MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Many ceremonies in the military are steeped in rich tradition and history. For the Navy, perhaps one of the most significant and anticipated traditions in an enlisted sailor’s career is the promotion to chief petty officer.
The transformation was almost complete. A row of sailors marched around a formation of their peers, and waited a moment.
A bell rang twice, filled the auditorium with its clang and welcomed the sailors into the chief’s mess, also known as the “goat locker.”
“Chief Jennifer Avila, United States Navy, arriving,” said the announcer over the auditorium speakers. A boatswain’s pipe whistled for a moment as she walked between two rows of sailors lining her path. She cut her salute and marched away.
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s newest chief petty officers just completed the most important evolution in their careers. After an arduous six-week program, the selected petty officers first class earned the right to call themselves “chief”.
Known as the anchors of the Navy, CPOs are experts in their field and leaders of the sailors in their charge. CPOs encompass E7, E8 and E9 rates. The new role brings big changes for them, not only in their work, but also where they eat meals and lodge while on a ship.
“They are being accepted into something larger than where they were before,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Timothy Dittlinger, a CPO induction leader. “The chief community is a worldwide family. This transition is a reason for great pride. They have been accepted into a diverse group that encompasses the globe.”
CPO induction leaders coordinated the new CPOs’ training, while others, such as sponsors, were more involved with the day-to-day preparation during the six-week initiation.
“We’re conductors in a big orchestra,” Dittlinger explained.
Senior Chief Danielle Saunders, a CPO induction leader, said the six weeks of training brings about substantial growth in the selectees.
“A chief has unique responsibilities to his or her sailors,” said Saunders. “They are responsible for their development.”
Throughout their training, they only spend limited time with their families.
“We treated it like a deployment,” said LaiSha Ponder, spouse of a new chief petty officer. “So when we did get to see him, even if it was midnight, we considered it a bonus and saw the silver lining. It was tough on the kids because they don’t quite understand, but any time they got to see daddy it was a great time for them.”
It is an unparalleled promotion for the sailors, and despite their current location on a Marine Corps base, the sailors celebrated and honored their new role in the Navy.
“We feel nothing but love on this base,” said Ponder. “(The Navy and Marine Corps) are a big blended family.”