know what commands they are from (because they were not part of this one).

I'll close this by saying (again) that everyone who comes aboard this ship, if they are a CPO, active or retired, they are welcomed in the Mess. To outside agencies who employ retired CPOs, it might matter to them (because - we observed - that they are assigning retired Chiefs to other areas of the ship, and not the Mess, that's a contributing factor. It could be their employers DO know that these workers are retired Chiefs, therefore do not badge them correctly.

Now if it were me - and I mean no disrespect to anyone - I would have gotten my badge fixed before it became a problem. Or - if not other recourse and located the Ships CMC and asked what's up?

-----Original Message-----
From: Harman, Brian R CTR MARMC, 282
Sent: Friday, April 10, 2009 8:27 AM

Joe, Tony, Curran, Don, Joel, Ed and Ted,

I just got back from the Acceptance Trials on CVN-77, I checked
onboard at 0500 and thought I would grab a cup of coffee in the mess.
Low and behold there was security posted at the hatch to the chief's mess and since my riders card said general I wasn't allowed to enter. After badgering security long enough they left me pass, once in the mess I asked the MDMAA where the caterer was and he pointed towards the mess lounge, inside I found Master Chief Askew (CSCM I think) I asked about if I could eat chow in the mess being a retired CPO, not only did he say no that I couldn't eat but I was permitted in the mess at all.
He told me that there was to many of ya, I was suddenly not a retired CPO but a ya.

After being talked to like a FN and treated like a dog, I was exiting the mess at flank speed with flames coming from both ears to talk to
someone, anyone, I stopped 2 chiefs and asked who the CMC was and where I could find him, I got the same answer from both, "I don't know" at that exact moment I realized that my mess isn't my mess anymore, when the hell did the comrade, fellowship and brotherhood change to me, me, me!!!

When I was frocked to chief on the Truman I left the frocking
ceremony and reported the mess where I became the mess caterer, I can tell you one thing no retired CPO or Retired E-7 and above from any branch was ever turned away or even paid for a meal, I owed them that much. The ship saying there was to many people to let all retired CPO's in the mess is bullshit, I hosted a bring your boss to supper and also bring a blue shirt to supper quit often on the Truman and I could run 800 people thru the line in less than 3 hours.

2 years ago I went to my oldest son's graduation from Marine Corp
boot camp at Parris Island and I was welcomed with open arms there, and when I see him at Camp Legune I retired status is excepted well.

Last week I went to Fort Jackson to my youngest son's Army
graduation and was recognized and honored during the ceremony for being a retired vet.

Has the new Navy flushed away centuries of tradition and thrown our
retired CPO's away, I think so.

You have my permission, and I encourage you to forward this to
anyone you see fit. I'm pissed, embarrassed and ashamed of what is happening to my mess. R/ ICC(SW) Brian R. Harman (Retired)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy Birthday, chiefs!

I want to piggyback on MCPON West’s birthday message sent out March 30 via

In his message, which can be found at, MCPON West reminds us first and foremost we should take a moment and truly reflect on “the honored traditions of our mess and the heritage associated with it.”

But, I ask you, what is our heritage? What are our honored traditions? Sure, we can stand up and list all of those who have served as MCPON or proudly stand up and talk about the path senior-enlisted Sailors have taken to become the chief. But, really, what is our most-honored tradition?

MCPON West spelled it out clearly for us all in his birthday message as he looked back upon MCPON Billy Sanders and the status of the Navy during Sanders’ tenure as our MCPON. Our most-honored tradition is keeping our ranks filled with the best possible people. Shipmates, there is NO room for mediocrity! We must hold ourselves and the Fleet to the highest of standards.

Bottom line here as MCPON Sanders wrote and MCPON West reminded us: “It’s time to be Navy.”

It’s time get back to the basics of what it is that has made the U.S. Navy chief petty officer mess the backbone of the greatest Navy in the world. And, there is no better time than our birthday to make that happen.

Fleet sends.

Are you connected in the Information Age?

With the introduction of the computer into modern warfare, the Navy jumped head first into the "Information Age". As quickly as this brought the Sailor to mission critical information, it also brought a surge of data back on the Sailor ten-fold.

But how does one avoid drowning in this growing arena? How does one reach out to shipmates for a lifeline to stay connected and in touch?

Connections are made at a lightening fast pace and just blinking might make you miss the next 'big thing'. We have email and we created websites, then the world went and made their own spaces (aka MySpace), now you gotta put your face out there (Facebook) and since when did you Tweet (aka Twitter) in the Navy, let alone allow Yammering (aka Yammer) or Jabbering (aka Jabber) of our shipmates? Even now, just to talk to FPCON, instead of picking up the phone, you put on your Command and Control headset to DCO-in (Defense Connect Online). Think “World of Warcraft” in the office!

