By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Fidel C. Hart, USS Blue Ridge Public Affairs
SEA of JAPAN - Chief petty officers (CPOs) of USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and embarked 7th Fleet staff gathered in the ship's CPO Mess to celebrate their rank's 119th birthday while underway, April 1.
During the month of April, the professional golf world gets into swing with the Masters tournament. The Masters is billed as, "A tradition unlike any other." Throughout U.S. Navy commands across the world, another "tradition unlike any other" happens in April: The birthday of our chief petty officers (CPO).
April 1, 1893, is the date U.S. Congress approved the creation of a chief petty officer rank in nine ratings. For 119 years, chief petty officers have been the deck plate leaders, the foundation for setting standards among crew members, and "the backbone of the Navy."
The event kicked-off with opening remarks by Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collection) Dan Leonard, who organized the celebration. Leonard said he is proud to be a part of an elite bond of brothers and sisters bound by trust, traditions and heritage.
"I always try and remember that as one of the chiefs, I wear a title that will remain eternally connected to the day when the rank of chief was born," he said. "A feeling that makes me proud every time I speak to a Sailor or an officer that turns to me for direction and wisdom."
Following Leonard's remarks, Chief Religious Programs Specialist Tshombe Harris gave the invocation.
Over the course of time, one symbol has provided the symbolism for all that being a CPO encompasses: The gold-fouled anchor. Whether a chief petty officer or the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON), every chief's rank insignia has 'USN' across the gold-fouled anchor. The 'USN' stands for Unity, Service and Navigation.
Harris said the 'U' symbolized the unity of the CPO mess; the 'S' represents service to one's god and country; and the 'N' being the navigation that a chief is expected to provide each Sailor, every Navy ship and the entire Navy.
The celebration culminated with a presentation highlighting CPO history and achievements, the reading of the Chief's Creed and the Chiefs joining together to sing, "Anchors Aweigh."
The celebration encompassed a time-honored tradition of the most senior chief present and the most junior chief present cutting the CPO birthday cake. The passing of a piece of cake to the younger chief also symbolizes the passing of knowledge and experience.
"We are united as a CPO mess. We provide service to officers, as well as our junior Sailors. We navigate our Sailors toward the future. A chief is the foundation and guidepost for setting standards, as well as the epitome of what leadership is," Harris said "The chief has always been seen as the model of expertise. It was an easy choice choosing the anchors because anchors are used for steadying ships and holding them into place. That is why chiefs are known as 'the backbone of the Navy."