On the second weekend in September, the Navy landed in Kilmarnock. Two groups of fifteen young non-commissioned officers recently selected for promotion to Chief Petty Officer spent half a day working on the Habitat for Humanity home being constructed on Wiggins Avenue in Kilmarnock. Performing community service is a requirement that these men and women must complete before promotion to the ranks of the senior noncommissioned officers.
The project was coordinated by Duane Bushey, vice president of Lancaster/Northumberland Habitat for Humanity (LNHFH) and a former Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, the service’s highest ranking enlisted member. Bushey explains that, “In the Navy, Chiefs are known for getting the difficult jobs done as a manner of routine and working as a team to accomplish the impossible. When a first class petty officer is selected to the ranks of Chief Petty Officer (CPO), he or she goes through a process of indoctrination into the Chiefs’ mess (respectfully called the goat locker).”
Technically, the Chief’s Mess is the room aboard ship where senior enlisted typically gather for meals and social activities, Bushey explains. It is separate from the area where the Navy’s junior enlisted sailors eat. The physical separation indicates the important distinction between CPO’s and those they supervise daily. Joining the Chief’s Mess indicates that one has advanced into the ranks of those responsible seeing that the Navy’s daily business gets done.
“Part of the indoctrination is learning that they should use their talents to give back to the community,” Bushey says. The CPO selectees who came to Kilmarnock worked under the watchful eye of Bushey and Scott Hommel, chair of LNHFH’s Building Committee, laying down roofing, putting up siding and installing soffits under the eaves of the house. After completing their work at the Habitat home, each group continued their indoctrination by getting in some underway training on the Corrotoman River. A Master Chief of the Navy (Ret.), a Master Chief, two Senior Chiefs, and two Chiefs were on hand to provide guidance and words of wisdom.
Bushey points out that these sessions are also part of the induction process. Those selected to become CPOs are required to meet with a seasoned Chief Petty Officer for guidance, receive instructions in leadership and review moral and ethical values of the US Navy and the Chiefs’ Mess. “These newly selected CPOs carry charge books in which they record written instruction. All Chiefs keep their charge books with them so they can refer back throughout their career to the instructions and guidance they receive,” he says.
As these groups of soon-to-be senior noncommissioned officers departed the Corrotoman River, they sang the Navy hymn. Far up the river could be heard, as an echo, the Marine Corps hymn. “It was a great example of the pride so many of us have in all our military services,” Bushey says.