Inside the Basic Division Officer Course, Part I

My name is David Glaser and I’m a brand new ensign, fresh out of Officer Candidate School (OCS), and headed to Basic Division Officer Course (BDOC). (Cue to rest of the group- “Hi David”).With the recent changes to the Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) pipeline, I spent two months at the commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters, until the next BDOC class was ready to kick-off. I was asked by the staff to create a few blog posts before, during and after BDOC to quell perceptions, enlighten future SWO candidates headed to BDOC on rumors vs. reality, and update fleet SWOs on what the BDOC curriculum offers now.

In my BDOC preparations, I spent time talking with the current BDOC students and current SWOs. They overwhelming said that for many new SWOs the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Rules of the Road (ROR) is the biggest learning curve to overcome. Knowing this and knowing I prefer reading from hard copies, I bought the USCG Navigation Rules and Regulations Handbook. I also found that there are resources on the USCG website, such as PDFs, practice tests and other resources. As well, there’s an E-DIVO app that has practice tests.

Conning Officer Virtual Environment simulator at SWOS Det. San Diego

While I am preparing for ROR, I am also excited for the hands-on learning, particularly the Conning Officer Virtual Environment (COVE) simulator. Since OCS has a COVE, we were able to get a few simulator lessons, which I found incredibly valuable as both a visual learner and future SWO. The COVE allows students to simulate being a conning officer, as well as create various navigation challenges – from man overboard to advoiding mines. I am excited to see the full capabilities of the COVE at BDOC!

USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) General Quarters Drill in Atlantic OceanThrough my years of study, I’ve read stories of sailors fighting the ship; using their training to save themselves, their ship, and their shipmates. For this reason, I have an appreciation for the Damage Control (DC) training I received at OCS and think the DC training I will receive at BDOC will be invaluable to my future shipboard tour. I believe in practical training and the muscle memory that develops from it. I hope BDOC gives me a chance to experience multiple reps at the fire and wet trainers.

I’m eager to learn and get on the path toward becoming a Surface Warfare Officer. BDOC allows me, the student, to focus my own professional development without all the daily distractors of ship life.  I’ll be back in a month or so to give the SITREP on what I’ve learned up to that point. Until next time.

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Surface Force Standardizes Experience Thresholds for Watchstanders

As part of the Surface Warfare Community’s effort to best develop, assess, and sustain watchstander proficiency, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, Vice Adm. Brown signed the new Surface Warfare Watchstander Proficiency Requirements Instruction, Nov. 13.

The instruction establishes the minimum requirements for watchstanders to attain qualification and maintain proficiency in the roles of Tactical Action Officer (TAO), Officer of the Deck (OOD), Combat Information Center Watch Officer (CICWO), Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW), Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD), Conning Officer (CONN), and Combat Systems Officer of the Watch (CSOOW).

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170816-N-FP878-018 ROTA, Spain (Aug. 16, 2017) Cmdr. Timothy Moore, commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), mans the bridge while the ship returns to Rota, Spain, for a scheduled maintenance period. Donald Cook is forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, conducting a patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Theron J. Godbold/Released)

The guidance supports the Navy’s objective to reinvigorate an assessment culture by providing ships’ commanding officers with clear parameters to track watchstanding proficiency requirements for the stations identified.

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181125-N-JI086-098 MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Nov. 25, 2018) Lt. TJ Goss stands watch in the combat information center aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), Nov. 25, 2018. Donald Cook, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is on its eighth patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ford Williams/Released)

This is a positive step toward consistently producing high quality watchstanders and represents the ongoing innovation and improvement required to continue to control the sea and own the fight.

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130526-N-KB052-163 PHILIPPINE SEA (May 26, 2013) Lt. John Mantone uses an alidade in the pilot house of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67). Shiloh is assigned to Commander, Task Force 70 and is forward deployed to Yokosuka to support security and stability of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class N. Ross Taylor/Released)

The instruction standardizes the path of accountability for maritime professionals across the Surface Fleet by defining the minimum watchstanding proficiency requirements onboard Commander, Naval Surface Forces (CNSF) ships after initial qualification process and establishes minimum requalification policies for qualified watchstanders to maintain and regain qualification after a lapse of proficiency.

Along with setting the time and periodicity requirements for each shipboard watchstation qualification and requalification, the instruction provides the required formal classroom courses for each qualification.

