Chiefs now have a shot at being a command leader one rung earlier.
The Navy unveiled command senior chief as a new rating in late July. The move formalizes the role of the command senior chiefs into their own rating, that will feed directly into command master chief.
"When the program was created 10 years ago, the option was left open for sailors to do a tour and revert back to their source rating," said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens in a July 28 interview. "All we're really doing is taking away the option to revert back to their source rating."
"To my knowledge we've had only two command senior chiefs revert back since the program began," Stevens said. "They never go back to that source rating, they stay a command senior chief until they either become a command master chief or they retire — so really they've shown us with their actions that the decision to create the rate is the right one."
If they drop from training for any reason, they'll simply revert to their source rating. But once trained and in a billet, there's no looking back.
'What I've been hoping for'
"This is what I've been hoping for since I entered the program," said Senior Chief Sonar Technician (Surface) (SW/AW) Chuck Eakley, the top enlisted sailor on the frigate Kauffman.
Senior Chief Sonar Technician (SW/AW) Chuck Eakley, left, served as the command senior chief on the frigate Kauffman, and says he wants to switch to the new CSC rating. "This is what I've been hoping for since I entered the program," he said.
Photo Credit: Mark Faram/Staff
"I've got my 1306 all ready to go and will get the CO to sign it and send it off to NPC before as soon as it's official and before I transfer," he said.
The impact on the Navy is also expected to be significant, Stevens says.
"Fortunately, this will no longer be the case as once a sailor selects to CSC, and converts, that opens up advancement opportunity in that source rating," Stevens said.
"Even though there's a good selection rate overall, individually I believe we all felt some apprehension when competing in our source rating for master chief," he said. "I was an [electronics technician] and the question that went through my mind was, 'Why would the ET master chief's sitting the board want to select someone who wasn't [a] contribution to the community?' That thought was always in your head."
"They'll now be comparing apples to apples, instead of apples to oranges," Eakley said. "It's the best thing for the CSC community and of course our original ratings are no longer being taxed out of a billet."
Kelly was in the second group selected to command senior chief in 2006 and hasn't looked back. He says his career has definitely benefited from an early chance to learn the job of a command senior enlisted sailor.
Sailors make master chief, on average Navy-wide — at the 21 to 22 year mark in a career. Leaping into a CMC billet can be overwhelming for some at that level.
Kelly credits his success over five different command senior enlisted tours to the fact he got the chance to start early learning the ropes.
He says that many of his peers currently in CMC billets came up through the CSC program. In his time on the waterfront, he sees the benefit of his ability to learn how to handle enlisted command billets over that time.
Because the convert into the program later and have to battle a steep learning curve, Kelly say most command master chief's do only one or two tours before retiring.
But he credits his success and longevity in a career that's now reached 28 years and climbing to that early start.
"I started as a frigate command senior chief and that was a good way to learn the job and this type of job allows senior enlisted sailors to learn the business of leadership at the command leadership level through successfully more challenging billets," he said.
"Being a frigate CSC prepared where I had a couple hundred sailors prepared me to me to move on to Norfolk Naval Shipyard where I had 9,000 civilian 1,500 sailors — had I not had the frigate and nuance of leadership education there, I doubt I'd have made as smooth transition to have the successful follow on tours that I have had."
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.