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Q&A with Command Senior Chief Emanuel Bolton

26 February 2024

From MC2 Bodie Estep

Insight from Command Senior Chief Emanuel Bolton, who answers questions and offers advice.
Q: What are some of the highlights of your Navy career? How did they contribute to getting to where you are now? 
One of the most significant highlights of my Navy career was the moment I received the notification that I had been selected to become a Chief Petty Officer, the highlight of every enlisted Sailor in the Navy. This achievement was particularly special as I was stationed in my hometown of Chicago at the time, serving as a Navy recruiter. Being able to celebrate this milestone with my entire family, on the same grounds where I had grown up, was an incredible and fulfilling opportunity. Throughout my career, I also experienced multiple deployments, each presenting its own set of challenges and rewards. However, the true highlights were the reunions at the end of these deployments, particularly seeing my wife and kids waiting on the pier. Their steadfast support and sacrifices during the extended periods of my absence underscored the importance of family and served as a powerful motivator.


The combination of achieving the rank of Chief Petty Officer, the unique experience of being stationed in my hometown, and the emotional reunions with my family after deployments all contributed significantly to shaping my character and leadership skills. These highlights reinforced the importance of dedication, perseverance, and the invaluable support of loved ones, influencing my journey and contributing to the person I am today.

Q: Why did you join the Navy?
A: Growing up, I always felt a deep sense of duty to contribute to something larger than myself. The Navy stood out as a beacon of discipline, honor, and opportunity. I happened to be over a friends house, and a Navy Recruiter was there. I had taken the ASVAB in high school and my scores were still valid. She told me I had a qualifying score. The Navy I believed offered a chance to see the world, challenge myself both mentally and physically, and develop skills that would follow me in life. My father was drafted into Vietnam and spent a year in Vietnam. He provided me a narrative of discipline growing up as a preacher as well.

Who are some people that inspire you, present or historical and why?
One of the individuals who profoundly influenced and inspired me during my time in the Navy was Retired CMDCM Herbert Mack Ellis. Serving as the first African American Command Master Chief I had the privilege of working with, he left an indelible mark on me. CMDCM Ellis's presence at the beginning of the brow each morning greeting all Sailors, but at the same time meticulously inspecting Sailors for adherence to grooming standards, showcased his dedication to excellence. Beyond his strict enforcement of regulations, CMDCM Ellis displayed a unique leadership style. His penchant for walking around the ship while singing Navy songs created a positive and engaging atmosphere. Importantly, he didn't tolerate any form of insubordination, earning him the respect of the entire crew. His influence played a pivotal role in shaping my career trajectory, instilling in me a deep sense of responsibility, discipline, and a commitment to upholding the highest standards of professionalism.

Do you have a motto that you live by?
"We build the ladder by which we climb in life." This mantra, instilled in me by my father during my formative years, underscores the importance of personal responsibility and continuous self-improvement. The essence of this motto lies in the understanding that success and progress are not handed to us; rather, we actively construct the means to reach our goals. Each step we take, each skill we acquire, and every bit of knowledge we gain contributes to the ladder of our personal and professional development. It's a reminder that achieving greatness requires intentional effort, a commitment to growth, and a willingness to invest in oneself.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would you say?
If I could offer advice to my younger self, I would emphasize the importance of recognizing that life is dynamic and unpredictable. It comes at you very fast. I would say seize every opportunity that comes my way, to avoid squandering valuable chances for growth and learning. Embracing this mindset early on ensures a richer and more fulfilling journey in life, as each experience, whether positive or challenging, contributes to personal development and resilience.

Q: What are your three biggest core values?
My first core value is positivity. If you put yourself around negative people, negative things happen to you. My father used to always say, “Association brings about assimilation.” What you associate with, you become; if you associate yourself with positive people, positive things happen to you. 

The next one is integrity. Integrity is doing the right thing when no one's looking. But I always say, “Hey, do the right thing, because it's the right thing to do – have integrity”. It doesn't matter if you're a new sailor coming in or if you're at the higher echelons of military service, you have to have integrity. Integrity is the bedrock to establish trust. Without trust, any organization will fail.

My last core value is excellence. We should strive to be excellent in everything that we do, right? Whether it's in our jobs, the way we carry ourselves or the way that we represent ourselves in the community, being excellent and caring about excellence goes a long way. In order for us to complete any mission or task we have to make sure that our mindset is set on excellence, because that's what's going to get us across the finish line; that's what's going to get us across the battlefield. Those are my core values: positivity, integrity and excellence. If you notice, it spells pie. I tell everybody, always get yourself a piece of the pie.


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