Making Chiefs in Japan: A True Team Effort
After six weeks of mental, physical and team-building challenges, 16 Chief Petty Officer selectees donned their new khaki uniforms and marched onto the stage in Naval Air Facility Atsugi’s Cinema 77 to receive their anchors, Sept. 16. Though faced with these challenges, the group met the high standards required for acceptance into the Chief Petty Officers Mess.
“The selectees did a great job overall during the season. In the beginning, like every year, it’s hard to get the teamwork to happen, but towards the end of the season they gelled together nicely and worked together as one cohesive team and we’re happy to have them join our mess”, said Senior Chief Aviation Electronics Technician Dennis Fain, Watertown, N.Y. native and CPO 365 Phase 2 co-lead.
Challenges like those faced during a first class petty officer’s transition into Chief are difficult enough for U.S. Navy Sailors, but what happens when you step outside your comfort zone and even your own country’s uniformed service to face this task? That’s exactly what Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Chief Aviation Machinist Mate Kazuhiro Konaru accepted when he chose to join fifteen other Chief Petty Officer selectees from Atsugi for Phase 2. This choice may be unique enough on its own, but according to pinning ceremony guest speaker, Capt. Richard Prest, Commander Task Force 72 / Commander Fleet Air Forward, it’s just one of the many aspects of the bilateral relationship shared between the U.S. Navy and JMSDF.
“We’re not only sharing the tradition of this ceremony with our close Japanese friends, but today Chief Select Kazuhiro Konaru, from the JMSDF 61st Flight Squadron will be pinned alongside his U.S. Navy counterparts – a powerful sign of the strength of our alliance” said Prest.
For Konaru, the idea of participating in Phase 2 was an intimidating, yet interesting prospect.
“I watched some of my former JMSDF shipmates participate and I was interested as well. My former Command Master Chief offered me the chance to take it and I did. I didn’t know the details of what it took to complete Phase 2, but watching from the outside, it looked very cool to be a Chief. The U.S. Navy Chiefs show very good leadership performance… public speaking, positive attitude and correcting mistakes of junior guys.”
For Fain, having an active participant from the JMSDF helped shape ideas and practices beneficial for both of the services. “With Kaz (Konaru) in the mix, it really helped diversify our group and we were able to learn some of the challenges JMSDF has and they were able to learn some of the challenges we had and we learned from those; we learned how each other’s forces are structured and how they handle diversity and those things really helped our selectees learn and take those lessons and put them in their toolbox for later.”