Last night, before I went to sleep, I was thinking about the great Chiefs that I knew and worked for during my Navy career. I really was blessed to have some great Navy Chief Petty Officers to look on as mentors. I look back at Chief Sadowski, Chief Bobby Garcia, Chief Jim Upton, Senior Chief Garrett, Senior Chief Bruner, Master Chief Bill Mowery, Chief Gary Babcock, (yes he was an FTG, but he was good) and more who's names I can no longer remember. What did they all have in common. They were leaders! They were teachers, mentors, cheer leaders, disciplinarians, coaches, rule makers, rule breakers, and did I mention Leaders!
But what really bothered me as I thought last night, is how things have denigrated in our Navy. I remember Chiefs, good Chiefs, from every rating, with 30+ years of service. They did not want to be a Senior Chief or a Master Chief. Some of them did not even take the test for E-8. That's right, there used to be an E-8 and E-9 test! They need to bring that back! These Chiefs were content, fulfilled, professionally satisfied with being a Navy Chief. The fount of wisdom in their respective professional rating. The point of knowledge for Navy traditions. The "go to" person in the area of personnel relations and leadership. They did not go to the Senior Enlisted Academy. The did not go to college on their off hours. Heck, most of them did not have off hours. I remember when I was a young sailor, if the gun mount was down, (broke) we worked until it was up (fixed)! Weekends, nights, always, until the gun mount was fully operational. No parts, no problem. Go to every ship in the harbor until you find the part. Chief Mowery and I even stole a part for our carrier on the MK 42 Mod 9 gun mount on the USS Stein! You see, there was a complete carrier assembly, sitting behind a fence, at the Naval Supply Center, Long Beach, California. The Chief spotted it, so that night, he parked a truck next to the 10 foot high fence, with barbed wire coils strung on top. I had to get on top of the truck cab, climb over the barbed wire strands, and climb down and then climb back up the carrier, to the carrier control valve block and take out both pressure relief valves. Then, install our broken ones, climb back down, then climb back up the fence, over the three strands of barbed wire on top of the ten foot chain link fence, without the benefit of the pick-up truck cab, and back onto and in the truck for our get away. The gun shot the next day underway! Now in a Navy like that, how can you go to college. I have always had a suspicion of sailors, in sea going ratings, with one or multiple college degrees. My question has always been; When did you do your job. Being a Navy Chief is a 24/7/365 job!
I also knew Chiefs that went from ship to ship, no shore duty, for 20+ years! Most of them lived on the ship, had no car, no apartment, no wife or family. The Navy, the people in their division, were their family! These Chiefs showed the love and caring of a proud father when they lead and looked after their people. But, sadly, that is all gone now. Today's Chiefs have been fed the Pablum of college degrees, Officer's watches, and mandatory "Up or Out" promotion policies. In 1969, in Norfolk, I saw not one, but many, Gold Hash Mark Boatswain Mate Seaman! That's right, BMSN's with three Gold Hash Marks!! I also saw Stewart's Mates, and some other ratings with Gold Hash Marks. I saw Navy Commissary Men, (Cooks, Stew Burners) retire as Third Class with 20 or more years of honorable service! If industry does not require a person to move up or get fired, why does the Navy. I believe a man knows where he best fits based on his abilities and aptitude. As long as that sailor meets or exceeds the requirements for performance of his rate and rating, why fire him. I also remember, in 1969 and 1970, times when they did not give advancement exams for some ratings because there just was no advancement potential. We understood that was just the way it was.
I will give you another point of history. the Preventative Maintenance System, know today as PMS, did not come to be until the late 1960s! Prior to that, the leading technical expert of the system decided the maintenance requirements. In gunnery, we recorded our maintenance on Ordnance History Cards, NAVSUP Form 306. We also kept detail maintenance and casualty logs. When a gun mount was removed for overhaul, all of the documentation was sent along with the gun to the overhaul facility. Gunner's Mates were particular about these logs and prided themselves on their accuracy. We even used them to fix recurring casualties. Why troubleshoot the problem twice. Look in the log FIRST when the gun broke! PMS was supposed to be the "Minimum" maintenance required and the Work Center Supervisor was supposed to increase maintenance as he saw fit. Today, we are lucky if we get the minimum PMS accomplished! Judging from what I have seen over the last 20 years or so, most maintenance is being Gun Decked! When I was a tech rep, a short lived time, I inspected a MK 45 ship that was clearly gin decking Pre-Fire checks!! Now that is dangerous! We used to have PMS inspections that were accomplished by the squadrons, MOTU's or more senior staffs. If you got caught Gun Decking, it was an automatic Captain's Mast and most likely, a reduction in pay grade!! We need to bring that back too!
The reason for this posting was to honor those Chief, who lived a tougher, more dedicated, more productive Navy career. They were paid much less than today's sailors and given fewer awards. Yet, they took better care of their personnel, their equipment, and their ships. They were self-motivated, self-directed, and self-disciplined. So, the next time you are looking at pictures of those who went before you, or are in the VFW or Fleet Reserve, talking to a retired Chief, don't look down you pretty little nose and say that he was "Just" a Chief! You might get that pretty little nose broke.