Operational Depth


Force Master Chiefs set Standards and Tones
for Submarine Force CPOs

by COMSUBFOR Master Chief Petty Officer Dean Irwin
and COMSUBPAC Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Benko

Today, as elements of the Submarine Force continue to engage enemy forces in the global war on terrorism, our focus and daily efforts must continue to ensure that we remain ready to answer our nation’s call, wherever and whenever it comes. We are more powerful and more ready than many of us have ever experienced in our careers. Sailors today are better educated, better trained, and more mission-focused than at any time in our history. And the ability of you, the Chief, to lead and mentor these Sailors remains a crucial ingredient of our overall success.

To do this, we need to set the proper standards and tone for our submariners to strive for. These standards must be set at achievable levels but ensure that our force succeeds in its mission without sacrificing what we believe in. There are a number of clearly-stated standards that drive the tone at your command. You should know where your ship or station stands on each of these areas and work your leadership teams to move the weak areas forward. We need to be stressing each of these topics as an integrated Submarine Force.

First and foremost, we expect every Chief to discuss openly our Navy’s Core Values, the problem of Sailor- on-Sailor violence, substance abuse, healthy lifestyles, and other topics vital to being a good Sailor and submariner in our Navy. Knowing the Navy’s and the Chief’s expectations may very well be that one thing that prevents one of our Sailors from straying into shoal waters.

That conversation you have with them may become the key influence – or create the mind set – that makes clear what’s acceptable and what isn’t – and it may prevent a career-ending incident. Over the years, many a Sailor has taken aboard what his Chief has to say – and we must make sure we’re telling the right story. And, it isn’t enough to print it in the POD or put it out in an e-mail. These are very personal issues that require your presence, personal effort, and intervention. No Sailor should doubt or question what their Chief’s or the Navy’s position is on any of these subjects.

Photo further described in articleSubstance abuse should be at the forefront of your conversation. Though random sampling and unit sweeps are among our most productive deterrents, we continue to battle substance abuse. There is no room for error here. Any substance abuse can affect a boat’s operational readiness and mission accomplishment. Our Sailors need to know that the use of drugs is not only illegal, but unhealthy. That is the standard.

Chiefs must set the standard for our junior personnel when it comes to physical fitness, also. We can’t expect our Sailors to maintain Navy physical-fitness standards if we don’t maintain them ourselves. We shouldn’t be seeing our chiefs doing physical training only during CPO Transition season. It’s a day-to-day thing. Physical fitness programs should be put on the agenda of planning meetings and included in the command schedule of events to become a significant part of the lifestyle of all of us. A good physical fitness program ties directly into command readiness. The stamina, speed, and agility we require of our submariners in any crisis situation demand a healthy lifestyle and proper physical fitness.

We should place continuing emphasis on the cleanliness and appearance of both our physical infrastructure and our submariners themselves. As you walk through your spaces, look at your surroundings and ask yourself, what message is this environment sending to my people? Those spaces are setting a tone – is it the one you want? The military bearing of each of us is as important as the job we do. Are uniforms maintained? Are salutes rendered when appropriate? Are we respectful of both juniors and seniors? We cannot become lackadaisical in these areas. We should encourage an atmosphere of professionalism, confidence, and crisp execution of duty. The tone of the command is often measured by the first impression of the ship, the shore station or the Sailors themselves. How does yours measure up?

We, as Chief Petty Officers who lead both the Sailors and our Navy, must continue to instill pride and a renewed sense of dedication to the Navy’s Core Values: Honor, Courage, and Commitment. We, as a Force, must continue to be in the forefront of the global war on terrorism, by doing what we do best – watching and waiting for the time to strike, with stealth, endurance, and flexibility. And from the waterfront to the squadrons and groups, the Chiefs must take the lead and set the standards for others to follow.


Cover of Undersea Warfare Magazine Winter 2005