The chief petty officer selectees arrived at 6:45 last Friday morning, ready for a 7 a.m. muster. Wearing long sleeves and armed with sunscreen, insect repellent and sunscreen, the sailors were prepared for a long day at the Tipton County Veteran's Museum and Nature Center.
This is the 15th year the museum has been honored with a Navy volunteer day, a day where more than 80 sailors from various commands at Naval Support Activity Mid-South perform grounds maintenance and facility upkeep.
"We're very grateful that the Navy helps to continuously improve the Tipton County facility," said new museum director Barrie Foster. "These officers are providing us with a huge assistance, not only the beautification, but the financial impact."
Based on retired director Alice Fisher's calculations, Foster says this one day saves tax payers more than $250,000.
This community service project is one of many different undertakings the chief petty officer selectees- sailors selected for promotion to chief petty officer- perform during a six-week training process, including team building, leadership, community outreach and physical training. The training process is designed to prepare them for the increased duties and responsibilities as chiefs.
"The museum means a lot to veterans and citizens," said Foster. "Veterans meet here on a regular basis for different ceremonies."
According to Jerome Uter ABEC (SEL) the program is designed to get selectees out of their comfort zone.
"Normally we take charge of a group of people, we get together and tackle the task," said Uter.
"Before, we only did the roles assigned, such as daily reports or daily maintenance on a piece of equipment. Now, as a chief Petty officer selectee, you become, "the chief" petty officer. You become the chief. My guys could see him (pointing to Maurice Silva LSC (SEC)) and not care he's not in the same specialty, they see him and expect him to have some answers. We may not know exactly what to do when that time comes, but we'll know where to find the answer. We may not know the answer, but because of teamwork, collectively, as a mess, we do."
Silva explained why the day was so important to the chief selects.
"We're at 32 officer selectees right now," said Silva. "Today, we're working in teams and socializing with the chief's mess in order for them to get to know us and us to know them. This is a team-building exercise, helping us to integrate into the chief's mess. Today, there are two times as many chiefs here as us, so it's a great opportunity. Many of the chiefs come to this event annually."
Uter also emphasized the importance of community service.
"I'm a big advocate for community service," said Uter. "We're giving back to the community- a lot of civilians appreciate this facility."
Uter said he wanted to become a CPO mostly to lead people on a larger scale.
"I hope I have a talent for leadership and can make an impact on sailors as much as my chiefs have on me in the past," said Uter.
Silva agreed about the impact a CPO can have on the crew and what traits he believes he has to be an effective leader.
"I'm not scared to get next to my shipmates, the people I'm leading," said Silva. "I like to be really involved. I'm a hands on kind of guy and encourage camaraderie. When we go out, we are together, this is another family. Because when we deploy, this is all we've got. You can email when you're out on the ship, but sometimes, that's not even guaranteed. What is guaranteed is the person next to you is going to be there."
The CPOs and officer selects spent the day cleaning the museum and clearing the 20 acres of land, which includes a wildlife sanctuary, trail, wetland and pond areas.
"As Chief Petty Officers, we look forward to coming out to the Tipton County Museum, Veterans Memorial and Nature Center every year. It's a very rewarding day for us and allows us to, in a small way, give back to the community by beautifying a facility that has a wealth of military heritage. I personally have a special bond with this event, as I was fortunate to be stationed here in 1999 when we first started the Navy Volunteer Day, and it is great to see that the tradition still carries on today," said Command Master Chief Tuck Williams.
The Navy Volunteer Day project is coordinated locally by the museum staff, Covington Parks and Recreation Director Amy Payne, Covington Public Works Director Robert Martin Simpson, and the supervisors of the street and sanitation division of Covington Public Works, Tim Fayne and Danny Brown.
The chief selects will be promoted to chief petty officers in a pinning ceremony at Naval Support Activity Mid-South in September.