The Navy named its top enlisted leader early Wednesday and he’s a familiar face.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson picked Russ Smith as the 15th master chief petty officer of the Navy.
“After a thorough and deliberate review process, I am confident that Fleet Master Chief Smith is the right leader to be our master chief petty officer of the Navy,” said Richardson shortly after a morning run with a large group of chief petty officer selectees at the Washington Navy Yard.
“I look forward to working with him to advocate for our sailors and their families selflessly serving around the world.”
Richardson installed Smith (SW/IW/AW) as the interim MCPON on June 22, a day after Steven Giordano resigned following allegations he fostered a hostile work environment in his Pentagon office.
Smith had been the fleet master chief for naval personnel and continued to serve in that role after Richardson elevated him temporarily to interim MCPON.
But during his brief time as the interim MCPON, Smith repeatedly insisted that he was merely one of four equals, with Fleet Master Chief Paul Kingsbury (SW/AW) in Norfolk, Fleet Master Chief Raymond Kemp (AW/SW/IW) in Europe and Pacific Fleet Master Chief James Honea (SW/AW) in Hawaii all pitching in to keep the office running for the Navy’s nearly 270,000 enlisted sailors.
For his MCPON, Richardson chose Smith over Kemp and Honea, but the same cordiality and cooperation is expected to extend into Smith’s tenure.
Fleet Master Chief Richard P. O’Rawe (SW) has replaced Kingsbury, who will retire.
Slated to hit his 30-year mark in the Navy on Sept. 18, Smith had been chief of naval personnel Vice Adm. Bob Burke’s top enlisted adviser since early 2017.
He’s also no stranger to the MCPON’s Pentagon office, having served stints there under MCPONs Rick West (SS/SW) and Mike Stevens (AW/NAC).
No special ceremony will mark Smith’s change of offices on Wednesday. Traditionally, the outgoing MCPON has passed to his replacement a symbolic cutlass but Smith’s duties begin immediately.
Navy officials plan to honor Smith later, however.
Originally from Susanville, California, Smith enlisted in 1988 as an undesignated airman working the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Enterprise.
Smith became a weapons technician and returned to sea aboard the carrier Abraham Lincoln and cross-trained as an intelligence specialist.
That career choice put Smith to work with SEAL commandos and duty at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, but he returned to sea aboard the carrier Carl Vinson and did another tour on the Lincoln, too.
He entered the command master chief program 11 years ago, serving as the top enlisted sailor on the guided-missile destroyer Momsen and at the Office of Naval Intelligence and the U.S. Naval Academy before becoming the Manpower, Personnel and Training Command Fleet Master Chief.
Smith’s decorations include two Legion of Merit Medals, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and an Army Achievement Medal.
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.