Chief petty officers celebrate 122nd birthday
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Chief petty officers aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, gathered together to celebrate their 122nd birthday, April 1, 2015.
The Navy senior leadership began their birthday celebration by meeting in front of Building One to observe morning colors. Later, they came together for a cake cutting ceremony at the Robert M. Casey Medical and Dental Clinic.
“The chief petty officer birthday is unique because it is the only rank that is celebrated,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer James Seay, senior enlisted leader at the Branch Health Clinic. “Though our Navy dates back to 1775, there was no rating of chief petty officer. As our nation's young Navy matured, so did the requirements and needs for senior leadership. Even though work spaces had ‘leading’ petty officers, the grade of chief petty officer was not established until 1893.”
Prior to 1958, chief petty officer was the highest enlisted rank in the U.S. Navy, but that year the Navy created the ranks of senior chief petty officer and master chief petty officer under the Career Compensation Act.
“When becoming a chief, you must be able to show its history and heritage to your junior sailors,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Leon Wickham, freight section staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the Distribution Management Office. “If you don't know where you’ve been, you will never make it to where you are going. That is why we come together as a Chief’s Mess to support one another as we celebrate 122 years. We want our junior sailors to do the same to keep our tradition when they take our place in the mess.”
The chief petty officer community refers to themselves as the Chief’s Mess, advancement to the rank of chief petty officer is the most significant promotion in the Navy’s enlisted ranks.
Though the members of the mess come from a variety of different military occupational specialties, they came together to celebrate a shared accomplishment.
“(MCAS Iwakuni) is a great example of why this celebration is important,” said Seay. “Our Chief's Mess is comprised of sailors representing very diverse work area such as construction electricians, logistic specialist, aviation electronics technicians, hospital corpsmen, builders, aviation machinist's mates; but we come together to celebrate both a common career achievement and what it means to be a chief.”
Chief petty officers’ role in the Navy is essential because they train and teach junior sailors, ensuring a positive future for the next generation.
“As a chief, you learn how life is no longer about individual success, it’s about how taking care of junior sailors impacts the future of the Navy,” said Wickham.