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Home : Media : Speeches / Testimony
NEWS | April 3, 2017

Navy Chief Petty Officers: 124 Years of Deckplate Leadership

By ADM Harry B. Harris, Jr. U.S. Pacific Command

Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command

124th Chief Petty Officer Birthday
Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii

April 3, 2017
As Prepared for Delivery

I’m deeply honored to be a part of this ceremony celebrating the 124th birthday of our Chief Petty Officers. This is a special day for our Navy. This is a special day for our entire Joint team.

And on a personal level, it has an even deeper significance, for I’m the son of a Chief.

As an enlisted Sailor, my father served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lexington stationed right here at Pearl Harbor. He served throughout World War II and in Korea. In 1958, he retired as a Chief Petty Officer, passing on his anchors to that next generation.

Besides the guy I called dad, Chiefs are the leaders we look to for answers. We ask the Chief! Since April 1st, 1893, the special blend of magic contained in the Goat Locker has repeatedly turned out technical experts with the ability to lead Sailors and train Junior Officers.

World War II hero Admiral Bull Halsey once told a story to a stranger at a parade held in his honor – about the Chief that trained him while he was a brand new Ensign.

Halsey’s story goes something like this:

‘No one before or after taught me as much about ships or men as my Chief did. You civilians don't understand. You go down to Long Beach, and you see those battleships sitting there, and you think that they float on the water, don't you?’

The man answered Halsey, ‘Yes sir, I guess they do.’

‘You’re wrong,’ replied Halsey, ‘they’re carried to sea on the backs of those Chief Petty Officers.’

Chiefs have always put our Navy ships on their backs and carried them to sea. And for more than a century, Chiefs have been the humble stewards of our Navy heritage and of the standards we need to succeed. Standards that keep us strong and moving forward to get better. Standards that we must have in the entire Joint force.

We need our Chiefs to be for the Joint force what they are already are for our Navy.

So my call to action for all Chiefs is to take on the challenge to lead all of our Joint forces and help synergize our operations across all the Services. Helping our Services train how we need to fight in the 21st century – jointly. Mentoring the future Joint leaders that will be ready to fight tonight and win.

For if we can achieve that, then I know the United States military will remain the greatest fighting force on the planet because the Chiefs always get it done. My father convinced me of this when I was a boy, and my experience throughout my own career has confirmed it.

Happy Birthday, Chiefs!


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