Preserving San Diego's Naval Heritage

 

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The Rest of the Team:
Spouses, Staff, and Friends

 

 To a man, the seven Master Chief Petty Officers of the Navy have given the lion's share of credit for their success to others.

 They praise their wives and families for the sacrifices they made; the members of their staff for hard work and loyalty; the leaders for support and concern; their shipmates for honesty and faith.

 Like the proverbial snowball, as the office gained momentum and grew with increasing responsibility, a team effort was required to keep it rolling. While many more than those named in the following pages were members of that team, and were equally worthy of mention, the focus is necessarily limited to a few key players.

 

The Ladies

 

If the Navy's enlisted men suffered from a lack of status and prestige prior to 1967, their wives suffered more.

 

Traditionally silenced by the pronouncement that if the Navy had wanted a sailor to have a wife, he would have been issued one in his seabag; wives were either considered excess baggage or silent partners to a man's career.

 

On August 21, 1970, MCPON Black took the Navy to task for a practice he considered demeaning to enlisted wives. "Eliminate usage of the term 'officers and their ladies and enlisted men and their wives,"' he wrote in his response to Admiral Elmo Zumwalt's request for input to a Z‑gram eliminating 'Mickey Mouse" policies.

 

The CNO chose not to take action on Black's recommendation.

 

"I was pretty sure that by now most commanding officers had dropped this ungracious distinction without being ordered to," be wrote in his book, On Watch.

 

Ima Black chafed under the restrictions placed on her as a dependent wife and even more so when her husband became the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy. Outspoken and opinionated, she saw tremendous potential for extending to Navy wives a communication link similar to that offered to sailors.

 

"I wanted to do something," she said, recalling her frustration. "I was there and I was available and I couldn't even travel with him. There were times he flew in a military plane, with a vacant seat by him, but they still wouldn't let

 

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me .

 Even when the MCPON's primary mission was to attend a wives' club function, his wife was not authorized to travel with him.

 "There was one time he was flying on a military plane, with the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, to a wives club on the west coast," she said. "It was a woman's thing and he asked if I could go. They said they couldn't justify me

 

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flying in that plane that wouldn't have cost anybody one penny. This was frustrating. There was a lot I wanted to do. But I was never accepted as anything more than his wife. A dependent." But her husband listened to her and quickly discovered that having four ears and eyes to hear and see was better than two.

"I didn't try to dictate to him," she explained, "but often when I was with him in a large gathering in Washington, I would see or hear things that he couldn't. People would come to me and say, 'Your husband is so busy, I can't talk to him but I've got this problem.' And they would tell me. Often the younger enlisted people were intimidated by him because of his position. They just wouldn't come up and talk to him but they would talk to me more freely. I would see a lot of things and call it to his attention because some admiral would have him off in a corner somewhere."

 She also made a special effort to rescue him when he was 'cornered by officers.'

 "I would go over and very gently tug him away from the officers, tell him he had a phone call or something and get him over to the enlisted people," she said.

 It wasn't until Black's last official trip as MCPON that they were able to receive funding for Mrs. Black to travel with him.

 "That was when the Navy began turning around and recognizing that the family is also a part of the Navy," Ima Black said. When MCPON Whittet came into office, his wife, Helen, had closer contact with Admiral Zumwalt and his wife, Mouza, through the close friendship that developed between the new MCPON and the CNO. The Admiral asked for her input on matters concerning Navy wives and authorized her to travel with her husband to attend Navy Wives' Club meetings, gatherings with chiefs' wives, and to talk with other wives of enlisted men.

 When homeports began opening in Greece and Turkey, the CNO asked Helen to visit the bases to get a woman's perspective on living conditions there for families.

 Mrs. Zumwalt included Helen in social functions such as teas and coffees. "The line between officers and enlisted was beginning to fade," Helen said in a phone interview from her home in Coronado, California. "Admiral Zumwalt wanted people to respect each other and communicate freely."

 When the CNO created the wives' ombudsman program, though it would take years to develop and gain the necessary support, a signal was sent throughout the enlisted community: the Navy had a leader who cared about families. Wives may not have been issued in a seabag but they were finally being recognized as key factors in a married sailor's choice to stay or get out of the Navy.

