Table of Contents
- History of the Chief Petty Officer
- Evolution from Gunners Mate to Fire Controlman Aegis
- The Chief and the Combat System
The history of the Navy Chief Petty Officer (CPO) is based upon many lessons learned and ultimately changes within the leadership of the United States Navy (Navy). The CPO has been an integral part of the leadership structure, growth, and the lethality of the Navy. This essay intends to look at the impact of the Chief Petty Officer on the United States Navy, as well as on the Fire Controlman AEGIS (FCA) rating.
History of the Chief Petty Officer
The Chief Petty Officer in today’s Navy is responsible for the good order and discipline of today’s sailors, including Junior Officers. The common phrase is “Ask the Chief”, which ultimately shows the amount of trust placed upon the Chief from all levels of the Navy. For over 100 years, the Chief has been the subject matter expert, knowledgeable administrator, and backbone of their divisions, departments, ships, and the entire Navy. Other roles of the Chief Petty Officer are professional griefer, expert coffee drinker, and leader of doo-wop groups.
On April 1, 1893, the Rating of Chief Petty officer was officially proclaimed under the Navy Circular number 1. In regards to the Chief Petty Officer rank, there was two grades permanent and acting status, which were changed with the Career Compensation Act of 1949. The acting status of Chief Petty Officers was removed in 1965, with those considered Chief worthy becoming Chief Petty Officers, and those who were not were returned to their original rating (Goatlocker.com, n.d.). Honestly, the ones the board of three officers was scared of were allowed to maintain the permanent titles, retribution would probably have involved man overboard activities.
Nine original rates were given the rate of Chief Petty Officer, they were Master at Arms, Boatswain’s Mate, Quartermaster, Gunner’s Mate, Machinist, Carpenter’s Mate, Yeoman, Apothecary, and Band Master, with bandmaster being the most powerful of all. The paygrades of E-8 (Senior Chief) and E-9 (Master Chief) were created in 1959 by the amendment to the Career Compensation Act of 1949. Honestly, the government was throwing money at the sailors by this point, with Chief Petty Officers making around $320 a month, and Master Chief Petty Officers making around $380 a month.
There is plenty to talk about on the pay and advancement side of the Chief Petty Officer, but it is more important to talk about their impact on their sailors. Though they were killer mentors, creating many hard as hell sailors along the way. With Chief Petty Officers holding 45 Medals of Honor Amongst the Mess (! Some tough sons of bitches if you ask me, and boy do they act like it.
There was once a chief I knew, my first Chief, he was a crusty old fellow, was 42, and looked as if he truly commissioned the Constitution. His fingers were shaped to hold a cigarette and a coffee cup. He started his career on a diesel submarine, and he had the best stories, but he taught the heritage of Chief.
If there is anything that I could say about Chiefs, it would be that they are some of the best storytellers in the Navy, and most likely the world. Some of them believe they could go toe to toe with Superman and have him doing their admin afterward. Though there are plenty of humble chiefs out there, I have had the privilege to serve with many of them.
The Sailor’s basest of instructions, The Blue Jackets Manual, has a summary of the responsibilities of the Chief Petty Officer. They are as follows: you must be an expert in every detail that applies to your profession, your duties in training and instructing your sailors are more important than your equipment, and your personal and professional life must be above reproach and set the standard in all manners, and you work from a position of Honor and Responsibility, hold you, sailors, to the highest standards with which you conduct yourself. That’s why I want to be a chief petty officer essay
Evolution from Gunners Mate to Fire Controlman Aegis
One of the two longest-running rates in the Navy is the Gunners Mate, these fine sailors are the reason there are Fire Controlman, and the fact that war needs weapons, and weapons need to be controlled. The United States Navy needed sailors capable of applying brute force and artistic finesse to load cannons quickly and aim them smartly, these sailors were the Gunners Mates.
The Gunners Mate rating started in 1775 with the establishment of the First Continental Navy. Their inclusion in the Navy is truly what makes our ships warships. Gunner’s Mates were responsible for the maintenance and operation of the canons, ammunition, powder, and their spaces. In the time of the Continental Navy, canons were utilized for broadsides, so accuracy was less important, so knowing how to make the canons go boom and cause damage was more important.
Moving ahead in time, we come to the 1940s, specifically, 1941, the Gunners Mate rate was split, and this was the birth of the Fire Controlman, a sailor with the ability to put rounds down range with accuracy and lethal effect. These sailors had been proficient at this job before as Gunners Mates but were deemed important enough to have their rate. These sailors utilized range finders and other devices to fire rounds at distant ships and land targets to allow the Marines to storm the beaches on both fronts of World War II.
The Fire Controlman after World War II became even more advanced, as the systems and weaponry became more technical and electronic. These sailors operated fire control radars, as well as missile systems, increasing the lethality of their ships and the United States Navy. They were the most proficient marksmen of their time, and probably some of the more refined nerds in the fleet. These sailors were on the leading edge of technical breakthroughs, and tactical excellence.
In the 1960’s it was determined a new whole ship system was required to increase the lethality of the United States Navy, this system would have the ability to intercommunicate with all combat systems onboard, either directly or indirectly (Petty, n.d.). This system would eventually become the Aegis Combat System. The RADAR for the system was first installed on the Norton Sound (AVM-1), this RADAR was the SPY-1, which is now on all AEGIS ships in the Navy, though many variants exist (Petty, n.d.).
The AEGIS Combat System works on computers, RADARs, and Weapons systems. The first ships with the AEGIS weapons system were the Ticonderoga Cruisers (Petty, n.d.). Following the Cruisers came the Arleigh Burke Destroyers. Both of these ships have commanded respect from around the world, but this would not be the case if it weren’t for the Sailors who operate and maintain these systems.
There are three types of Aegis Fire Controlman, the SPY-1 technician, the AEGIS Computer and Networking technician, and the Fire Control Technicians. These sailors would not be able to do their jobs without the leadership of their Chiefs. Sailors can sometimes run on their own, but a Chief is a glue with which the AEGIS Combat System is held together.
The Chief and the Combat System
The United States Navy knows that there are a select few people who are capable of running the AEGIS Combat System, these sailors are the Chiefs. When the system was in its infancy, some sailors decided it was truly their calling to man this system. They rose amongst the ranks and took charge of their system. These young and senior sailors learned the ins and outs of the systems they were charged with and drove the changes that made the AEGIS Combat System into the most dangerous weapon on the seas.
During the Cold War, the AEGIS Cruisers were tasked with air, surface, and subsurface surveillance and tracking of Soviet assets, and with the leadership of the Fire Controlman Chiefs, these systems were what was needed to keep the Soviets at bay. The abilities of the AEGIS Combat System were driven by sailors who had the leadership they needed, and their ships were the deadliest in the world.
The most commonly referred to as AEGIS Chief is Retired Fire Controlman Master Chief James (Jim) Barrie. He is known for his great technical knowledge and his ability to make magic happen within all of the systems. He is everything that AEGIS technicians should aspire to be.
The history of the Chief is tied into all of the rates in the United States Navy, and we all owe them a great debt, which will never be repaid. Their expertise, leadership, and mentorship are what make every year of new Chiefs the future leaders that they will be. We as Chief Selectees owe a debt that we can never repay, but in our short time, we will do our best to make our predecessors proud. That’s why I want to be a chief petty officer.