In a community as diverse and distanced as the Navy, there is just as many different ways of staying in touch. There's not only information pull (users going to get the information they need), but an information PUSH, flooding the Sailor with avenues to explore.

So how does one stay in contact at sea or in combat? World Wide Web today truly does capture the world - connectivity now goes where you go, not the other way around where you have to drag it after you. Sometimes it just comes looking for you! Thanks for your sacrifices and for your service. Fleet sends.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chiefs on Deck -- Reality vs. Myth

Hey Shipmates, I want to talk today about reality vs. myth when it comes to deckplate leadership.

Our recollections of the way things were done will often determine how things are done in the future. These recollections or stories can have either a positive or negative effect on what we do and who we are. If they’re serving our needs well, there’s no need to change them. However, when the story is a myth and has become so much a part of our unconscious being that it drives our behavior, then it’s time to break the myth and bring the story back to its true reality.

I’m talking about “chiefs on deck!”

First let me state the myth: “Back in the day, if I ever saw my chief out of the goat locker, it meant I or one of my shipmates was going to get his or her butt chewed.”

Now the reality: “My chiefs were always in the spaces.” They were constantly checking the cleanliness and preservation of the equipment and ensuring the spaces they were responsible for were properly maintained. They were routinely seen with the division officer (DIVO) or the leading petty officer (LPO), wheelbook in hand, pointing at things and writing stuff down, presumably adding to the laundry list of things that needed to be done.

They were “mentoring” before any of us knew what the word meant and certainly before it became part of our Navy terminology. They were helping develop the young junior officer into a good officer who could become a great DIVO with the tools to be a successful department head and beyond. To the LPO who had seen this going on for years as he came up through the ranks, he was finding our exactly what the chief was writing down in his wheelbook. They were finding out how things were prioritized based on the operational schedule and maintenance requirements.

The good LPO only needed to do this a few times with the chief before he realized that if he did these things himself, he would be doing the things “the chief did” and subconsciously preparing himself to put on anchors. The great LPO never waited for the chief to ask how things were going or what the status was on a specific work project, he provided the chief routine updates. The chief in turn provided updates to the DIVO so he too could provide the same to the department head. It’s a well-maintained capstan of information going round and round.

The thought that if the chief is always on deck she was considered micro-managing the LPO, never crossed anyone’s mind because the chief was ALWAYS on deck. If my job was to work with one or two other seamen to repaint a bulkhead, I knew either the chief or my supervisor was going to be inspecting the progress at every juncture. When we finished needle-gunning, someone was going to inspect to see if the job was ready to sand. When we finished sanding, someone was going to inspect to see if we were ready to prep. Once that was done, we were ready to prime. When the chief or LPO was sure that all these steps were completed satisfactorily, like had been done for years before, we painted it and then, that too, was inspected for holidays. Were we micro-managed? Nope! We were being taught the proper ways to do our jobs. In reality, we were being mentored on what was needed to do to be ready to put on a chevron of a petty officer.

As it pertains to our myths, I’ve heard it stated this way: the more we repeat them to ourselves, the more powerful they become; the more powerful they become, the more they determine our behavior; the more we behave as if they are true, the more they will become self-sustaining prophecies.

So to all our chiefs, flush the myth down the crapper and get back on deck. Your Sailors need you and our Navy expects it. If you’re in the goat locker, I expect it’s for a cup of coffee, chow or you’re telling one of your fellow chiefs that his spaces look like they haven’t seen a broom since Moby Dick was a minnow!

Friday, February 20, 2009


Wow shipmates, it’s been too long since I posted here and wanted to say first sorry.

Had a been traveling quite exclusively the last several months and simply wanted to catch you up on where I’ve been and some of the common concerns from our Sailors. I'll hit some of the places I've been in separate blogs and then capture the concerns in a final one.

First where have I been. Each year a group of our CPO Selects are provided an opportunity to spend a week working the rigging onboard “Old Ironsides”, USS CONSTITUTION (the only ship in commission without a hull number)! This was my first visit with them and one I will never forget. For the soon to be Chief Petty Officers, I would believe it was thus far the highlight of their careers.

I spoke to them about leadership, and their responsibility to develop their Sailors. A favorite quote of mine has always been: “Leaders take people where they want to go, great leaders take people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be!" That’s our charge as leaders in our Navy. To see in our Sailors what they may not see in themselves, and then help them achieve more than they believed they could.
For now Shipmates, that’s it. Thanks for serving and thanks for your great sacrifices you and your family make on a daily basis. Fleet Howard