 The role of the MCPON's wife evolved over the next 20 years with the changing philosophies of Navy leaders toward families and with lifestyle changes within the families themselves. As more and more wives moved out of the home and into the workplace, the Navy began looking for ways to fill

 

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In 1979, CNO Hayward found a willing and capable assistant in Carol Crow. Tasked as unofficial ombudsman, she traveled extensively with MCPON Crow and reported her findings to CNO and CNP.

 the void in the counseling, problem‑solving, child‑care, and referral systems that home‑bound wives once provided to each other. Traditional benefits for dependents such as medical care, Navy exchanges, commissaries, recreational facilities, and housing gained new emphasis and required frequent quality checks.

 While a sailor's morale was viewed as an indicator of job satisfaction, a Navy wife's morale was a better gauge of the overall factors affecting that sailor's quality of life. Once committed to improving those factors, the Navy began building or strengthening the necessary tools. Since the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy was already working the issues from the Navy member's perspective, it was only a matter of time before his wife would be

 

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asked to do the same from a Navy spouse's point of view .. on a volunteer basis.

When Fran Walker came to Washington with her husband, she chose to support him on the homefront. She was not asked to travel with him or play a role as ombudsman. During Bob Walker's tenure, the Navy leadership was looking internally, concentrating on bringing stability to leadership and trying to adapt to the changes that Admiral Zumwalt's tenure had introduced and to societal changes as well.

 But, in 1978, near the end of Walker's term, an event took place that set the ground rules for the Navy's emerging role in family support. The first Navy Family Support Conference was held in Norfolk, Virginia. The MCPON and his wife were introduced among the honored guests. As the result of the conference, a flag level steering group was established to oversee a Family Support Program and funding for a network of family service centers.

 Also in 1978, Admiral Thomas B. Hayward became Chief of Naval Operations. His goal to put "Pride and Professionalism" back in the Navy included programs to put family support into the mainstream of Navy personnel policies. In 1979, when MCPON Crow came into office, the CNO found a willing and capable assistant in Carol Crow.

 On the road with her husband, Carol's schedule was separate from his, allowing her to spend time with Navy wives' groups, touring commissaries, exchanges, medical facilities, and Navy family service centers, where available. Her message to wives struggling to make ends meet on a sailor's paycheck was one of encouragement and gentle advice. She urged wives to use whatever resources were available to them, including food stamps. She also pushed for wives to register to vote and to encourage their husbands to do the same.

 She relayed their concerns to her husband and to the CNO and CNP. Tasked as an unofficial ombudsman, her perspective was sought by other flag officers in charge of family‑oriented services. And, she made it clear that an ombudsman should be the wife of a senior enlisted man, not an officer's wife.

 "When I would visit a command, there would be officers' wives who came to our meetings," Carol said. "They wanted to know what was going on in Washington, too. But I strongly believe that a separation exists between officers and enlisted and that enlisted wives are more intimidated by officers' wives. That's why its important that an ombudsman be the wife of a chief, senior chief or master chief."

 The Crows were aware that not everyone in Washington or in the fleet approved of her role and there were some who resented her freedom to travel with the MCPON.

 "If someone said something to my husband about my travel," Carol said, "he told them to go see the CNO."

 During a visit with wives at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the command master chief publicly criticized Carol for her active role.

 "He told me that if I would stay home, sailors families would get more

 

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money," she said. "One of the wives in the group spoke up and said they were grateful that I was allowed to come see them and that any savings would be negligible in comparison to the assistance I provided."

 When Billy Sanders became MCPON, his wife, Mozelle, did‑not take as active a role as Carol. A gentle, soft spoken woman, she set her own pace, accompanying her husband on several trips overseas and CONUS, acting as a sounding board more than a spokesperson. While Sanders said he received positive feedback from his wife's visits with other Navy wives, he said she was not comfortable speaking to large groups.

 "I was happy that 'Mo' did as much as she did," Sanders said. "Our daughter was still a teenager and she and her mom were very close. While I give a lot of credit to the MCPON wives who have chosen a higher degree of involvement, I believe that should remain an individual choice and certainly should not have a bearing on the selection process." MCPON Bill Plackett came into office with definite ideas about the role his wife, Karen, would play.

 "The MCPON's wife plays just as important a role as he does," he said in an interview with a Norfolk paper.

 To prepare herself for the role, Karen Plackett spent the first few days after her husband moved into the MCPON office going through briefings with people from housing, medical, and the family support programs.

 "It made me understand what has to happen before improvements can be made," she said, "and I was able to explain the system to the wives when I talked to them."

 Like Carol Crow, Karen enjoyed travelling with her husband and took her role as his "second set of ears and eyes" seriously. She accompanied her husband on 45 percent of his road trips, and began to build her own credibility. During her visits, she learned to follow her husband's advice to "sift through the sand" to find the "big picture" problems that could be addressed at the Washington level.

 In one instance, at a small base in Japan, she was bombarded with complaints and problems from angry wives during a meeting. Quickly realizing that the majority of the complaints could and should have been handled on a local level, she sent for the command master chief who was in a meeting with the MCPON.

 "When he came in, he said, 'I sure as hell hope this is important!' I told him he needed to have a town meeting to let the people air their grievances," she said. "He listened to the wives and went to the CO. They had a meeting and 50 percent of the problems were considered important and were corrected. The other 50 percent were just petty complaints. But the problem was the command master chief had not been in touch with his people."

 

In Washington, Karen filled out trip reports similar to her husband's and briefed the CNO and the CNP when requested. Her input was sought from numerous other departments as well.

 For a brief time, she sat on a committee formed by Mrs. Joanne Webb, the wife of Secretary of the Navy James H. Webb, Jr., to seek alternate means of

 

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supporting child care and family advocacy programs. On the committee were millionaires, retired flag officers, a DOD housing director, and representatives from family support programs. A lawyer provided legal counsel on the legitimacy of proposed actions.

"When Mr. Webb left the office of SECNAV, the committee stopped meeting," Karen said, "but as a member, it opened a lot of doors for me. I could talk to people that Bill couldn't."

 One of her primary contacts for dealing with family concerns was Ms. Alice Stratton, Under Secretary for Family and Health Matters.

 Karen's credibility grew to the point that commands would call and ask for her to visit .. without her husband. Until she received official recognition as the Navy's Ombudsman‑at‑large in 1988, she was not authorized to travel alone.

 She sat on the Navy Relief Board as a working member, helping to draw up policies and providing a Navy wife's view. She also made it a point to visit Navy Relief offices wherever she travelled and reported her findings back to the board.

 Karen became one of the first enlisted wives to serve as an Arlington Lady, a group of volunteers who represent the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commandant of Naval District Washington at funerals for Navy veterans in Arlington National Cemetary.

 "You are representing the Navy to the spouses or family members of the deceased," she said. "Sometimes you would be the only one there besides the widow and the chaplain. I remember one lady who told me that she could not believe that I would take time out of my day to be there with her."

 While some of the services send the wife of their senior enlisted advisor to etiquette school after the selection, Karen said she had to learn much of it on her own.

 "Mrs. Sheila Watkins (wife of CNO Admiral James Watkins) and Mrs. Pauline Trost (wife of CNO Admiral C.A. H. Trost) helped introduce me to the Washington scene," she said. "The first time I was invited by Mrs. Watkins for coffee with a large group, she told me I could pour for her. That scared me because I could see myself spilling it all over. But they taught me a lot."

 The two Fleet and Force Spouse Conferences, hosted by Karen in conjunction with the Fall CNO MCPO Advisory Panel, was, in her opinion, highly successful. One of the recommendations the group made to the CNO was to allow E‑3s and below access to the housing list.

 "At first, the CNO opposed it, but two years later, he finally put out a message that COs could add them to the housing list if the need and the availability was there," she said. "That was one of the major concerns those wives were hearing from the junior enlisted who already had one or two children and couldn't afford off‑base housing. We also pushed for a family advocacy program."

 Karen feels very strongly that the wives of the fleet, force and command

 

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 master chiefs are capable of taking on a greater role in helping and overseeing Navy family programs. She also believes that the next decade should be a time for tremendous growth in the family support arena.

 'Wives need to stand up and make a lot of noise," she points out. "They need to remind Navy leaders that we are here! It shouldn't be hateful noise but we can't allow our progress to slip. There is much more that needs to be done. But we also need to remember that Navy families don't need to be led by the hand. They need to be shown the direction and then let them make their own way. And we also need to be careful not to get dragged down by the families that are always in trouble. They will drain the system. We need to have programs for the families who are functioning well but could use help every now and then."

 On October 13,1987, the Navy's birthday, Karen accompanied her husband to the dedication of the Lone Sailor statue at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.

 "That was a very special moment for both of us that day," she said. "As the MCPON, he was a guest speaker. He was so nervous but as he began to speak, I realized that he was speaking from his heart. That Lone Sailor statue symbolized a great deal to both of us, the pride in being a sailor, the loneliness experienced by the sailor and his family during separations, and the quiet sense of duty we as a Navy family feel for our country. For me and him both, it was very emotional and remains a highlight in his career and his time in office."

 When her husband retired, Karen Plackett, a mother of four, received the Distinguished Public Service Award signed by the Secretary of the Navy William L. Ball III, for her work with Navy families.

 "My time as wife of the MCPON was the most wonderful, frustrating time of my life," she said. "If I could advise another Navy wife on what to do to prepare herself in the event that her husband becomes MCPON someday, I would tell her to learn everything she can about the Navy, be an ombudsman if it's available and mostly, just be a good Navy wife. You learn a lot from just experiencing that."

 Sue Bushey agrees. She hasn't forgotten the lean days when her husband was a third class petty officer.

 "He led me to believe that it was necessary to split a popsicle and we both got a stick," she said. 'We went to the movies on base .. cost us 10 cents apiece."

 

She learned to pinch pennies as an alternative to working outside the home so she could stay home with the children. Because of those experiences, she finds it easy to relate to the wives of junior enlisted men as she travels with the MCPON.

 Additional training for the job as ombudsman‑at‑large came from ombudsman training when her husband first served as a command senior chief. In 1980, while her husband attended the Sergeants Major Academy, she enrolled in El Paso Community College and with a combination of CLEP

 

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credits, correspondence courses, and transferable credits, she earned her associate's degree in 1981. When the family returned to Norfolk, Virginia, Susan enrolled in Norfolk State University as a psychology major. To meet course requirements, she worked as a counselor at a shelter for battered spouses and as a counselor at a rape crisis center in Norfolk. In 1985, she graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in psychology and became a salaried employee at the center.

"It was very intense," she said. "I had to take my beeper everywhere, even to church."

 One night, when her beeper interrupted a cozy and rare dinner‑for‑two, her husband, who was C M/C of Theodore Roosevelt, loudly protested the intrusion until he discovered that one of his sailors was involved. Dinner was placed on indefinite hold.

 Susan's career went on hold in 1988 when her husband was selected as the seventh MCPON.

 "I feel the Navy gets two for the price of one," she told a Navy Times reporter five months into the job as ombudsman‑at‑large.

 In one of her early trip reports following visits to European commands, she noted "a need for a counselor to be sent on a regular basis to isolated areas to relieve counseling load; increased funding and staffing at overseas Navy family service centers; and increased emphasis on spouse employment."

 Like Karen Plackett, Susan learned quickly to "sift through the sand." In an ombudsman newsletter article, she explained the process: "The visits and briefings I receive are very helpful to me in writing my trip report when I return, but the most vital part of seeing a base and trying to get an accurate feel for how our families live is something called 'reality testing. 'After all the base tours are completed, or maybe in the midst of them, I will invariably be given the opportunity to meet with some of the ombudsmen in a group setting. This is my chance to not only hear their concerns about their areas, but also to test what I have been told about the family support services on the base. Many times the information does not coincide, and the truth lies somewhere in between!"

 Susan's interest in family advocacy has gone beyond her role as Navy ombudsman‑at‑large. In 1990, she became the first enlisted wife to serve as the president of the National Military Family Association (NMFA), the only organization at a national level dedicated to identifying and resolving issues of concern to military families. Current issues include child care, the commissary system, compensation equity, education including DOD Dependents Schools (DODDS), former spouse equity, health care, housing, relocation, spouse employment, voting, and others.

 NMFA is an independent, nonprofit organization, staffed primarily by volunteers and financed by tax‑deductible dues and donations.

 When her husband retires in August 1992, ten years later than he promised, Susan says she is looking forward to moving back to the home they left in Norfolk and continuing her career.

 

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On the road again with MCPON‑7.. As Ombudsman‑at‑Large, Sue Bushey's travel itinerary was as hectic as her husband's.

 

"Not everybody is cut out to be a Navy wife," she said. "One of the most important words in a Navy wife's vocabulary is 'flexibility.'"

 

The Staff

 

The majority of the sailors who have worked with the MCPONs over the past 25 years have been yeomen and journalists, handpicked by the MCPONs or recommended by detailers for the job.

 Their role of providing administrative or public affairs support to the MCPONs is a full‑time job in itself, but the staff also spends a great deal of time responding to queries from the fleet. Responses range from providing a correct phone number to time‑consuming cases that require research, problem‑solving, and follow‑up. 

The MCPON's administrative assistant, originally an E‑7 billet, has been filled for the past 14 years by an E‑9. Those who have held the position had a well‑rounded background reflecting a broad Navy perspective, a demonstrated concern for sailors and the ability to communicate effectively with officers as well as enlisted. 

As a primary advisor to the MCPON, the administrative assistant plays a key role in the development of personnel related policies and programs. In the absence of the MCPON, the assistant may interpret, define and articulate policy issues for the fleet, force, and command master chief network. The 

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degree of trust and understanding between the MCPON and his assistant determines the scope of the latter's role. At the least, he/she will direct the MCPON's schedule, generate correspondence, coordinate the semi‑annual CNO MCPO Advisory Panel, supervise the staff, and keep the lines of communication open between the fleet and the myriad of contacts in BUPERS and OPNAV. One of their most difficult tasks, screening the MCPON from countless interruptions, requires tact and diplomacy. While it is necessary to maintain the MCPON's availability to visitors, the administrative assistant must balance that need with the MCPON's need to address the innumerable issues that land daily on his desk.

 

While most of the MCPONs selected their own assistant, two stayed on to serve a successor. Chief Yeoman Jerry J. Sharf was Black's assistant until he was relieved by Chief Yeoman Jerome D. Traver. When Whittet came into office, Traver remained until he was relieved by YNC Bob Ferris. Chief Yeoman Bob Savering served four years with Walker. Master Chief Yeoman Darrell Bashor went three years with Crow. Master Chief Yeoman Tim Brady served with Sanders until 1985 when he was relieved by Master Chief Cryptologic Technician (Administration) George "Dave" Monroe. Monroe stayed on to serve Plackett for the duration of his tenure. Master Chief Personnelman Karl Braley came in with Bushey from Theodore Roosevelt and served until December 1990. Master Chief Yeoman Bill Huesmann currently serves as the MCPON's assistant.

 

A journalist is assigned to the MCPON to provide public affairs assistance and guidance. Second Class Journalist Fred Szydlik served with Black; J02 Steve Maddox with Whittet; J02 Dale Hewey, J01 Ron L. Pulliam and J01 Mark Malinowski each served a tour with Walker; Malinowski and JO I Don Phelps served with Crow; Phelps with Sanders; J01 Ron Ostarello and JOC Anita Westervelt, with Plackett; and Westervelt and JOC Craig Grisoli with Bushey. Administrative support for the office has been provided by second and first class yeomen who process and file the major share of the incoming and outgoing correspondence. For these young people, working with the MCPON meant long hours but it provided them with a unique perspective of Navy life and valuable hands‑on training in their rating.

 

Yeoman Second Class Thomas E. Gould served MCPON Black during his final years in office; YN2 Barbara Williams, YN2 Bob Abbott, and YN2 Catalina Lopez served with Whittet; YN2 Larraine O'Brien with Walker; YN3 Kathy Chochol with Crow; YN3 Margarita Santana with Sanders; YN2 Rich Chabot with Plackett; and YN2 David Haldiman and YN3 Jean Klosek with Bushey.

 

In 1985, when MCPON Plackett moved the Sailor of the Year program to his office, the Shore Sailor of the Year was given the option of serving a year with the MCPON to coordinate the program and work special cases. Those who served during Plackett's tenure were Chief Aviation Machinist's Mate Kurt Schaedel, Chief Quartermaster Keith T. Williams and Chief Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Technician John S. Visosky. With Bushey were Chief

 

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Aviation Structural Mechanic Beth Blevins, Chief Aviation Machinist's Mate Jamie Murphy, Chief Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Operator George Heider, and Chief Aircrew Survival Equipmentman Julie Chorlton.

 

Through the years, the staff for the MCPON has also benefited from the support of civilian and Reserve personnel. MCPON Black received clerical support from Mrs. Carolyn D. Reese, the only Civil Service clerk to work for a MCPON. During MCPON Crow's tenure, he was asked by the Naval Reserve Force Master Chief to include a Reserve member on his staff. YN1 Keith Hughes, USNR, Training and Administration of Reserves (TAR) was selected to serve in the office during Crow's final two years. Other Reservists, on Temporary Active Duty (TEMAC) have served for short periods of time in the office to assist in various programs and projects.

