JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Their voices were raised in unison, united as one, above the sounds of morning traffic and the rhythmic pounding of footsteps. The cadences thundered and echoed throughout the streets, each voice loud and full of pride, patriotism and honor. Onlookers who were privileged to witness the event saw a 'once-in-a-lifetime' inside look at a group of more than 200 Navy chief petty officer selects and experienced chiefs, senior chiefs and master chiefs running together as one, spreading Navy pride, naval heritage and the Navy Core Values of honor, courage and commitment.
The group run was part of the 10th annual Heritage Run held at Patriot's Point; just one of many events the FY 2012 chief selects participated in during the Chief's Induction Season at Joint Base Charleston-Weapons Station.
The chief selects also held several fund raising events, received extensive classroom instruction, experienced strenuous physical conditioning and were provided one-on-one guidance by more senior chief petty officers.
"The chief's training period has made some dramatic changes since I made chief," said Master Chief Billy Cady, JBC-WS command master chief and coordinator for the CIS program. "When I made chief, it was referred to as an initiation period which has since been rightly viewed as hazing. Now we have the induction season, during which we place more emphasis on naval heritage and traditions. We work at making sure each chief select understands what it means to become and be a chief petty officer so that they are not left wondering what it is all about."
The CIS is a six-week training period in which newly promoted first class petty officers transition into chief petty officers. During CIS, chief selects are paired up with a sponsor; a more senior, chief petty officer who will mentor them throughout the process, help them shop for their new uniforms and motivate them during physical training.
Along with PT, the chief selects learn about giving back to the community and also spend long hours in the classroom studying the Navy's heritage and traditions and learning from their fellow chiefs what it means to be a CPO.
"The season teaches our future leaders what it means to be a chief, how they are supposed to act and what their new role will now encompass," said Cady. "It is not just a promotion; it is a whole new way of life and a new way of thinking."
For Chief Electronics Technician Bradley Tracy from Naval Support Activity Charleston, the CIS period was one of the most challenging trials that he has ever experienced in his career. But it has also left him with genuine pride and a sense of belonging to something greater than individual success.
"There is the mentality of a first class and then there's the mentality of a chief petty officer: we have six weeks to change that outlook," he said. "One of the first things that we are taught when going through this program is that we are no longer an individual, it is not just about ourselves. It is about a group, being part of something bigger, a brother and sisterhood which relies on each other and would do anything for a fellow chief. I am honored to become part of that."
Transitioning from a first class petty officer to a chief petty officer brings with it increased responsibilities as well as becoming one of the most recognized symbols of the Navy.
"I'm sure people have heard the phrase 'Ask the Chief'," said Cady. "A chief petty officer is the symbol of the Navy. They are the 'go to' person for everything, from running programs to taking care of Sailors and making sure the Navy runs and operates smoothly on a daily basis."
Being selected for the rank of E7 is a career milestone for any Sailor, a memorable event that transforms a Sailor into today's deckplate leader, a chief petty officer.
"I hope this year's selectees understand that being a chief petty officer and becoming part of the chief's mess is such a profound event, it is life changing; life changing forever," said Cady.
On the morning of Sept. 16, this proved true as emotions ran high as each chief select stood in formation waiting for their turn to be pinned with their new collar devices: chief petty officer anchors and their new combination covers.
"There is only one word I can say that expresses my feelings," said Chief Hospital Corpsman Barbara Williams from Naval Health Clinic Charleston. "Wow, plain and simple. It was like a dream, surreal in a way because as a Sailor, you don't know if you are ever going to have that opportunity to become a chief before retiring. I never thought I would get to this point in my career, but now that I have I am so elated."
"The transition period is so very important," she continued. "It breaks that 'I' perspective and really hones in on naval heritage and traditions. The season pushed us to the limit and made us work together as a team. By the end of the season, we created a whole different family for ourselves, a brother and sisterhood that I can say I am proud to be part of. As a newly frocked chief petty officer my job is to take care of my fellow chiefs and Sailors, and I am ready to do just that. "