USS VANDEGRIFT, At Sea (NNS) -- Senior Chief Engineman (SW/EXW) Paul A. Gurrola and Sonar Technician (Geographic) (SW) Joseph F. Hart, were frocked to the rank of Senior Chief Petty Officer June 5, during a ceremony aboard the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG 48) currently deployed to the 4th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR).
Having worked an entire career to earn a chief's anchor, taking the next step to senior chief petty officer isn't as simple as waiting to advance. Knowledge and hard work are required of any chief, but it takes a special kind of chief to be selected for a star.
"Being a senior chief takes a lot of understanding between the personal and professional," said Hart. "Separating the two, along with all the knowledge gained throughout the ranks can make the difference between a chief and a senior chief. Your sailors need to be able to work with you and have strong guidelines put before them."
Throughout the history of the Navy, becoming a senior chief petty officer has never been a given. Many Sailors retire without ever achieving a star above their anchors.
"I've been in the Navy for almost 19 years now and the fourth time up for senior chief," said Gurrola. "I've seen a lot of my brother chiefs pick up senior when I didn't. I was always happy and excited for them when they get selected. For me, it reaffirms that the board selection process is valid and works."
Even with the competition among enlisted personnel, the selection process takes only the best leaders among the ranks.
Created June 1, 1958, the rank of senior chief has always had strong leadership requirements for selection. From the start, only chiefs with 10 years of naval service, of which four must have been as a chief, were eligible to test for selection. With selection to senior chief limited to 26 chiefs for engineman and 10 for sonar technician (geographic), the requirements in today's ranks are just as stringent as they were 56 years ago.
When leadership skills and knowledge shine through, it not only affects the ship and crew, but can be extremely difficult on a Sailor's family as well
"It becomes necessary to create an environment in which your family can be self sufficient," said Hart."Being a Sailor stresses the family at home, but as a senior chief it can be even greater. The greater the family can flex, the better it will be for everyone."
With a support net behind a new senior chief, stepping into the new role allows a Sailor to show even more effective ship than before.
"Being available for junior Sailors becomes even more important," said Hart. "Giving them a chance to learn from their mistakes and build on successes is at the heart of leadership. I teach everyone to never be ashamed to ask a question."
Supporting those chief's now below them, taking the roll as a leader of chiefs can be a major tasking. Beyond a roll as a leader to junior Sailors, these new senior chiefs now are tasked with being a leader to leaders.
"It's all about knowing your people, whether or not they are chiefs in your division, in the mess or junior Sailors in my division," said Gurrola. "Understanding their strengths, weaknesses and how they contribute to the commands mission puts is an important part of putting people in the best situation possible to succeed and continue to develop."
Many chiefs have reached for the stars, flying high into the heavens while leading the crew below. Like Icarus, some have returned to the deck plates, while a shining few have succeeded in taking hold of a star.
"Even as chiefs, we continue to develop and learn every day," said Gurrola. "There is so much knowledge and experience in the Chiefs Mess, and being able to tap into that is what makes us effective. I have been lucky to work with some of the best chiefs in the Navy and their knowledge and tricks of the trade has helped put me where I am today."
Hart and Gurrola will be vital assests to Vanguard as the ship continues it's deployment in support of Operation Martillio, in the U.S. 4th Fleet AOR.
Operation Martillo (Spanish for 'hammer') is a multinational mission tasked with conducting Counter Illicit Trafficking (CIT) operations.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet provide a sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions in support of U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations.