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.
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
Even when the MCPON's primary mission was to
attend a wives' club function, his wife was not authorized to travel with
"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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
"He told me
that if I would stay home, sailors families would get more
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
"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
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
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
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."
very strongly that the wives of the fleet, force and command
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
"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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
called Master Chief Petty Officers of the Command (MCPOC)
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
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
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
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."
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
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.
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
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."
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
right) MCPON Billy Sanders, MCPON Duane Bushey, MCPON Tom Crow, J01
Charlotte Crist, MCPON Bill Plackett, MCPON Bob Walker, and MCPON Del
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.