Leadership From The Deckplates

The Rank of U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Celebrates 122 Years


On April 1, 1893, the United States Navy officially established the pay grade of E-7, Chief Petty Officer, along with nine ratings that came with the title of Chief (Master-at-Arms, Boatswain’s Mate, Quartermaster, Gunner’s Mate, Machinist, Carpenter’s Mate, Yeoman, Apothecary and Band Masters). This new rank recognized technical experts of their trade, and were designated by the commanding officer of their ship to train the junior sailors and mentor the junior-level commissioned officers.

Chief Petty Officers are commonly referred to as “deckplate leaders” because that is the area of a ship where they provide leadership. But they have also served in many different roles since they first came into existence, including pilots, pharmacists and physician’s assistants, quartermasters, and many more. The scope of responsibility has only become wider as time has gone on, and today the Chief Petty Officer is a highly educated sailor who is tasked with being a humble leader who possesses an uncommon level of effort and dedication to duty. 

How important are Chief Petty Officers to the Navy? Admiral William Halsey once spoke with a journalist about their importance on both the development of his own career and the careers of countless sailors. “You see those battleships sitting there, and you think they float on the water, don’t you?” he famously asked. “You are wrong. They are carried to sea on the backs of those Chief Petty Officers.” As a result, Chiefs are also sometimes referred to as the ”backbone of the Navy.”

So revered is the role of the Navy Chief Petty Officer, that a new Arleigh Burke-class destroyer (DDG-119) was named in honor of the first Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, Dilbert Black. His selection is not based upon personal sacrifice or valor but, rather, to commemorate his superior performance and the impact his leadership had on the Navy.

To honor this special day, we simply say “Happy birthday, Navy Chiefs! Congratulations on 122 years of Honor, Courage and Commitment!”


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