By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Amadi, Naval District Washington Public Affairs
WASHINGTON (NNS) —One Sailor assigned to Naval District Washington (NDW) was notified of his advancement to chief petty officer Aug.3.
Chief Master-at-Arms (sel) Phillip Kelman, regional military working dog trainer at NDW, was one of five Sailors at the command eligible for advancement to E-7 and was selected after more than 20 years of military service. Kelman, along with the other chief selects from the region, is scheduled to be pinned after the completion of CPO 365 phase II, Sept. 15.
“When I found out I was in shock, I didn’t know what to think,” said Kelman. “Now, I would say making chief feels like the next evolutionary step. At 17 years in, there is a lot of experience and wisdom accumulated. You could learn from me about what to do and, just as much, what not to do. In order to give that back and disburse that knowledge, I can do that more effectively as a chief. I just felt it was time and I’m happy to have made it.”
Prior to joining the Navy in 2000, Kelman joined the Marine Corps in 1996, where he served as a machine gunner. Kelman feels in some ways his prior service may have been detrimental to his Navy career.
“I was a little obstinate. I was a Marine first so I kind of had a chip on my shoulder as far as my attitude towards the Navy. I understand that’s probably what kept me from being advanced. It takes more than professional knowledge to advance. You can be as good as you want at your job, but if you’re ‘that guy’ it’s going to affect you. I accept that’s just who I was. Some people get really upset and don’t understand why they didn’t advance. I knew exactly why,” said Kelman.
Kelman spent eight years serving as an E-5 in the Navy and in that time saw a lot of his friends pass him in rank.
“I think he’s going to be that voice for Sailors who have some time in and are thinking to themselves ‘I don’t know if I’m going to make chief,’ said Senior Chief Master-at-Arms Cale VanFleet, regional kennel master for NDW. He’s going to be able to say ‘you know what, look at me.’ He did what he had to do. You’ve just got to stay positive and listen to your leadership.”
VanFleet met Kelman in 2005, while the two were in training before a deployment to Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. They were both 2nd class petty officers and would go on to become friends and work together several times throughout their careers.
“As a young E-5, I thought he was very personable and easy to talk to. Kelman has never had a mean bone in his body. He was just a good guy and he had your back. Kelman loves his job and it showed even back then,” said VanFleet.
Kelman feels his friendship with VanFleet has had a positive influence on his career.
“His personality is very congruent with the military. His work ethic is second to none, whereas I was on the other end of that spectrum. I only did the things that I thought were important, whereas with him, everything is important. I think he’s always served as kind of that angel on my shoulder. There’s a reason he made senior chief so quickly,” said Kelman.
Kelman credits his advancement to E-6 and the birth of his child in 2013 as turning points in his life and military career.
“When I put on E-6, I became a supervisor or leading petty officer (LPO). If I was going to stay obstinate, or the subversive one, or ‘that guy,’ then that was going to bleed onto my Sailors who I was accountable for. I guess before being an E-6, I felt I was only responsible to myself. Yeah, I was part of a team, but really I just needed to make sure my stuff was straight. As an LPO, you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot if that’s who you are.”
“A lot of it also had to do with the birth of my son. Before that, maybe I refused to see the big picture of the Navy, but I definitely saw the bigger picture with my family,” said Kelman.
As Kelman reflects back on his career, he feels particular gratitude towards those who helped him along the way.
“Getting here, I stood on the shoulders of giants. Those giants weren’t always senior to me. I would say MAC John Dewald, CWO2 James Hansen and MACS Cale VanFleet all had a major impact on me being where I am and still being who I am,” said Kelman.