Bill Flinn, ATCS(AW),
U.S. Navy, 1976 - 1996
Welcome to the "Chief
Petty Officers (CPO)" section of Gonzo's Garage. In these pages, you will find
information about what it means to be a CPO, and also a little
information about the patch to being a commissioned officer taken by
many CPOs. Unfortunately - when we do so, we are often
jokingly referred to as "defectors."
The US Navy Chief Petty Officer
[The Chief versus the E-7]
[The CPO Prayer] [Rules and The Chief]
[CPO Retirement Creed]
Psalm] [About LDOs] [The
Navy Chief Petty Officers are a very special
"entity." When an enlisted sailor progresses up the ladder of success, he or
she attains the various ranks: E-3, E-4, E-5, E-6. These ranks all
have names, such as "Petty Officer Third Class" (E-4), and "Petty
Officer First Class" (E-6).
In many of the armed forces, when an
enlisted person finally attains the senior enlisted rank of E-7, there is typically no fanfare,
no extraordinary celebration, no unusual ceremonies. The successful person
is congratulated, and perhaps given a small party of some sort. When a
sailor makes "Chief" however, they are shedding their former enlisted
coverings, and being quite literally "initiated" into a new
world. Unlike the other armed forces, the Navy Chief dons a new,
distinctive uniform (the same as that of a commissioned officer) and begins a
whole new career.
The Navy Chief Petty Officer is still a
non-commissioned officer, but is held in high esteem by enlisted and officer
alike. When a Sailor makes "Chief," they aren't merely promoted
based on an advancement examination score. Not everyone makes Chief!
The candidate for Chief Petty Officer must pass the written examination, but
must then be selected by a special board made up of Senior and Master
Chief Petty Officers, and Commissioned Officers. The selectee is then
"Appointed" by the Bureau of Naval Personnel, and "initiated"
into the ranks of the Chief Petty Officers.
When a sailor has a problem, he or she goes to "The
Chief." When a junior officer lacks the experience to get things done, it is
"The Chief" who is often the instrument of swift decision, and who can
always "get it done." When the Skipper needs the squadron to do
the impossible, The Chiefs are the first to leap into action to rally the
troops. In the Navy, you are not just an E-7, E-8,
or E-9: You are a "Chief," "Senior Chief" or
We as Navy Chiefs have our own creed and our
own fraternity, and our profession is filled with tradition dating back over one
hundred years. Active duty or retired, Navy Chiefs are the ones who set
the example and "make it happen." We are bound and dedicated to
our duty as leaders forever.
In a crisis situation, many a time is heard the phrase:
"Always bear in mind that no other armed force has rate
or rank equivalent to that of the United States Navy. Granted, that all armed
forces have two classes of service: enlisted and commissioned; however, the
United States Navy has the distinction of having four, i.e. Enlisted, Bureau
appointed CPO, Bureau appointed Warrant and Commissioned."
from the CPO Creed
This Sums It Up Nicely:
Text by CINPACFLT at CPO Pinning Ceremony,
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, September 2001
Chief Petty Officer Wisdom and
[The Chief versus the E-7]
[The CPO Prayer] [Rules and The Chief]
[CPO Retirement Creed] [Mariner's
The Navy Chief,
versus The E-7:
Chief is always a part of the answer.
E-7 is always part of the problem.
Chief always has a program.
E-7 always has an excuse.
Chief says, "LET ME DO IT FOR YOU."
E-7 says "That's not my job."
Chief sees an answer for every problem.
E-7 sees a problem for every answer.
Chief sees a green near every sand trap.
E-7 sees a sand trap near every green.
Chief says, "it may be difficult, but it's
E-7 says, "it may be possible, but it's too
Chief works harder then an E-7 and has more time.
E-7 is always "too busy" to do what is
Chief makes COMMITMENTS!
E-7 makes Promises.
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The US Navy Chief Petty Officer's Creed
During the course of this day you
have been caused to humbly accept challenge and face adversity. This you have
accomplished with rare good grace. Pointless as some of these challenges may
have seemed, there were valid, time-honored reasons behind each pointed barb. It
was necessary to meet these hurdles with blind faith in the fellowship of Chief
Petty Officers. The goal was to instill in you that trust is inherent with the
donning of the uniform of a Chief. It was our intent to impress upon you that
challenge is good; a great and necessary reality which cannot mar you - which,
in fact, strengthens you. In your future as a Chief Petty Officer., you will be
forced to endure adversity far beyond that imposed upon you today. You must face
each challenge and adversity with the same dignity and good grace you
demonstrated today. By experience, by performance, and by testing, you have been
this day advanced to Chief Petty Officer. In the United States Navy - and only
in the United States Navy - the rank of E7 carries with it United
responsibilities and privileges you are now bound to observe and expected to
fulfill. Your entire way of life is now changed. More will be expected of you;
more will be demanded of you. Not because you are an E7 but because you are now a
Chief Petty Officer. You have not merely been promoted one pay grade, you have
joined an exclusive fellowship and, as in all fellowships, you have a special
responsibility to your comrades, even as they have a special responsibility to
you. This is why we in the United States Navy may maintain with pride our
feelings of accomplishment once we have attained the position of Chief Petty
Officer. Your new responsibilities and privileges do not appear in print. They
have no official standing; they cannot be referred to by name, number, or file.
They have existed for over 100 years, Chiefs before you have freely accepted
responsibility beyond the call of printed assignment. Their actions and their
performance demanded the respect of their seniors as well as their juniors. It
is now required that you be the fountain of wisdom, the ambassador of good will,
the authority in personal relations as well as in technical applications.
"Ask the Chief" is a household phrase in and out of the Navy. You are
now the Chief. The exalted position you have now achieved - and the word exalted
is used advisedly - exists because of the attitude and performance of the Chiefs
before you. It shall exist only as long as you and your fellow Chiefs maintain
these standards. It was our intention that you never forget this day. It was our
intention to test you, to try you, and to accept you. Your performance has
assured us that you will wear "the hat" with the same pride as your
comrades in arms before you. We take a deep and sincere pleasure in clasping
your hand, and accepting you as a Chief Petty officer in the United States Navy.
The CPO Prayer:
So far today, God, I have lived my life as you would intend. I
haven't lost my temper.
So far I have not even grabbed the Chief's Mess Cook by the throat,
like yesterday. I have said nothing insulting or humiliating
to any of the junior officers. I haven't bitched about the coffee,
the ship's schedule, the watch bill or last Saturday's Personnel
I have told no lies... I have not cheated at poker. I have
put no ship's tools in my personal toolbox.
In short God, I believe that so far today I have committed no grievous
sins. Thank you, God, for helping me to stay righteous so far.
But Lord, it's almost 0600 and in a little while I'm going to roll out of
my bunk and after that I think I will need a lot more help.
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The Rules and The
1. The Chief is always right.
2. In the impossible hypothesis
that a subordinate may be right, see rule #1.
3. The Chief does not sleep...
4. The Chief is never late...
He is detained elsewhere.
5. The Chief never leaves work...
His presence is required elsewhere.
6. The Chief never reads the paper
in the mess... He studies.
7. The Chief never goes on liberty
with his juniors... He conducts training sessions.
8. Whomever confronts the Chief
with an idea of his own, must leave with the Chief's idea.
9. The Chief is always the Chief.
Even in his shower shoes.
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CPO's Retirement Creed:
You have on this day, experienced that which comes to all of us who
serve on active duty in "OUR NAVY." I say "OUR
NAVY," because your departure from active duty in no way terminates
By law and tradition, U.S. Navy Retirees are
always on the rolls ever ready to lend their service when the need arises.
The respect that you earned as "The Chief" was based on the same
attributes that you will now carry into retirement. You should
have no regrets.
Do not view your retirement as an end of an
era but rather as orders to a new and challenging assignment, to a form of
independent duty. Remember well that you have been, and will always
be, an accepted member of the most exclusive of all fraternities - that of
the U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officers.
The active duty Chiefs salute you, your
retired Chiefs welcome you. We wish you the traditional "Fair
Winds and Following Seas."
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The Mariner's 23rd
The Lord is my pilot, I shall not go
He lighteth my passage across dark channels;
He steereth me through the deep waters,
He keepeth my log.
He guideth me by the evening star for my safety's sake.
Yes, though I sail mid the thunders and tempests of life,
I fear no peril, for Thou art with me,
Thy stars and heavens they comfort me.
The vastness of the sea upholds me.
Surely fair winds and safe harbors shall be found
All the days of my life;
And I shall dock secure forever.
The US Navy "Mustangs"
Navy Limited Duty Officers (LDOs) and Chief
Warrant Officers (CWOs) are a very unique part of the Naval service.
Commonly referred to as "Mustangs," the LDO or CWO serves in a role
like no other commissioned officer can. LDOs and CWOs are enlisted people
who are commissioned as Officers, and have been called to serve from their
senior enlisted ranks as technical managers. An LDO or CWO has the necessary
experience and technical background to perform tasks that call for the
"officer" rank and protocol to carry out, but require the enlisted heart and experience to
get accomplished. Currently, the US Navy and Marine Corps are the only
branches of the armed forces to have such commissioning programs in place.
Limited Duty Officers are so called because
they are always limited to assignments for which they have been trained
and possess the necessary technical background. For example: a Naval
Aviator's (regular Line Officer) primary job is to fly airplanes. When
they are not flying, however, they are typically assigned duties as
"Division Officer," "Personnel Officer," "Admin
Officers," and other administrative jobs for which an officer is needed to
perform. These officers typically rotate their jobs every six months or so,
to get a varied background in command administration. The career track of the Naval Aviator is
to eventually command a Squadron, Air Wing, Aircraft Carrier, or eventually even
Battle Group. Their technical expertise is usually limited to what they
need to know about flying and operating the aircraft systems, and their ultimate concern
is aviating, combat tactics, and winning battles.
An LDO or CWO assigned to the same squadron,
in the above example, will always perform duties directly related to the mission
of assuring battle ready airplanes or equipment. The LDO or CWO will
typically serve as the Maintenance/Material Control Officer (MMCO), directly
responsible for maintaining the aircraft and coordinating logistics. This
frees up the Naval Aviators to focus on their primary job of flying and fighting
the airplane. The LDO's or CWO's knowledge of the aircraft is
detailed and intimate. Even though they do not fly the aircraft, the LDO
or CWO was once the enlisted technician who maintained the airplane, and thus
knows every nook and cranny of that airplane. The career path of the LDO/CWO
will always be to serve in the same types of technical management roles, from
one assignment to the next. An LDO will never be called upon to command an
operational combat unit.
Direct commission officers are typically
their commissions, and allowed into the Navy, providing they have the necessary
education and physical abilities. The "Mustang" has to pass a
very rigorous selection process to become an officer. The average
selection rate for enlisted people to become LDOs or CWOs is usually around 6%
to 15% of those who apply each year. For direct commission officers, the
primary requirement is a college education (Bachelor's Degree). For the
LDO and CWO, it is experience and performance that determines
their selection, often times coming from the ranks of the Chief Petty Officer
community, or from a select few Petty Officers (E-6). Although a college
education is not a prerequisite for selection, many LDO/CWO selectees are those
enlisted people who had enough motivation to earn a college degree on their own
An LDO or CWO is an officer by appearance and
in the minds of the "top brass," and an enlisted technician at
heart. The creed of the LDO/CWO, upon receiving their commission is:
did it the hard way... I earned it."
"...he (The LDO/CWO) possesses the one thing that
the direct commissions may pretend, but can never attain: the sure
knowledge of what goes on in the hearts and minds of enlisted men..."
Gerald P. Averill