U.S. 5th FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY - Ten Sailors were pinned to chief petty officer (CPO) during a ceremony held aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), Sept 16.
Sailors assigned to Makin Island, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 11 and Assault Craft Unit (ACU) Five received their combination covers, anchors, and a warm welcome into the CPO mess after a six week indoctrination phase.
"Today's ceremony was surreal for all types of reasons," said Chief Hospital Corpsman (SW/FMF) Jamie Garza, from Corpus Christi, Texas. "It was one of the most fulfilling days of my life."
During the past six weeks, the seasoned CPOs aboard worked around the clock with the new chiefs providing training and mentorship in preparation of their induction into the CPO mess.
Garza stated that one key element that assisted in his selection to CPO was having great mentors.
"Once I made the decision that I wanted to be successful I sought out a mentor," said Garza. "I sought out a chief and asked what types of things I need to be doing so I could head in the right direction. I've been lucky to have a lot of great chiefs take me under their wing."
Guest speaker, Capt. Alvin Holsey, commanding officer of Makin Island, gave encouraging remarks to the newly pinned CPOs during the ceremony.
"Today is a great day to lead," said Holsey. "Leading, by its construct, is hard. Hard doesn't mean impossible. Today you complete one journey and in a few minutes you’ll start another one. You’ll make tough decisions, face different challenges and yes, some of them will be hard but again, they're not impossible. Why? Because you are chief petty officers in the finest Navy the world has ever known."
Holsey stated he was proud of the group’s accomplishment and reminded them of an old saying.
"I know this milestone did not come easy, but we've all been told over the years that anything worth having never comes easy," stated Holsey.
At the conclusion of the ceremony the new chiefs were gifted with a special and deeply personal gift, courtesy on the CPO Mess.
"One of the most touching moments was after the ceremony – they had a video with messages from our family," said Garza. “Throughout this process of being underway, we haven’t had a lot of communication with our families.”
Garza continued to stress the importance of family and how he and his fellow CPOs have become a great support system for each other as they continue on their deployment.
Makin Island is the flagship of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime and theater security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.