By Wayne Randall
Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs
The rate of chief petty officer (CPO) is honored every April 1 with CPO birthday celebrations around the world and across the seven seas.
The earliest known unoffi cial use of the term chief petty officer dates back to 1776 when the Continental Navy ship Alfred’s foremost cook, Jacob Wasbie, a cook’s mate, received the title “chief cook.” The rate of chief was officially established over a century later on April 1, 1893.
There are currently three ranks of chief petty officer in the United States Navy: chief, senior chief and master chief. According to Naval History and Heritage Command, “Chiefs are recognized for exemplary technical expertise within their rating, superior administrative skills, and strong leadership ability. Most importantly, chiefs bridge the gap between officers and enlisted personnel, acting as supervisors as well as advocates for their Sailors.”
The CPO birthday is a time for chiefs to review and gain new knowledge about the history of being a chief; it is a time to “recharge” their anchors, learn and share the history and legacy of the chief with one another.
Navy Region Hawaii Command Master Chief Mario Rivers said, “It is a legacy that has stood the test of time since 1893; we are now part of that legacy. It is so very important that we recognize our history, for it is our history that has made us who we are. We are fortunate to be part of an elite group of men and women that have been given the privilege to wear the fouled anchor and be referred to by those that do not even know your name as chief. No one can ever take that away from us and we should feel good about who we are, but more importantly, feel great about what we do. In the end, our legacy will not be remembered by what we accomplished as individuals, but more so by the Sailors we were able to influence as chiefs.”
The CPO birthday is a time chiefs refl ect on what it means to be “the chief.” Rivers is the third generation in his family to join the Navy. On the day his father donned anchors in 1984, he decided all he wanted to do was be a Navy chief. Rivers was only 7 years old.
“Being a chief petty offi cer requires an absolute professional that is completely committed to service. Service to our nation, Sailors and our command is not a dress rehearsal. John F. Kennedy once said that ‘a nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.’ Everyday matters and therefore we must do our best to carry on the legacy of those that came before us, and make each day our masterpiece,” said Rivers.
COVID-19 has created challenges to the way we make chiefs and celebrate the legacy of chiefs. The 128th chief’s initiation was no exception, but COVID-19 did not defeat the season.
“Collectively as a group, we planned well in advance of our requirements, and reviewed each timeline, calendar and schedule of events to make certain that a prioritization was put in place that included the wearing of masks, social distancing, and temperature screening. In the end we didn’t have anyone miss training to contracting COVID-19, and I couldn’t be more proud of the plan our installation team put in place,” said Rivers.
Ball honoring the newly pinned chiefs follows the season, however, COVID-19 prevented the ball from happening. This year, the new chiefs were honored during the CPO birthday celebration.
Traditionally the CPO birthday is celebrated with a “dining in,” a formal dinner full of ceremony, CPO history-based skits, networking, and bonding. This year the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Chief’s Mess hosted a cake cutting ceremony. During the ceremony, there was a CPO history and heritage training session and the new chiefs were welcomed and recognized by the Chief’s Mess.
(Published in the April 2021 Ho'okele digital magazine)
2021 CPO birthday-related photos: