You Made Chief, Now What?

The chief petty officer season is over.  Another year has come and gone and, miraculously, your name was on the list.  Even more miraculously, you survived initiation without losing your vessel (too many times).  That’s it.  You’re a chief now.  Congratulations!

Now what? 

Combination covers rest on the vessels of the Navy’s newest CPOs.
U.S. Navy photo by Gary Nichols (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

That’s a great question.  Many chief selectees have been so busy over the past six weeks that they forgot to eat (look how skinny they are), let alone think about what happens after initiation.

It’s a common assumption that the only thing chiefs do is sit in the Chiefs Mess drinking coffee.  That’s not true.  We’re also swearing.  But even that is only a small part of the responsibility of a chief petty officer.

When you get back to work, there will be some changes.  The first thing you will notice is that everyone will be calling you “chief.”  This is normal, but it’s going to throw you off for a while.  Until now, the chief has been some old, fat, angry guy that you wanted to avoid.  Now you are the old, fat, angry guy that everyone wants to avoid.

What you look like to junior sailors now. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Another change will be your new collateral duty (an extra job that will distract you from your actual job).  I realize that you already have a collateral duty, probably several, but a lot of collateral duties require chief petty officer management.  Many of these are managed by chiefs who would rather be waterboarded.  You’re about to get one of these.  It might be urinalysis coordinator, career counselor, financial specialist, or any of dozens of programs that are required at a naval command.  But no matter which one you get, rest assured, it will take over your life in a matter of weeks.

You might be concerned that you don’t know enough about this duty, don’t be. Before assuming a collateral duty, a thorough pass-down is required to ensure competency.  This is normally conducted when your predecessor drops a stack of binders on your desk, adding, “This is everything.  Call me if you have any questions.”  This is the last time you will ever see him (evaporating in a mist before your eyes).

That’s enough on collateral duties, now you have meetings to get to.  Like, right away, you’re probably already late.  Remember when you were a young sailor and wanted to go to all the important meetings?  This is what envy gets you.  Now you will be going to a lot of meetings.  Some days will consist of nothing but meetings all day long.  Some days you will be expected to be at two (or more) separate meetings at the same time (normally in vastly different locations).  This can be tricky.  Good luck.

But being a chief is not just meetings and collateral duties.  You, also, get to come to work earlier and stay later.  Why?  Because that’s the only way to get your work done.  During the work day you have meetings.  Speaking of your actual job, now it will involve a lot more paperwork.  All those evals your subordinates wrote for themselves, are terrible and now you have to fix them.  You’ll also have to write up awards, counselling chits, briefs, reports, and many more.  There’s also a fun little document called a 50/50, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

When you have some free time (ha!) make sure to swing by the exchange.  Sure, you have all the uniforms, but do you have everything else?  If you are going to be a chief, you need to make sure everyone knows… all the time… even in civilian attire.  You are going to need chief t-shirts, chief ball caps, chief coffee mugs, maybe a set of chief pajamas (so spouses don’t forget they have the privilege of sleeping next to a chief).  Regulations require that every chief own at least one t-shirt with a goat dressed as a chief petty officer, one with a skull of some kind normally wearing a chief’s hat, and one with the chief’s anchor.

Standard chief petty officer attire when not on duty. Source: Author.

I hope you enjoyed the initiation season, because you will be part of it every year.  For the rest of your naval career (unless you get commissioned… traitor) you will help run the initiation season.  Sounds fun, right?  It is… kind of.  It’s a lot of fun instill some humility in the new CPO selectees.  It’s rewarding to teach your future brethren in the finer points of leadership.  But it is a lot of work.

You think it was hard trying to complete endless projects and activities all while being continually insulted and humiliated?  Just wait until you see how hard it was for us to make your life miserable.  All those insults and contradictory taskings don’t just come with the khaki uniform.  It takes months of planning and coordination (and meetings, don’t forget meetings) to arrange a successful season.  During the season in addition to your job (remember your full time job, collateral duties, and meetings) you also have to be at a myriad of events with the chief selectees.

Congratulations on this new and exciting chapter of your life.  It was a lot of hard work getting here, but now that you made it, there’s even more of hard work ahead of you.  So, get some rest, have some fun, spend time with family, because soon the real work starts, applying for a commission.

I’m just kidding, I would never leave the Chiefs Mess, no matter how much they offer… Wait, how much are they offering?

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