Master Chief James Willis, a native of Slidell, Louisiana, enlisted in the United States Navy in the Seaman Seafarer Program in May of 1989. He graduated basic training at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois, and then reported to Naval Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut, for Basic Enlisted Submarine School (BESS), completing initial submarine training.
In October of 1989, Master Chief Willis reported for sea duty on board USS Kamehameha (SSBN 642) (Gold) in Kittery, Maine. During this tour, he qualified in submarines and became designated as a Mess Management Specialist. USS Kamehameha completed its conversion to a SSN in August of 1993, and changed homeport to Pearl Harbor. He transferred as a Petty Officer Second Class to USS Georgia (SSBN 729) (Blue) in Bangor, Washington in October 1994.
In May of 1996, he reported to Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego, California, as the records keeper and galley supervisor, and was advanced to Petty Officer First Class. In November 1998, he remained in San Diego to serve onboard USS Portsmouth (SSN 707) as Leading Mess Management Specialist, and was selected to Chief Petty Officer in 2001. In February of 2003, he transferred to Naval Submarine School in Groton, Connecticut, where he served as the Division Officer for the Basic Enlisted Submarine School (BESS) and Military Training Instructors. During this tour, he completed his certification as Master Training Specialist.
In March 2006, Master Chief Willis reported as the Leading Culinary Specialist on USS Louisiana (SSBN 743) (Blue) in Bangor, Washington. He was selected to Senior Chief in 2007, and the Louisiana’s galley won the 2008 Capt. Edward F. NEY Memorial Award. Upon graduating the Navy Senior Enlisted Academy and Chief Of the Boat (COB)/Command Master Chief (CMC) course in February 2009, he reported as the Chief of the Boat on board USS Maine (SSBN 741) (Blue). During his tour he was selected into the Command Master Chief program. In March of 2012, he reported as the Command Master Chief onboard the Forward Deployed Navy Forces (FDNF) Submarine Tender USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) serving in the FIFTH and SEVENTH Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR). Emory S. Land was awarded the 2012 Battle Efficiency Award.
In March 2013, he reported to TRIDENT Training Facility, Bangor as the Command Master Chief where TRIDENT Training Facility, Bangor remained the Navy’s premier site for training and training support for all submarines, surface, and Integrated Undersea Surveillance System commands in the Pacific Northwest. In March 2016, he reported to Naval Base Kitsap as the Command Master Chief.
Master Chief Willis’ personal awards include Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (two awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (four awards), Navy Good Conduct Award (six awards), and various unit and campaign awards.