 

The customer‑oriented nature of the MCPON office requires high moral, ethical and professional standards from those who serve in it. Like their boss, staff members must be willing to go the extra mile for shipmates they may never meet or hear from again. The reward for thejob they do is the rare but special moment when a sailor they were able to help stops in to say thanks.

 

The Other Master Chiefs

 

Twice a year, the Navy's top master chiefs arrive in Washington, D.C., with their own agendas and opinions on what needs to be done to make life better for their sailors.

 

On some issues, they argue heatedly, tempers flare, toes get stepped on. Sometimes, the MCPON has to restore order.

 

But these master chiefs don't tread lightly. As members of the Chief of Naval Operations Master Chief Petty Officer Advisory Panel, it is their job to speak out on the issues that concern the sailors they represent.

 

And the leaders in Washington listen. Since 1971, when the first CNO MCPO Advisory panel was convened, it has served as the center of a two‑way communication system that filters information from the sailors in the fleet to Type and Fleet Commanders, the CNO, the CNP, and the MCPON and back down again.

 

If chief petty officers are, as they say, the backbone of the Navy, then the master chiefs who serve on the panel are collectively the Navy's spinal cord.

 

While the structure of the panel has changed through the years, from as many as 23 members during MCPON Whittet's tenure, to the current 12 voting members, the mission has remained the same. In a July 1971 issue of All Hands Magazine, Whittet outlined his charge to the panel: "These symposiums would be for the purpose of stimulating discussion and exchanging ideas on topics of interest to the Navy's enlisted personnel, as well as to provide a wide‑based source of recommendations and suggestions from the fleet to the CNO."

 

They were called Master Chief Petty Officers of the Command (MCPOC)

 

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in 1971, selected by fleet, type, or force commanders to serve as the Senior Enlisted Advisor on their staff. During MCPON Walker's tenure, he changed the name to Fleet, Force, and Command Master Chiefs and began efforts to whittle down the number of panel members.

 

During MCPON Sanders' term, approval was given by the CNO to limit the number of panel members brought to Washington while allowing type commanders to retain the title of Force Master Chief for their senior enlisted advisor. It wasn't until 1989 that a major restructuring change was announced, cutting the number of fleet master chiefs to three, and force master chiefs to nine. Incumbents were allowed to serve out their term with the existing title, making the change effective with their successor. Those retaining the fleet titles are Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, and CINCUSNAVEUR. Force titles remain for CNET, BUMED, Naval Reserve, and the Atlantic and Pacific Fleet surface, submarine and air forces. Those losing the force title will remain non‑voting, advisory members of the panel as CNO‑directed Command Master Chiefs.

 

As individuals, the fleet, force, and command master chiefs act as an important liaison link in their own chain of command. The master chiefs are able to heighten command awareness of existing or potential situations that may affect welfare, morale, job satisfaction and utilization of enlisted men and women. Commanders have learned to rely upon the advice of the master chiefs when establishing policy or working on problems dealing specifically with enlisted members. They have been, in essence, the forerunner of a Process Action Team (PAT), the heart and soul of the recently introduced TQL program.

 

Collectively, as the CNO Advisory Panel, they meet for one week in the spring and fall. Prior to arriving in Washington, they solicit and screen point papers from command master chiefs. The ones having merit are brought to Washington and considered by the panel.

 

The 750 master chiefs who hold billets as command master chiefs and the other chiefs who serve their command in a collateral capacity work with enlisted personnel, providing counsel and rendering assistance where possible. They deal with military matters or personal problems communicated through the chain of command, letters, phone calls, or personal interviews. Through them, the enlisted community and command can exchange feelings, attitudes, and ideas.

 

The MCPON communicates on a regular basis via phone calls or visits with the master chiefs to keep his finger on the pulse of the enlisted community. They help him pick up on trends and developments that he might not see during his visits to individual commands.

 

When the Advisory Panel comes to Washington to work issues, they bring a fresh perspective welcomed by the CNO, CNP, and other senior leaders. They represent the Navy‑wide network of senior enlisted advisors who are their eyes and ears at small and large commands. The credibility of the panel as a sounding board and a valuable resource for communication and infor

 

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mation has ensured its continuation.

