Initiating the CPOs: Guidance everyone needs to know

Chief petty officer combination covers prior to the pinning ceremony inside the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan last year. (MC3 Macadam Weissman/Navy) Commands are prepping for initiation, the rites of passage that will help usher the 4,704 active-duty, 448 selected reserve and 262 reserve full-time support first class petty officers entry into the chiefs mess.

In the wake of the Navy’s Aug. 7 formal announcement naming the those selected to enter the Goat Locker, the four fleet master chief’s have jointly issued official guidance on how the initiation process should play out. The document seeks to head off any shenanigans that have plagued initiations throughout the years.

“During this time, we are charged with what is perhaps your most important strategic responsibility-preparing our reliefs to enter the Mess, to begin their career anew with the appropriate focus of a chief petty officer, ” the four jointly wrote the guidance. “ [Command master chiefs and command senior enlisted leaders] must manage to ensure that every event is conducted in such a way that safety, dignity and respect never falter.”

For the first time, the Navy will ban selectees from participating in fundraising events for the mess during initiation season, a reform the fleet master chiefs acknowledge but which they deem necessary.

“Fund raising is not something we’re going to engage in with selectees at this time,” said Fleet Master Chief (SW/IW/AW) Russ Smith, the interim master chief petty officer of the Navy during a July 26 CPO call on Norfolk Naval Station.

“If you’re going to tell me that the way we do chief’s initiation today is going to fail because we’re not fund raising, then we’re doing something wrong."

The initiation process is steeped in tradition that’s developed over the 125 years that chief petty officers have been a part of the Navy.

In recent years, however, those who served in the post of master chief petty officer of the Navy have toiled to professionalize the transition period. The goal has been to offer events that test the mental and physical toughness of the selectees but to rely on events that reinforce important leadership concepts like team work.

The idea is that the strength of any chiefs mess is that the group functions as a whole and that they work together.

“We are a Navy of teams, and the obsession for building winning teams must be cultivated during Initiation,” the guidance says. “The relationship between members of the mess — the responsibilities we have to one another — are at the core of our culture and should be the predominant focus in the events conducted.”

There are still individual educational requirements the chief selects must complete, such as the CPO Selectee Leadership Course, which is done online. This year there’s a new course to complete as well as part of a new training syllabus that is a part of the “Laying the Keel,” leadership initiative introduced earlier this year.

The initiation events will build on that and other “core practices,” such as networking and task and team management, the guidance states.

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