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181201-N-UX013-1058 SUEZ CANAL (Dec. 1, 2018) Sailors aboard the Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) stand watch on the forecastle as the ship transits the Suez Canal. Jason Dunham is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay/Released)

Building watchstander proficiency and maintaining high standards of performance is paramount to overall Surface Force readiness. The ability of watchstanders of all ranks and rates to perform as experienced watchstanders is a core skill of our profession. The new Surface Warfare Watchstander Proficiency Requirements Instruction, which is effective immediately, sets the foundation for maintaining the best, fastest, toughest and smartest Naval Surface Force.

Professional development of our Surface Warriors is a priority to drive toward a culture of excellence and deliver the Navy the Nation Needs. It is fully understood within the Surface Fleet that every commanding officer must prepare their ship, their crew and themselves for combat at anytime and anywhere.

Drive to a Culture of Excellence

Last month, Vice Adm. Rich Brown, Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific (CNSP), hosted the 2018 CNSP Commander’s Training Symposium (CTS) in San Diego. Representing all ship classes and shore commands in the Pacific Surface Force, nearly 100 Commanders and Commanding Officers (ranking from Lieutenant Commander to Captain) were in attendance, as well as the Commanding Officer (CO) of Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS), PERS-41 representation, and CNSP senior staff members.

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Here are key take-aways post CTS from Vice Adm. Brown:

As the CO Goes, So Goes the Ship

“I value command above all else, and I implicitly trust each of you to lead well. But, with that trust comes incredible and unyielding responsibility and accountability.  My staff and I will work tirelessly to set the conditions for your success.”

Fostering a Culture of Excellence

“In the recent past, we operated with in a culture of compliance focused on process and doing what we MUST do. This was a necessary, but not sufficient, step toward revitalizing our seagoing ethos. Now we need to build on compliance and drive a culture of excellence focused on outcomes and doing what we SHOULD do to achieve operational and warfighting excellence.”

Readiness is About Lethality

 

“We’re not building ship readiness for readiness sake. We’re building readiness so it can be turned to lethality when and where our nation requires.  Everything we do in the Surface Force must ultimately support this purpose.”

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Reinvigorating Mission Command

“Navy leadership is committed to returning to the principles of Mission Command that served the Navy and the nation so well in earlier conflicts. Achieving a culture of excellence is a prerequisite for the return of Mission Command.”

The symposium included a preview of the new Surface Force Training and Readiness Manual (SFTRM) set for promulgation this month. The SFTRM affords COs the opportunity to accomplish Tier 1 and 2 certifications ahead of schedule and enable them to work their crews toward high-end warfighting readiness prior to the Advanced and Integrated Phases. We want ships and crews to take advantage of this policy to grow the warfighting ethos and lethality in their ships.

Vice Adm. Brown plans to host another CTS in March 2019 in San Diego, focusing on warfighting and increasing the lethality of our Surface Force so we can Own the Fight!

Shift Your Rudder

This year has been chock full of positive change and progress for the Surface Force. As a community, and in step with higher-echelon Navy initiatives, we’ve set a course to “Own the Fight” – focusing on the guiding principles of good stewardship, professional development and safety.

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As part of the process, we’ve been purposeful in reviewing all facets of how we prepare for, support and conduct maritime operations around the globe. We want to excel at our mission, now and in the future.

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Surface Force Mission:

Man, Train, and Equip the Surface Force to provide Fleet Commanders with credible naval power to control the sea and project power ashore.

Part of striving for better has been, and will be, communicating with those invested in seeing our Surface Navy succeed (physically or emotionally, stateside or abroad, et. al.). Hence, along with being informational, we would like for this blog to be inspirational for opening up dialogue among our Surface Warriors – past, present, & future – and their families.

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For this reason, we welcome any and all feedback on the type of blog posts you would like to see featured in future. Inputs can be left in the comments section or emailed to cnsp.webmaster@navy.mil.

Picture1For now, our intent is to steer blog content toward honoring our enduring maritime traditions, featuring efforts to optimize our current naval warfighting capabilities, and highlighting the work being done by our Surface Warfare Enterprise partners to shape the Surface Force of tomorrow.

