NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Thirty-six Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) earned the title of “Chief” during a Chief Petty Officer (CPO) pinning ceremony held at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts here, Sept. 18.
Former Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Duane Bushey delivered a keynote speech which focused on the journey to chief, the newfound responsibility of a chief, and fighting for what you know is right.
“Officers run the Navy, chief’s make it run,” said Bushey. “We’re all needed, no matter what level you are in the chain of command.”
Six-weeks prior to today’s pinning ceremony started a period of training and mentorship for the newly pinned chiefs known as the chiefs initiation. The milestone moment as these Sailors become the Navy’s newest chief petty officers was highlighted by Bushey.
“MCPON Bushey mentioning the traditions and values we are brought up with from day one preparing us for this moment really resonated with me,” said Ordnanceman Jesse Willett, from Atchison, Kansas, a newly pinned chief petty officer assigned to Ford’s Weapons department.
Traditionally, each new chief is joined during the ceremony by family members and loved ones who pin the distinguishable chief anchors on the crisp collar of each new uniform, while mentors help the chiefs don their new cover.
“(Having my family pin me) is the only way I would have it. Without them, this wouldn’t have happened,” said Chief Culinary Specialist Chris Davis, from Franklin, Georgia, a newly pinned chief petty officer assigned to Ford’s supply department as he pointed to the chief’s anchor on his collar. “Even during season, when I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore, I thought about my family and it pulled me through.”
“The Gerald R. Ford’s chiefs’ mess was kind enough to invite me to attend final night last night and while driving back to the ship last night, I wondered how I would describe the culmination
of six weeks of chief initiation to my friends from home,” said Capt. J.J. Cummings, Ford’s commanding officer. “I couldn’t do it and will never try because they wouldn’t understand the raw passion, emotion, and intensity that this process brings.”
To conclude the pinning ceremony, the new chiefs walk through sideboys during the Two-Bell ceremony. Bells traditionally indicate the coming and going of personnel in the Navy, among other instances. This one could be seen as the ending of chiefs initiation and a welcoming to the Chiefs Mess.
“I can’t put this feeling into words. Proudest moment of my life. I’ve been in tears on and off since my family walked onto the stage,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman Lawrence Duran, from Flagstaff, Arizona, a newly pinned chief petty officer assigned to Ford’s medical department.
The history of the Chiefs Mess dates back more than 125 years ago. Today, Ford welcomed 36 chief petty officers to that storied tradition.
“Making chief is a very big deal,” Bushey explained. “It’s a change in lifestyle, it’s a change in uniform, it’s a change in responsibility…I still remember the feeling when I made chief. That was my big deal. This is it. This is your last big emotions. I’d ask you to enjoy it and live it out.”