Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Significant Role of Navy Chief Petty Officers (CPOs) In Superior Commands

"The backbone of the Navy" is how one old adage sums up the importance of the chiefs quarters. Superior commands are especially quick to acknowledge the chief petty officer's special role and contribution. The uniqueness of that role is a function both of the position the chief occupies in the organizational structure and of the job qualifications that must be satisfied before the position is attained. Chiefs have considerable managerial and technical expertise and are the linchpin between officers and enlisted.

For there to be a strong chiefs quarters, the chiefs must feel that they are valued and that they have the authority and responsibility to do the job the way they think it ought to be done. In superior commands, the chiefs feel that their special leadership role is sanctioned and appreciated by the rest of the command, especially the CO. In these commands, the chiefs are included in all major activities, particularly planning. Their input is sought and readily given. If they believe that something won't work or that there is a better way to do it, they speak up.

Chiefs in superior commands lead by taking responsibility for their division. They motivate their subordinates, counsel them, defend them when unjustly criticized, monitor and enforce standards, give positive and negative feedback, communicate essential information, solicit input, monitor morale, and take initiative to propose new solutions and to do things before being told. The chiefs play a key role in the enforcement of standards. Because they are out and about, they see for themselves whether job performance and military bearing meet the Navy's and the command's requirements.

When work is done well, they offer recognition and rewards; when it is done poorly, they act to correct it. They also know the importance of modeling the kind of behavior they expect their people to display. If they expect their personnel to work long hours to get something done, they work the same hours right along with them. Their concerns extend beyond their immediate areas, however.

Chiefs in superior commands act for command-wide effectiveness, promoting the success of the unit as a whole. Although they have a strong sense of ownership and take responsibility for their division's activities, they are able to look beyond the job at hand: when other departments or divisions need assistance, chiefs in superior commands are willing to help.

The superior chiefs quarters usually has a strong leader who plays the role of standard-bearer for the command, creates enthusiasm, offers encouragement, and drives others to excel. It is usually someone whom the other chiefs perceive as fair, who stands up for their interests and those of the crew, who listens with an open mind, and who has demonstrated a high degree of technical proficiency.

In superior commands, the chiefs quarters functions as a tight-knit team. The chiefs coordinate well, seek inputs from each other, help with personal problems, identify with the command's philosophy and goals, and treat each other with professional respect.

Finally, this ability to perceive larger goals and to work toward them as a team extends to their relationships with division officers. Chiefs in superior commands are sensitive to the difficulties that arise for division officers, who lack experience and technical know-how but must nevertheless take their place as leaders within the chain of command. A superior chiefs quarters supports and advises these new officers fully and tactfully.


Anonymous said...

Captain Lambert,

It has been my experience to have served on ships and shore stations that were “superior commands” and also to serve on very few that were in other classifications. I will not, just as you, define what constitutes a superior command. But if the CPO’s attached to a command did not perform the duties and obligations outlined in the post, then that command would probably not be considered superior. The backbone of the Navy requires support from the rest of the body to perform properly, and only functions by being an integral part of that body.

Very Respectfully,

Anonymous said...

When did the Chiefs' Mess become Chiefs' Quarters?

Captain - Special Duty Cryptology said...

It's common to refer to them both ways. "CPO Quarters" was more common back in the 1980s.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2010,

On small Navy ships there is in many cases no separate Chiefs galley (mess, and on ships of that nature, this includes all nuclear power Submarines by the way, most Sailors attached to those vessels would normally refer to the CPO berthing, and lounge area as Chiefs Quarters. On larger ships where CPOs had a galley along with a berthing area it came to be known as Chiefs Mess or Chiefs Quarters, just as Captain Lambert states.