Congratulations to all those selected for advancement to Chief Petty Officer. This is our most important milestone achievement in enlisted advancement, and you should be incredibly proud of all you have accomplished.
The Navy you have grown up in will look very different to you six weeks from now — what you’ve done to demonstrate your readiness for this responsibility will be different from how you apply your skills as a member of the Chief’s Mess. Take some time to reflect on all who have had a hand in raising you to be the outstanding leaders you have become — everyone who has ever advocated for you, empowered you, trained, taught or developed you put you in this position, at the precipice of a new way of life. In moments of difficulty, someone put an arm around your shoulder and reinforced your confidence; in moments of sadness, someone consoled you; in moments of great achievement, someone celebrated with you, because no one succeeds alone – you led your team to victory. The investment in you is almost immeasurable, as it is too great to be captured in terms of dollars and cents or a simple quantification of time. Recognizing that is important, because it highlights your sacred duty to learn how the Chief’s Mess operates, how we transcend the sum of our parts to make the Navy better as a whole — to network and share, and to build winning teams so that we prevail in combat.
Over the next several weeks you will be elated, and you will be saddened and frustrated — you will experience the immense joy of success, and the desolate pain of failure. All of these will build you, will make you stronger, and are required of our cadre of senior technical experts who make the Navy run. Chief Petty Officer Initiation is a refined syllabus of comprehensive and thoughtful events, constructed and woven together to carefully transform our top performing First Class Petty Officers into basically-trained Chief Petty Officers. You will learn to better and more thoroughly evaluate problems, make difficult decisions more easily, share difficult news and speak truth to power more readily and, most importantly, build teams ready to fight and win in combat.
This is not the beginning of the end; it is the end of the beginning. You will learn and grow — as you already have — for the remainder of your time in the Navy. Including my own, this is my 21st CPO Initiation, and I still learn something every day. You are not in this alone; the roughly 36,000 active duty and reserve Chief Petty Officers, supported by nearly 500,000 living veterans of the Navy who are also duly initiated members of the Mess, are all emotionally invested in bringing you into the Mess the right way. We will set the bar for you and clearly delineate the high standards required for you as a member of the Mess. I am confident that you will rise to the occasion and demonstrate to the Chiefs that you are ready, and on that day I look forward to clasping your hand and welcoming you as a brother or sister in arms.
My charge to you is that you go into this training “all-in.” The debt you are about to incur to the Chiefs who will finish your initial training, along with all of those mentioned above that contributed to your success, is a debt that can never be repaid. You must seize this new and exciting opportunity to lead — and forever strive to “earn this.”
– MCPON Russell Smith