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.


  1. You appear to be confusing JOs with leaders...

  2. You, an officer (and any/all the rest of the wardroom) have NOTHING to do with the training and/or transition of PO1s to Chief. You have never been a PO1 or Chief, you know next to nothing about it. On the other hand, the Chiefs train YOU, each and every JO....and WE, the Chiefs, know EVERYTHING about that!

  3. Excellent thoughts.

    I myself am a product of both good and bad Chiefs and since transferring from the Marine Corps over 10 years ago I have often wondered why the lack of responsibility and leadership training for most of our Sailors until they are selected for Chief. As a result of progressively assigning responsibility, teaching leadership and formal training at things such as Corporal’s Courses and the Sergeant’s Course I see that the average Cpl or Sgt is just as proficient and is a superior leader to the average 3rd, 2nd or 1st Class Petty Officer and as I subjectively compare SNCOs and Chiefs I don't think either one has cornered the market on technical & tactical proficiency or leadership, but a newly promoted SSgt (yes an E6 but that is where the Marines make that break) hits the ground running much faster than the newly frocked Chief – and they do it without being largely absent from their duties for the previous 6 weeks.

    I am mostly detached from the Navy this year. Talking to my colleagues in the Fleet and at a couple of shore commands, CPO 365 and the new guidelines for the 2013 season do not seem to have overly altered the issue of losing a lot of productivity from the time the Chief’s list comes out until mid-Sep.

  4. Having worked with the Navy, Air Force, Army & Marines it is clear that the Navy has the best leadership. This is due to the training received at each level of promotion. In addition to the OJT that is continually occurring while at sea and on shore.

    First, at every promotion, it is required for Sailors to go through a leadership course. Either Petty Officer (E-4), Work Center Supervisor (E-5), and Leading Petty Officer (E-6). In addition to the countless continuing education courses that are available and encouraged on NKO (i.e. JPME & PPME).

    Second, while at sea, it is often the E-4 who is leading a working party of junior Sailors. At the E-5 level, Sailors are expected to be the technical expert and manage several administrative tasks. The LPO level (often E-6), adds to these responsibilities as well often answering to the Mess and/or Junior Officers. In several cases, the LPO is asked to be the LCPO until one arrives. Remember, unlike the other services who often call in "civilians" to achieve tasks, the Navy must lead or sink.

    16 hour days - Welcome to the real world!!!


  5. It's constantly amazing to me that senior enlisted would publicly claim that officers should have no involvement in training enlisted leaders (at all ranks). Considering as how LEADERSHIP is the core technical competency of all officers, it's a fairly untenable position. While I grant that a fresh JO knows fairly little about leadership, it certainly isn't the case for those who are in their third tour as a leader.

    Consider: I've seen Chiefs selected at their 8 year mark in the Navy. Why would an officer with four years of NROTC/USNA training PLUS 8 years of officer experience NOT be able to teach that new Chief something about how to function as a leader? More importantly, the JO is the one who is tasked with picking up the slack for a bad Chief, so absolutely they have a vested interest in that Chief being trained well. As per the above post, the Chief's Mess rarely (read: never) picks up the slack for operational deficiencies of members of its ranks.

    Also, remember that the Wardroom includes many prior-enlisted Sailors, many of whom had already been selected for CPO (LDO, CWO, etc).

    To think that officers shouldn't be involved is ridiculous, arrogant, and completely detrimental to developing the JO/LCPO leadership team that is so critical to successful operations in the Navy.

  6. A lot of good thoughts here. A lot of whining too. The fact is, we all get screwed at times and it sucks. I look back over my 15 years as an enlisted person and can't think of one JO that went to bat for me but I can name several Chiefs who put their neck out for their Sailors. That being said, there are a handful of JO's, who are now Senior Officers, who I'd go to war with at any given time; probably because they were trained by good Chiefs... It's the military. It's not perfect, but its the best in the world. Hooyah! STSC(SS)

    By the way, I just found this blog and am really enjoying it. I started a podcast a few months ago and will be covering some of the topics you have already posted about.