 

A list of issues that have been worked by the panel over the last two decades gives insight into the scope of the senior enlisted advisor's role: uniform changes and guidance, leadership training, educational opportunities, shipboard habitability, living conditions in bachelor enlisted quarters, career opportunities, advancements, evaluations, high year tenure policies, rating mergers, family support programs, pay and compensation, the command master chief program, training programs, recruiting, equal opportunity, women issues, PERS/OP tempo, sea and shore rotation, medical care, retirement benefits, health and fitness, discipline, and drug and alcohol programs.

 

Issues, like those above, having Navy‑wide impact are generally worked through panel action. The master chiefs also consider, collectively or individually, a myriad of other issues that may benefit specific groups, such as colocation detailing for member‑to‑member couples, dependent day care, and single parents. These issues, combined with cases requiring special consideration for the unique needs of an individual, have been the elements of change on the personnel side of the Navy for the past 25 years.

 

The experienced eyes and sage advice of senior enlisted advisors have helped Navy leaders focus on those issues needing immediate and long term attention. The value of their input was underscored in November 1991 when former MCPONs Black, Walker, Crow, Sanders and Plackett came to Washington to sit in on the panel. At the end of the week, while all five had words of praise for the panel, it was MCPON Crow who summed it up best:

 

"We owe so much to these guys," he said. "All of us have so much respect for the job they are doing here and for the job they are doing out in the fleet. It makes you feel good to see the genuine love and concern they have for the sailor out on the deckplates. That's what made this panel work from the beginning and continues to make it work."

 

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People ‑ Not Machines                    10

 

Back in the '60s and '70s, when the Navy started developing its "people first" philosophies, a great clamor arose from the "old salts" who saw the spectre of crumbling traditions. They shook their heads, pointed their fingers and warned darkly that rough seas lay ahead.

 

    As radical as it may have seemed, the course has proved to be a true one.

While there were rough seas as the critics promised, and probably still more to come, the Navy has held steadfastly to its belief that at the core of readiness stand satisfied sailors. It was, after all, a vacuum created by too many unsatisfied sailors leaving the Navy back in the early '60s that set the "winds of change" into motion. What began as a soft, gentle breeze became a gale in the '70s during the Zumwalt era. In rapid fire succession, Z‑Grams struck down 'demeaning and abrasive' practices and replaced them with more liberal ones. To many young, junior sailors, Admiral ' I Zumwalt became a hero. To many senior officers and enlisted, Zumwalt's changes challenged the traditional assumption that people would not behave without command‑enforced restrictions to hold them in line.

 

But, Admiral Zumwalt's aim was not to undermine authority but to eliminate practices that caused dissatisfaction and to enforce those that upheld the worth and personal dignity of the individual. The Navy was not alone in its soul searching during the'70s. The other services, reacting to the same external and internal pressures, were beginning to realize that paperwork and rules would not be enough to run an all‑volunteer service. Listening and a new awareness of human needs, family considerations, and job satisfaction became important tools for leadership development. Flexibility became the order of the day as new attitudes developed toward regulations and personnel policies formerly viewed as gospel.

 

By the late'70s, the stabilizing leadership of CNOs Holloway and Hayward brought calmer seas and the opportunity for initiating changes at a more controlled pace. As a result, the Navy rode fairer winds into the '80s.

 

The new decade ushered in an era of "Pride and Professionalism." Timetested traditions were blended with new ones and good order and discipline were restored with tough "Zero Tolerance" drug policies. Emphasis was placed on developing leadership skills through classroom instruction. The Senior Enlisted Academy (SEA) opened in 1981 for E‑8/9s.

 

Traditional uniforms and grooming standards returned. Training and education became focal points for budget requests and personal excellence programs. Quality of life programs generated support from the Department of Defense level down through the Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Naval Personnel.

 

Pay and compensation issues were finally addressed through ample pay raises and additional benefits such as the variable housing allowance, a respectable sea pay, selective reenlistment bonuses, and overseas cost of living allowances.

 

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The Navy started reducing the costs of permanent change of station orders and stabilizing family life by allowing sailors to "homestead" in one geographical area while serving shore and sea tours. Family separations were limited through tightly controlled deployment schedules. Family Service Centers received funding for proper staffing and increased services. Career counselors were given billets to serve as full‑time resources for information and guidance on career choices. Advancement and evaluation policies were revamped to provide realistic opportunities to sailors.

