Camp Lejeune Navy chiefs celebrate 118 years of rank

1 Apr 2011 | Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

After its formation in 1775, the United States Navy, carrying out the mission to ‘maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas,’ found itself slightly lacking in a strong leadership rank that instructed junior sailors as well as be the enlisted mirror to the officer element. It was not until 1893 when this link was forged with the creation of the chief petty officer rank.

118 years later aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Navy chief petty officers from various tenant commands and unit positions came together to celebrate the induction of the golden anchors they display during a ceremony at the Ball Center aboard the base, April 1.

“(The Navy) needed to bridge the gap between junior mentorship and officer guidance at a senior enlisted level,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Tammy Heap, command master chief of II Marine Expeditionary Force. “Chiefs are always there at the deckplate with the sailors, guiding them and ensuring their professional development is on track.”

However, this is not implying that there was never a previous link between junior sailors and senior enlisted and officer - The formalization of the chief rank solidified that function as well as bolstering it in the way of Naval leadership.

“That level of experience was always there instructing junior sailors, but this was a way to formalize it and place greater responsibilities on those who held the rank,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Christopher Olinger, senior enlisted chief with Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group.

All this is what makes the chief rank so illustrious, and is why every April 1 chiefs of the Navy from all across the world celebrate the birth of their rank in their own way. Camp Lejeune celebrated it with a cake-cutting ceremony, in which the chief petty officers with the least time in grade and the most time in grade as a master chief petty officer carved out the slices of cake following a birthday message by the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, Master Chief Petty Officer Rick West.

“Our anchors carry with them a responsibility to live up to the tradition of selfless service, while remembering our proud heritage that we’ve spent 118 years building as we look toward our future,” said West. “Through your leadership of our sailors,  you continue to keep our heritage alive and our Navy strong.”

As the festivities died down and the various levels of chief petty officers mingled among one another, it was made evident that the fouled anchors in which they possess are more than an intricate rank symbol, but one of enduring leadership, integrity and the willingness to achieve the mission while bestowing every iota of knowledge upon junior sailors in their care.