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Golden Anchors

By Army Spc. Stefan Alfonsi

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Every year, the Navy pins sailors across the globe with the rank of chief petty officer. The rank of chief sets sailors apart because their level of responsibility increases immensely. It also comes with a change in uniform, knowledge and attitude.

Jason Graham, an instructor at the Defense Information School here, is among the service members who now proudly wear the anchors awarded to them Sept. 14 at the Fort Meade pavilion.

Becoming a chief wasn’t his initial goal when he joined the Navy, Graham said. He was considering becoming an officer.

“I was working in a room full of officers, and everyone was saying, ‘Come be an officer,’ but I always kept my eye on the chief,” Graham said. “He was the center of power. Everyone went through him for stuff.”

It was in that room that Graham decided he would stay enlisted, he said. Now his focus was learning how to become a chief.

Terrina Driscoll, a civilian instructor at DINFOS and a senior chief petty officer in the Navy Reserve, is another who wears the emblematic anchors.

“Chiefs are the backbone of the Navy,” Driscoll said.

Chiefs are people who can be easily approached to ask questions and they’ll know the answer, she said.

The chiefs in the Navy have access to a community network they call the chief’s mess.

 “I can call any chief anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice and we already have that bond,” Driscoll said. “We know that we’re brother and sister. We know that this is the biggest fraternity in the world.”

The mess also allows chiefs to share information and have influence on command decisions.

In 1997, Driscoll, who was a junior enlisted sailor at the time, got into trouble and was standing in front of her commanding officer for captain’s mast, the Navy’s nonjudicial punishment. When the CO asked if anyone had anything to say in her defense, a chief spoke up.

He had contacted her unit to inquire about her character and concluded that she deserved a second chance.

“They let me stay in school, and that saved my life,” Driscoll said. “Who knows where I’d be? I just remember how much power that chief had over my career.”

During the training phase that is required to become a chief, participants take a hard look at themselves, Graham said. The training phase, which sailors refers to as initiation, is where they are taught the values and knowledge that are expected from a chief.

Coming to grips with one’s own shortcomings is not easy, Graham said. Initiation helps aspiring chiefs recognize and acknowledge their weaknesses and flaws.

When Graham was at his last duty station, he jokingly told his daughter that he would try to make his chief behave one day, he said. Almost every day after that, before he went to work, his daughter would tell him to go make his chief behave.

On Sept. 14, Graham was kneeling down during his pinning ceremony so that his daughter could put his anchors on his collar, and she said he had to behave now because he was the chief.

“It freaking killed me,” Graham said. “I just melted on the spot.”

Once he experienced the chief’s mess for the first time, he understood how critical it is to the Navy, Graham said.

It’s important to realize that chiefs no longer need to be competitive once they become a chief, Driscoll said. The greatest asset a chief has is being part of a global team.

“When we have a meeting and you close that door, and it’s a bunch of chiefs, it doesn’t matter who’s the senior or master,” she said. “We’re going to be united when we walk out the door.”

Being able to call any chief in the world and knowing that he and other chiefs will help is an amazing amount of power that is hard to put into words, Graham said.

“I got to see what they do for each other and how they operate,” Graham said. “Everything we talked about during the initiation all made sense. And then I thought: ‘Holy cow. This is where I want to be.’”