 

Policies reflecting the changed emphasis from quantity to quality resulted in improved high year tenure boards, petty officer quality control boards and reenlistment criteria. The term "body fat" suddenly gained importance in strict adherence to physical readiness and fitness policies.

 

Sailors who believed they had been treated unfairly by their chain of command or the bureaucratic system sought recourse through letters to the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Personnel, or their Congressman.

 

By the end of the decade, policymakers could boast to Congress that retention had increased to 37.4 percent for first termers, 56 percent for second termers and 66.9 percent for careerists. For FY 90, those numbers continued to increase to 38.3, 55.7 and 70.6 percent, respectively.

 

In his report on the posture and FY 89 budget, Admiral C.A.H. Trost, Chief of Naval Operations, began with the statement that "the Navy today is more ready than ever to fulfill the nation's commitments and to support our long‑standing national security strategy of deterrence, forward defense and alliance solidarity."

 

Two years later, Saddam Hussein tested the validity of that statement and lost. During the fast and furious events of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the Navy's ships and people passed with flying colors.

 

"The superb performance of our people and our systems in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm validates the decisions made by our predecessors," wrote Admiral Trost's successor, Admiral Frank B. Kelso, II, in an article for the Naval Institute's Proceedings. "There is no better military organization in the world than the U.S. Navy."

 

Today, rather than rest on its laurels, the Navy has already set the watch for the future. Total Quality Leadership (TQL), based on the management philosophy of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, is the new wave the Navy will be asked to crest in the 21st Century. The goal is to create a cooperative environment where sailors will work and train under leaders functioning as coaches not judges. Problem‑solving will be a programmatic, team effort involving all levels of the command, including policy‑makers, operators and those responsible for fleet support.

 

According to MCPON Duane R. Bushey, who has been on the ground floor of TQL training and development, TQL "has the potential to be the reward the enlisted sailor has earned through years of hard work, sweat, and sacrifice."

 

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About the Author

 

Charlotte D. (Roberts) Crist is the daughter of a WWII Navy veteran. As a child, she loved listening to her dad's stories about his experiences as a sailor, first as a crewmember of Yorktown lost in the the Battle of Midway, and then as a member of the crew that rebuilt the battleship West Virginia and returned her to full duty in the final years of the war.

 

Following her enlistment and basic training in 1964, Crist spent the next three years writing for the base newspaper at Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Va. It was during her first stint that the first MCPON took office. At the end of her enlistment, she returned to her home in South Georgia. In 1968 she reentered the Navy and within that same year, she married a submariner and was discharged due to pregnancy. Thirteen years later, she affiliated with the Naval Reserve and was assigned to Atlantic Fleet Audiovisual Unit 186 at NAS Norfolk, Va., as a seaman journalist, In 1983, her unit split into two units and she became a member of Naval Reserve Atlantic Fleet Psychological Operations Audiovisual Unit 286. As the unit's senior journalist, she researched and prepared scripts, served as on‑camera talent for several news shows and documentaries, and participated in annual multi‑service exercises including Ocean Venture and Solid Shield.

 

In 1989, Crist served four months in the office of the Master Chief Petty

 

 (Left to right) MCPON Billy Sanders, MCPON Duane Bushey, MCPON Tom Crow, J01 Charlotte Crist, MCPON Bill Plackett, MCPON Bob Walker, and MCPON Del Black.

 

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Officer of the Navy as a special public affairs assistant during the different levels of competition and recognition for the Sailor of the Year program. In 1990, she returned to the MCPON's office for four months of temporary active duty. The four months became 17 months. During her final year in the office, she conducted a near‑herculean research and interview process that resulted in this historical account. In April 1992, Crist was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal for writing Winds of Change.

 

When not in uniform as a Reservist, Crist worked as a reporter for a weekly newspaper in Virginia writing numerous feature articles on the history, personality, and environment of two Virginia counties. Crist made her mark by writing a column entitled "Grassroots." She left the newspaper in 1988.

 In December 1991, Crist became reaffiliated in the Naval Reserve and is a member of AVU 286 once again. She lives on a small farm in Mathews, Va., where she enjoys working on her tractor and spending time with her twoyear‑old grandson, Cory.

 

 

 
 


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