In the end, every Surface Force commanding officer is charged with preparing their ship, their crew and themselves to be ready to ensure our Fleet remains a lethal global maneuver force ready to execute the National Defense Strategy. Every day our mighty warships are deployed to where the Nation needs them and our Surface Sailors serve with integrity and lead with humility, compassion and professionalism. We want to tell those stories and we want to hear what they mean to you.

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Lastly, we want to extend a sincere thank you to the community that has supported this blog through the years. We look forward to the next leg of the journey with you. Your unwavering support of our Surface Navy is deeply appreciated!

 

What’s In A Name? US Navy Ship Naming Conventions

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The sun rises over the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66) in the Atlantic Ocean. USS Hue City was commissioned on September 14, 1991.

As we welcome the fall season, the Navy continues adding new ships to the fleet. On Saturday, the Navy christens littoral combat ship (LCS) USS Kansas City in Mobile, Alabama. Next week, the Navy christens Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Frank E. Peterson JR (DDG 121) during a ceremony in Pascagoula, Mississippi. In November, PCU Sioux City (LCS 11) will be commissioned and PCU St. Louis (LCS 19) will be christened. In December, the Navy commissions PCU Thomas Hudner (DDG 116).

It should come as no surprise that it takes a lot to deliver a ship to the Fleet: a lot of planning, a lot of resources, a lot of time, and the work of a lot of people. The needs of the Navy determine what ships are built, while funding determines how many. For the most part, new ships follow a chronological numbering system when being built.

But who or what determines the name of a ship?

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The sun sets on the Navy’s newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the future USS John Finn (DDG 113) July 14 in preparation for its commissioning ceremony. DDG 113 was commissioned on July 15, 2017.

The short answer is the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV), who does so under the direction of the President and in accordance with rules prescribed by Congress. Prior to 1925, U.S. law included language explicitly assigning the SECNAV the task of naming new Navy ships. However, today’s code (10 U.S.C. §7292) does not. Nevertheless, given the location of Section 7292 in subtitle C of Title 10, which covers the Navy and Marine Corps, it is implied that the Secretary of the Navy retains authority.

While the assignment of responsibility for naming is very much a legislative matter, the actual name selection process is more a product of evolution and tradition. The names carry with them a heritage that becomes part of the future ships and crews’ identity – giving life to the steel hulls and deckplates that represent sovereign U.S. territory around the world.

Recommended names are forwarded to SECNAV by the Naval Historical Center (NHC) via the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). NHC compiles the list of recommendations from historical research and suggestions submitted from service members, veterans, and the American public. The recommendations follow general working rules for each class of ship:

  • Aircraft Carriers (CVN) honor past U.S. Presidents generally. Of the past 14, 10 were named for past U.S. Presidents and two for Members of Congress.
  • Destroyers (DDG) honor deceased members of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, including Secretaries of the Navy.
  • Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) are named after regionally prominent U.S. cities and communities.
  • Amphibious Assault Ships pay homage to epic battles heavily influenced by the U.S. Marines, or famous U.S. Navy ships of the past that were not named for battles.
  • San Antonio Class Amphibious Ships honor major U.S. cities and communities, including those attacked on September 11, 2001.
  • John Lewis (TAO-205) class oilers honor  people who fought for civil and human rights.
  • Lewis and Clark (TAKE-1) class cargo and ammunition ship honor famous American explorers, pioneers and trailblazers.
  • Expeditionary Fast Transports (EPFs), previously called Joint High-Speed Vessels (JHSVs), are named after small U.S. cities.
  • Expeditionary Transport Docks (ESDs) and Expeditionary Sea Bases (ESBs), previously called Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) ships and Afloat Forward Staging Bases (AFSBs), respectively, honor famous people  or places having historical significance to U.S. Marines.

As the Fleet has evolved, so have the rules. “US Navy ship-naming policies, practices, and traditions are not fixed; they evolve constantly over time,” noted a 2012 Navy report to Congress. For example, Cruisers were once named for cities, then later for states, and most recently for battles.

As previously mentioned, Destroyers generally honor famous U.S. naval leaders and distinguished heroes. The Navy, however, recently unveiled a few exceptions to this rule. In 2012, the Navy announced that DDG 116 would be named for a living person, Thomas Hudner, who passed away, Nov. 13, 2017. The Navy announced in 2013 that DDG 117 would also be named for a living person, Paul Ignatius. That same year, the Navy announced DDG 118 would honor an Army hero, the late Senator Daniel Inouye. (insert link to earlier blog about Daniel Inouye) DDG 120 and DDG 124 will honor living people, former Senator Carl Levin, and Harvey C. Barnum, Jr., respectively.

