Retiring MCPON (SS/SW) Rick West, right, passes the sword to the 13th MCPON Fleet Master Chief (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens on Sept. 28 at the Washington Navy Yard. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, left, looks on. (Tom Brown / Staff)
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Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SS/SW) Rick West stepped down as top enlisted leader during a Sept. 28 retirement ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard, making way for Fleet Master Chief (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens.
Stevens is now the 13th MCPON.
West served for nearly 32 years and as MCPON for the last four.
"Now that I'm at the end of my career, I'm jealous of the sailors that are just starting theirs," West said during the ceremony, noting that his nephew was graduating from boot camp in Great Lakes, Ill., that morning.
West, born in Rising Fawn, Ga., graduated high school in 1981 and immediately enlisted in the Navy, according to his official bio. His first duty assignment was as a quartermaster on the ballistic-missile submarine Ethan Allen.
He later served as chief of the boat on the attack sub Portsmouth, deploying twice to the Western Pacific. He also served as force master chief for Submarine Force Pacific; command master chief for the destroyer Preble, duty than included a Persian Gulf deployment; and as the Pacific Fleet's fleet master chief.
Before becoming MCPON, he served as the top enlisted at Fleet Forces Command.
As MCPON, West was known for his accessibility, using social media to connect with junior sailors in the fleet.
At the ceremony, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert added some levity. He told West to wave off Pabst Blue Ribbon and enjoy some "craft brews" in the Pacific Northwest, where West and his family are moving.
But Greenert also presented West with the Distinguished Service Medal, specifically for West's creation of CPO 365, a yearlong mentoring program for first class petty officers by the chief's mess.
The 13th MCPON
Stevens began his Navy career in 1983 after graduating high school in Arlee, Mont. He attended Aviation Structural Mechanic School in Millington, Tenn., and became a qualified aircrewman and an aircraft mechanic —and earned his enlisted aviation warfare badge, as well.
After two fleet tours in patrol squadrons, Stevens spent five months in the reserves in Minnesota before returning to active duty. He retrained in helicopters and transferred to Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14 in 1989.
He made master chief in October 2002 and was assigned to Fleet Composite Squadron 8 as both the maintenance master chief and the command master chief. He's also been the top enlisted at HM-14 and Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Atlantic. In 2009, he became 2nd Fleet's command master chief. He was named Fleet Forces Command's top sailor in summer 2010.
While Stevens said he was a little nervous about taking over as the top enlisted sailor, he also expressed excitement about the future of the Navy.
"I am both humbled and honored to have been provided this magnificent opportunity to lead and serve our sailors, their families and our government civilians as the 13th master chief petty officer of the Navy," Stevens told the crowd.