USS MAKIN ISLAND, At sea - Chief petty officers (CPO) serving aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) put on their service khaki and lined the ship's mess decks to celebrate the 119th birthday of the establishment of the CPO rank, April 1.
Makin Island's CPO birthday festivities consisted of a special ceremony that included speakers, reading of the CPO Pledge and a cake-cutting featuring the oldest and youngest CPOs serving on board. A CPO 5K fun-run, held on the ship's flight deck the day prior to the ceremony, also observed the anniversary.
"One hundred and nineteen years ago today, the rank of chief petty officer was established on April 1, 1893," said Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW/AW) Donnie Ryan, who served as master of ceremonies. "In honor of that day, the Makin Island CPO Mess has gathered here today in our khakis to celebrate those 119 years of deckplate leadership and look forward to what lies ahead."
Ryan spoke of his first experiences with CPOs when he joined the Navy in 1990 and how he learned that deckplate leadership, institutional and technical expertise, professionalism, character, loyalty, active communication and a sense of heritage were the guiding principles of successful leaders.
Makin Island Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Steve Alt, who joined the Navy in 1985, served as the guest speaker for the event and spoke on CPO heritage and tradition.
"From the early days until now, the enlisted community has come a long way," said Alt. "We've earned higher prestige and responsibility. But one thing that has not changed is that chief petty officers, by necessity and tradition, are still expected to lead from the front."
Makin Island CPOs who took part in the event said they could not understate the importance of an event honoring deckplate leadership taking place on the ship's maiden deployment.
"We're currently in the 5th fleet AOR [area of responsibility] and we're celebrating the birthday to remind chief petty officers and the crew of the heritage, history and the reason for the chief petty officer rank in the Navy," said Senior Chief Gunner's Mate (SW/AW) Christopher Shue from Makin Island's weapons department.
Shue said the day not only observed the years of tradition but also allowed the chiefs to reflect on their roles as leaders.
"The most important thing about being a chief petty officer is the Sailors," said Shue. "Taking care of our resources, our junior Sailors, training them, leading them, making sure they can meet the mission and advance in today's Navy."
The U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation in Washington DC has officially designated 2012 as the "Year of the Chief." A full year of activities honoring CPOs will be taking place this year at various locations across the United States.
Makin Island is the first U.S. Navy ship to deploy using a hybrid-electric propulsion system. By using this unique propulsion system, the Navy expects over the course of the ship's lifecycle, to see fuel savings of more than $250 million, proving the Navy's commitment to energy awareness and conservation.
This initiative is one of many throughout the Navy and Marine Corps that will enable the Department of the Navy to achieve the secretary of the Navy's energy goals to improve our energy security and efficiency afloat and ashore, increase our energy independence and help lead the nation toward a clean energy economy.
Makin Island is the flagship of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, currently supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.