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USS Montgomery (LCS 8) transits from Naval Base San Diego to the Pacific Ocean to conduct routine operations and training. LCS 8 was commissioned on September 10, 2016.

The LCS naming convention varied as well. In 2012, the Navy named LCS 10 in honor of former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Earlier this year, President Trump announced that an LCS would be named Canberra in honor of the Australian cruiser Canberra (D33) that fought alongside U.S. Navy forces in World War II.

Amphibs are generally named for major U.S. cities and communities. An exception to the rule, however, was made for LPD 26 and LPD 29. They have been named after late Representative John P. Murtha and Navy Captain Richard M. McCool, Jr., respectively.

Ship names are normally announced after the ship has either been authorized or appropriated by Congress, but before its keel laying or christening. SECNAV records the decision with a formal naming announcement.

Congress has the ability to petition and influence the naming of ships but the responsibility ultimately lies with the Secretary of the Navy, under the direction of the President. It would not be unprecedented for ship naming conventions to continue to evolve as new ships continue to be built and the focus of the Navy continues to evolve in order to provide maritime power and power projection required by the Nation, now and into the future.

Hispanic Heritage Month: One Marine’s Story Becomes A Ship’s Legacy

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated Sep. 15 to Oct. 15 and provides us the opportunity to recognize the achievements of the heroic individuals of Hispanic descent who overcame adversity in their careers and, through their actions, reflect great credit upon the Naval service. A great example is Marine Corps Sgt. Rafael Peralta, for whom USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) is named.

DT3MIY44TFBMTBCGNERJFND65QSgt. Peralta was born in Mexico City, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States as an adolescent. Following graduation from high school in 1997, he attended San Diego City College. Peralta wanted to become a U.S. Marine, but was unable to enlist until he received his green card. Instead, he served in the California Conservation Corps while attending San Diego City College.

Upon becoming a permanent resident of the United States in 2000, he immediately joined the Marine Corps and attended bootcamp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. While serving as a Marine, he earned U.S. citizenship.

During a combat tour supporting Operation Al Fajr in the city of Fallujah, Iraq, he was shot and mortally wounded. As his squad fired at the insurgents around him, an enemy grenade was thrown into their midst; it came to rest near Peralta’s head.

The official citation for the Navy Cross award read:

“Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, SGT Peralta reached out and pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away. SGT Peralta succumbed to his wounds. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, SGT Peralta reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”

In addition to the Navy Cross, Peralta was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Ribbon for his actions.

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Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus presents the Navy Cross to Rosa Peralta, the mother of the late Sgt. Rafael Peralta, aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 8, 2015. Standing next to her was Rafael’s brother, Ricardo Peralta. Ricardo enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2010 as an infantryman to follow in his brother’s footsteps.

Peralta is remembered as a “Marine’s Marine.” His bedroom walls were decorated with his boot camp graduation certificate, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution. The night before he died, Peralta wrote a letter to his younger brother, saying “Be proud of me, bro…and be proud of being an American.” He served with enthusiasm and patriotism, and his legend continues to inspire Sailors and Marines to this day.

On July 29, 2017, the U.S. Navy commissioned USS Rafael Peralta, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer. At the ceremony, Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert Neller honored Peralta’s memory.

“This [commissioning] marks the commemoration of a life and the immortality of a hero. Sgt. Peralta’s legacy will forever be part of this ship. All he ever wanted to be as an American, to serve his country,” said Neller.

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The crew of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) mans the ship during its commissioning ceremony at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, Calif.

Peralta’s legacy – as a young man who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, and then enlisted to serve his adopted country on the day he got his green card – epitomizes the journey of many of the Hispanic members of our Armed Forces.

Honoring their Hispanic heritage, during the commissioning ceremony Peralta’s mother gave the ship’s crew the order to “man our ship and bring her to life” first in Spanish, and then in English. The ship’s motto, FORTIS AD FINEM, which translates to “courageous to the end,” stands as a testament to Peralta’s dedication to his country and his fellow Marines. Peralta’s Navy Cross was donated by his mother and resides aboard the ship.

