“I believe that being a chief is a unique calling,” Clarke said. “It’s not easy but it is abundantly rewarding, because we have a dynamic influence on our Sailors. That feeling you get when you see Sailors succeeding and taking care of one another is priceless. We take great pride in knowing that we are responsible for ensuring the mission gets accomplished.”
Clarke is currently the enlisted aide to Rear Adm. Brad Collins, commander of Navy Region Europe, Africa, Central (EURAFCENT), who oversees nine installations in the area of responsibility. As the enlisted aide, Clarke is responsible for the planning and execution of official military social events; daily meal preparation to include menu development, shopping, and storage of rations; administrative requirements and recordkeeping of finances; and household management such as the upkeep and preservation of the assigned quarters to name a few.
“Since being here I’ve been able to have a complete view of how important our work is and what we do from a strategic and operational perspective,” Clarke added. “I love how cohesive the CNIC enterprise is.”
Developing unity and interconnection is what Clarke strives for within a team. He does this by harnessing Sailors’ strengths, while working with his shipmates to identify and address areas of improvements.
“I try to cultivate an environment where we can highlight any areas that are lacking and formulate a plan to overcome weaknesses,” Clarke explained. “Being successful in the military is not a straight line. There is beauty in struggle.”
Clarke has been serving in the Navy for 16 years. He said he first joined due to a lack of interest in attending college at the time, but still wanting to make a difference.
“I knew I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself,” he explained. “I wanted to see the world, and I wanted to be challenged. The Navy was the best decision.”
Since joining the Navy, Clarke has had several adventures. For example, his first oversees duty was at Commander, Task Force 70 in Yokosuka, Japan, where he deployed on his first aircraft carrier the USS George Washington (CVN-73). He also reported to the Office of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, where Clarke said he had the privilege of working beside one of the Navy’s top leaders. It was during this time Clarke was promoted to the rank of chief petty officer. Now, Clarke and his family are serving at Naples, Italy, which is considered one of the most beautiful places in the world with Mount Vesuvius along the city’s skyline.
“Most people that join the Service do not have the privilege to say they have sailed multiple seas or have visited or been stationed in different countries around the world like the Navy,” Clarke explained. “It’s rewarding to live in Italy. The cuisine, culture, and people are amazing. Having the ability to immerse myself fully since being here has been beneficial.”
Family: ‘My Everything’
In his current assignment abroad, Clarke was able to bring his family along on this Navy adventure. During off-duty times, you can find the Clarke family exploring the city, learning of its history, and taking in the culture.
Clarke describes Kimberly, his wife of 10 years, as a “beautiful soul,” who is loving and devoted to the family. Their daughter Cydney, 13, is funny, compassionate, and adventurous. Their 5-year-old son Odyn is creative, inquisitive, and friendly.
“My family is my everything!” shared Clarke.
“If it wasn’t for my family I couldn’t get up and do what I do daily,” he added. “The sacrifices that they make on behalf of the Navy is priceless. Their resiliency through deployments, PCS movements, school changes, long work hours can’t compare, and they do it willingly. They are truly a blessing.”
Clarke gives full credit to his wife for all his accomplishments as a Navy Sailor.
“My successes are a direct reflection of her,” he added. “She is always there when I need her. She keeps me grounded. I wouldn’t want to do this thing called life without her.”
Clarke also said it his Sailors who helped him get to where he is today in the Navy.
“The success that I have had thus far is a correlation of my junior Sailors past and present,” he said. “Their trust, hard work, and dedication are why I am here today.”
Last but not least, Clarke recognizes his fellow chiefs for being an inspiration and supporting him throughout his entire Navy career. His mentors include Master Chief Culinary Specialist Tommy Chavira, Master Chief Logistics Specialist Tyrone Evers, Senior Chief Culinary Specialist Devon Patterson, Senior Chief Culinary Specialist Cindy Garza, and retired Chief Culinary Specialist Jamar Hargress.
Another fellow chief who made a lasting impression on Clarke is retired Senior Chief Culinary Specialist Carmen Paige. She was Clarke’s first chief, who always challenged him and helped him see his potential in the Navy.
“My shipmates are my Navy family!” he added. “We rely on each other and we keep one another motivated personally and professionally.”
Chief’s Mess: ‘Pride and Comradery’
According to Navy History and Heritage Command, the chief petty officer as recognized today was officially established on April 1, 1893, when the rank petty officer first class was shifted to chief petty officer. The rank originally encompassed only nine ratings.
Today, chiefs are recognized for exemplary technical expertise within their rating, superior administrative skills, and strong leadership ability. They bridge the gap between officers and enlisted personnel, serving as advocates for their junior Sailors.
“Our bond is forever,” said Clarke about the Chief’s Mess. “I love the sense of pride and comradery. I love that being a part of the Chief’s Mess doesn’t only apply during working hours. I have fellow brothers and sisters who I can always rely on when I need it.”
To all chiefs currently serving in the Navy, no matter where you are, Clarke said to stay strong, continue to work together, and maintain the standard. To all chiefs who came before today’s Chief’s Mess, he had this to say, “Thank you! Thank you for paving the way and establishing a blueprint for us to follow.”
This year, the Chief’s Mess celebrates 130 years of service to the Navy and nation.