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Camp Lemonnier Celebrates the 131st Birthday of the Navy Chief Petty Officer

03 April 2024

From Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Patricia Elkins

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti (April 1, 2024) -- Chief petty officers assigned to Camp Lemonnier celebrated the 131st chief petty officer birthday April 1, 2024 with a ceremony and reception at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti (April 1, 2024) -- Chief petty officers assigned to Camp Lemonnier celebrated the 131st chief petty officer birthday April 1, 2024 with a ceremony and reception at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.

The United States Navy established the rate of CPO (E-7) on April 1, 1893. In 1958, the Career Compensation Act created the senior chief petty officer (E-8) and master chief petty officer (E-9) rates. The addition of these two rates completed what is now referred to as the Chiefs Mess: a central network for Navy chiefs to solve problems, coordinate among departments, socialize and take part in professional development.

“Looking back at these historic moments reminds us all that our Navy would not be what it is today without the leadership, mentorship and guidance of our Chief Mess,” said Camp Lemonnier Commanding Officer, U.S. Navy Capt. Suzanne Krauss.

Navy chiefs are unique from the senior enlisted leaders of other military branches, because they form the Navy’s backbone. They are responsible for upholding Navy traditions and are experts in their fields. They advise, consult and participate in senior leadership teams, take care of Sailors, train junior officers and serve as a liaison between officers and junior enlisted personnel.

Camp Lemonnier’s chief petty officer birthday ceremony recognized the history, heritage, pride and symbolism of Navy chiefs and the Chiefs Mess.

“Since 1893 to date, chiefs have been the subject matter experts, leaders on deck, the ‘go-to’ for questions, and the people who have a pulse on the enlisted Sailors below them,” said Camp Lemonnier’s Command Master Chief William Hieb. “Chiefs are the glue that binds the U.S. Navy together. Being a chief is a unique and tremendous achievement and has a level of responsibility like no other in the world.”

To become a Navy chief petty officer, first class petty officers (E-6) must first meet several requirements. Those who have three or more years of time in their rate must first pass the Navy-wide advancement exam (NWAE).

A selection board of senior chief petty officers and master chief petty officers annually review candidates with board-eligible NWAE scores. They choose the best-qualified Sailors based on available promotion quotas for each rating then compare them based on leadership, performance, education, special qualifications and collateral duties.

Once selected, first class petty officers take on the title of “chief select” and go through a month-long initiation process known as “chief season.” Chief season includes training exercises, professional development and coursework designed to transform each chief select into a Navy chief petty officer.

“I will say that today’s chiefs are smarter, more adaptable and more technically sound; exactly what our Navy needs for the future,” Hieb said. “Make no mistake; it is the chief who is charged with maintaining our history and our traditions. This is why our 131-year history remains relevant and as decades pass, our traditions will remain. I am proud to be a Navy chief; no one will ever take that title away from me.” (U.S. Navy story by Petty Officer 1st Class Patricia Elkins)

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