Monday, September 9, 2013

Does Chief's season come with a bag limit?

I posted about Chief's season once before. Has my opinion changed? While it's gotten better...there is still lots of room for improvement.

Whether it's the season, CPO 365, or some other name, every year the Navy runs First Class Petty Officers selected for advancement to Chief through a program designed to assist in shifting their mindset from E-6 to E-7.  This program always has a noble premise, and from my experiences in the Navy it does require a complete mindset shift from being a First Class Petty Officer to operate effectively as a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy.  My experiences with the program is limited to the past two years, as I don't remember the Chief's season from my time onboard USS HAMPTON or US Second Fleet, since I had no Chief selects working for me.

Last year's experience with Chief's Season was painful.  Two Sailors selected from my division, and my remaining chiefs deployed due to theater contingency operations.  Despite the calls of "we won't let the Chief's season affect operations," my chief-selects were not in the office almost all day, and my division received no extra help from the Mess to compensate.  I required my First Classes that weren't deployed to step up and take on the various work roles normally reserved for my Chief, and I worked 16 hour days for a few weeks until theater operations settled down.  I wound up being recognized by an outside agency for these efforts, and while it is nice to have an award sitting on my desk, I would have gladly traded it to see my family more often.  My kids didn't see their dad for a week, which while on shore duty was completely unnecessary.

During that Chief's Season I became the "super JO" and did everything that both a DIVO and DIVC would do.  One of my First Classes had an issue that I helped resolve with our OPS chief.  While the OPS chief, my sailor and I were meeting, he asked my sailor where his chief was, and my sailor pointed at me.  Despite what should have been a very obvious wake-up call...I still never received any help from the Mess until long after the crisis was over.

And I'm not tooting my own horn here: I am terrible at being a DIVO and DIVC.  I have a commission, not anchors, and while much of what Chiefs and Officers do is the same, there is a difference that I appreciate.  That's why I want a DIVO/DIVC team, since being a team of one isn't effective, and I know things fell through the cracks during this time because I just didn't have the time/energy/focus to execute all duties. 

When CPO 365 was announced, I was skeptical of any real change for two reasons:

1. No Wardroom involvement was mentioned (apparently interfacing with officers isn't a skill you need as a chief?)

2. Little mention on how operations would be balanced...leaving it up to each command to figure out.

This time around, my command involved officers by assigning Ensigns and junior LTjgs to each of our CPO 365 ships.  Each officer received reports from the chiefs involved and was invited to the open CPO 365 events.  These junior officers asked a lot of questions, forcing the chiefs and chief-selects to be thorough in their responses...a good thing all around.

As for operations balance, it's still not there.  My chief-select was better at balancing CPO 365 and her day job, but I had learned a bitter lesson last year and had her turn over most of her duties with another First Class. We were going to have to move her anyway, so it worked out better in the end.  I have lost productivity as most of my chiefs get wrapped up in some CPO 365 event, and although it's not as bad as last year, it is still noticeable and I work longer hours (it also doesn't help that selection happens when E7/E8 and E6 EVALs all come due...can't someone in Navy leadership change this?).

The heart of this problem, in my opinion, is a lack of accountability of the Mess to the chain of command, particularly to the Junior Officers.  CPO 365 is directed by the MCPON, who is not in my chain of command.  Last I checked, he really wasn't in anyone's chain of command.  I like the MCPON (I worked with him at Second Fleet) and I like where he wants to go with CPO 365, but I find it odd that a Master Chief can direct policy for the entire Navy when he has neither ADCON nor OPCON of any forces.  Maybe I missed that memo, but how does that happen?

And if CPO 365 is a good program, why don't we do something similar for officers?  After they commission, there is no program to train them as they advance in rank, which was a primary reason for starting this blog.  I joked with my colleagues about running a LCDR 365 Phase II program, but seriously...why not?  A jump in rank to O-4 carries new responsibilities...why don't we require an O-4 leadership school?  We put a lot of effort/training into COs and XOs, but almost none into any other officer rank.

Or is it because the Chiefs wouldn't step up, like the officers do during the latter phases of CPO 365?  Could the Chiefs take care of leave chits, XO taskers, operational requirements, personnel moves, schools requests, EVALs, and JO FITREPs?  I know some that can...but not many.  Yet the Junior Officers are expected to do just that for their divisions, lest they fall apart.

CPO 365 has come a long way, but we're far from finished fixing the process.  I'm seeing and hearing more and more backlash from Junior Officers because they too got screwed in the past.  These Junior Officers become Executive and Commanding Officers at some point, and the lack of engagement from the Chief's Mess will jade their views and affect their decisions when they take command.  If nothing is changed, I fully expect backlash in 5-10 years as JOs that had their family time robbed like I did use their authority to shut down the process locally, with both our selects, Mess and Wardroom all losing in the end.