Since commissioning, the Rafael Peralta has participated in numerous sea trials, combat systems and engineering testing, and will ultimately deploy with a Carrier Strike Group. Along with other ships on the San Diego waterfront, Rafael Peralta participated in the filming of the television show “The Last Ship.” She is currently assigned to Destroyer Squadron 1 and is homeported in San Diego, where she will uphold and honor the legacy of Sgt. Rafael Peralta.

For more information on USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115), visit http://www.public.navy.mil/surfor/ddg115/ 

For more information on Hispanic Heritage Month, visit www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov 

HONOR, COURAGE, COMMITMENT: The Lasting Effects of the Chief Petty Officer

Guest blog written by a Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer

Last week our nation eulogized late Arizona senator John McCain as a steadfast friend, reluctant hero, and unwavering patriot. As our Navy’s newest Chief Petty Officers (CPO) prepare to don their anchors of gold at ceremonies across the fleet on September 14, it is prudent for them and the collective Chief’s Mess to briefly pause and consider how the CPO brand of leadership can have a positive and lasting effect.

During a 2008 U.S. presidential debate, Senator John McCain said, “Everything I ever learned about leadership, I learned from a Chief Petty Officer.”

I’d like to put that quote into perspective.  Before recently losing his battle with brain cancer, John McCain was a six-term U.S. Senator who chaired the Armed Services Committee.  He was a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, a former Navy fighter pilot, and Vietnam prisoner of war. He practically came from U.S. Navy royalty – both his father and grandfather were four-star admirals – also U.S. Naval Academy graduates who have a U.S. warship named for them.

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(Lower Right) Naval Officer John S. McCain III poses for a photo with fellow Naval aviators.

So how is it that the power of Chief Petty Officer anchors influenced a man who in his own right was extremely powerful and influential?

Because a Chief Petty Officer somewhere many decades ago, took a young Ensign McCain under his wing.

Through personal example, good management, and moral responsibility – the Chief made his mark and influenced a life.

I can only guess that Senator McCain’s Chief was sincere, enthusiastic, and squared away in both deed and appearance.

Perhaps he was an HONORABLE man of unsurpassed integrity – one who led with his beliefs – and McCain followed him because of HIS actions.  I am confident he held himself and his team 100% accountable and to the highest of standards.

My guess is that this Chief was a COURAGEOUS man – not absent of fear, but not afraid to make difficult decisions.  His courage was likely born of mental, physical, and ethical strength. The Chief was fair but tough, because that’s what his leaders and subordinates wanted and expected of him.

I would be willing to bet my paycheck that McCain’s Chief was COMMITTED – he had a spirit of determination that pushed him to don his anchors everyday and work to make a difference.  Understanding that his success was measured by the efforts of his Sailors and junior officers, McCain’s Chief likely didn’t take a “time out” from his commitment – and I am sure he didn’t force it either.

I’d like to believe this Chief’s CORE VALUES defined his thoughts, actions, and leadership. He put them on display everyday, leading by example and practicing what he preached. Through mentorship, motivation, and humility he earned the respect and trust of his team. They followed him not because they had to, but because they wanted to.

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Fiscal Year 2017 chief petty officers stand at attention during a chief pinning ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).

During that debate, Senator McCain didn’t say who that Chief was, but it could’ve been any one of us soon to be pinned, current or retired Chiefs.  We train, guide, and develop junior officers and Sailors into future leaders. The men and women who will be pinned next week and truly know the honor, weight, and burden of CPO leadership were selected to join the CPO fraternity not only for what they have accomplished, but what they will do on September 15 and beyond – after initiation is finished and they are the “Chief.”

Whether it is advocacy, tradition or trust, thanks to this year’s initiation season, our new Chiefs have more tools in their toolbox to do what the CPO Mess does best: provide leadership on the deckplates.

As our new Chiefs are pinned, I am confident that my active-duty brothers and sisters in the Mess will rededicate themselves to their craft and ensure that its newest members will put their initiation experience and lessons learned to good use.

I’d like to leave you with a quote from the late Steve Prefontaine, one of America’s greatest distance runners:

“To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.”

Wearing the anchors of a Chief Petty Officer truly is a gift – one that must be payed forward every day.

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Chief petty officer combination covers rest on the charge books of the Navy’s newest chief petty officers.