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NEWS | April 2, 2021

The Meaning of Chief

By MC2 Kaila Peters

Since 1893, being pinned to the rank of Chief Petty Officer has been a sign of both technical expertise within one’s rating and exhibition of strong leadership abilities. As we celebrate the 128th year of the rank’s creation, Chiefs from all across U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa were asked to reflect and ponder on what it truly means to be a Chief.

“Being a Chief to me means being a leader who trains, develops, and guides the team to success,” said Chief Logistics Specialist Alejandra Banks, assigned to USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20). “Being ‘The Chief’ is executing whatever the mission is, whether small or big with top results and no excuses while training the crew to have the same standard.”

“The term ‘Anchor Up’ is particularly significant to me because it reminds me to remain mentally strong and push through any challenge in order to get the mission done. That mentality is what keeps me motivated and pushing through day in and out,” added Banks. 

The original rank of Chief Petty Officer encompassed nine ratings: Master-At-Arms, Boatswain’s Mate, Quartermaster, Gunner’s Mate, Machinist, Carpenter’s Mate, Yeoman, Apothecary, and Band Master, and was treated as either a temporary appointment or permanent status. It was only in 1965 that the temporary position was dropped and Chief became a permanent pay grade.

“Chiefs were always the ones to get things done,” said Chief Yeoman James Ramirez, assigned to Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa. “Whether it be a Flag Officer or Seaman Recruit, being able to dazzle those outside our global fellowship with our ‘Chief Magic’ all in the name of supporting those above or below us is what it means to be a Chief Petty Officer to me. It is through that one united voice of “The Chief” that allows us truly be called, the backbone of the navy.”

Today, there are three Chief Petty Officer ranks: Chief, Senior Chief, and Master Chief. Along with being recognized for proficiency in their rate, Chiefs bridge the gap between officers and enlisted personnel, taking on the role of both supervisors and advocates for their Sailors.

“Having the ability to truly set and control the tone is the most important to me,” said Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Christopher Vancil. “My favorite is creating an environment that promotes the question of ‘why?’ without being afraid to be shut down. Teaching and inspiring our future leaders to chase responsibility and not rank. I am a Chief today because of a Chief. I owe him, just like I owe all Sailors to continue to strive to be the Chief you want to ask ‘why?’ to.”

The emblem and collar device of a Chief Petty Officer is symbolized by a gold fouled anchor, representing stability and security. The chain symbolic of flexibility and strength, as well as the reliance on each other to not be the weak link. The anchor is fouled to remind the Chief that no matter the circumstance, even if beyond their control - the task must be completed.

“As I sit here and reflect, the first thing that comes to my mind are all the past and present Chief Petty Officers who have gone before us and paved the way for the new generation of Chief Petty Officers,” said Master Chief Logistic Specialist Noel Navidad, assigned to USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20).  “I ponder on the question on what being a Chief Petty Officer means. To me it’s the constant energy and drive that is dedicated to the growth of your Sailors, Officers, peers, and most importantly yourself.  A Chief is charged with being the subject matter expertise, and if the Chief doesn’t know the answer the Chief will find the answer.  A Chief not only sets the standards but is also the enforcer of standards. Being a Chief you learn to always put others before you. You learn that it’s not about you, it’s about the team and their families.  At one point in our career we have all had that one Chief Petty Officer that in one way or another has left a long and lasting impact in our careers.  As Chiefs we have to pay it forward!”

U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.