Written by Chief Petty Officer Robert L. Cain
In response, a company chief will usually explain proudly that each day they bear the great privilege and responsibility of helping shape the future of Coast Guard leadership.
Within the Coast Guard fleet, chief petty officers serve as deck-plate leaders that are primarily charged with developing our enlisted members and providing valuable advice to Coast Guard leadership. Another key job that chiefs perform is training junior officers. That job begins at the academy long before the cadets receive their commission.
Company chiefs work in Chase Hall, a substantial building on the academy campus that houses the cadets, as well as several offices. They focus on teaching, mentoring, and advising nearly 900 cadets and their leadership. By their personal example, the chiefs set the highest standards of appearance, professionalism, and conduct.
The cadets are assigned to eight separate companies, alpha through hotel, that are each led by a company officer, company chief, and a cadet chain of command. Each company has an even division of fourth class cadets through first class cadets. In addition to teaching and mentoring over 100 cadets within their respective companies, company chiefs act as command chiefs, acting as advisors to the company officers and cadet chains of command on many personnel, leadership, and company support function issues.
Through a cadet’s four years spent at the academy, company chiefs help them build trust, respect, and understanding of the chiefs Mess and enlisted workforce, as well as how to best interact with them when they enter the fleet.
“Company chiefs helped put the relationship between officers and enlisted personnel into perspective for me,” said Cadet Ryan O’Neill. “They have demonstrated to me that chiefs in the fleet are a source of guidance and knowledge to junior officers. There was always some sort of tip or piece of advice that the chief wanted to ensure that I brought with me to the fleet.”
In addition to their daily focus on teaching and mentoring cadets, company chiefs take on additional leadership roles that help accomplish the academy’s mission and support the needs of the corps of cadets. They serve as victim advocates for sexual assault response, Swab Summer training supervisors, Chase Hall duty officer, and help coordinate and advise many different clubs and programs including admissions, aviation, health and wellness, community relations, and color guard.
While much of the company chiefs’ job is accomplished within Chase Hall, there are many other ways outside of Chase Hall where they help to support and develop cadets. Almost every day, in and out of the academy, there are sports, activities, ceremonies, and events in which cadets participate. Company chiefs help coach club sports, coordinate ceremonial and community service events, attend cadet formal dinners and socials, and facilitate many forms of cadet training.
“Company chiefs have taught me to use my chiefs and feel comfortable going to them with problems,” said Cadet Cassandra Hawley, a senior cadet and company commander.
“They have shared their experiences from the fleet with us to give us the enlisted perspective on officers, especially junior officers, and how they should act. They have helped me with personnel issues and making tough leadership decisions.”
“Often cadets lose sight of the big picture or prize at the end of the day, and that it is a privilege to serve in the best service in the world, the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Cadet Lucas Taylor. “I feel that the chiefs helped keep me focused on that prize.”
Company chiefs take a lot of pride in the job that they do. Their daily interactions with cadets teach them how to perform as model men and women in the Coast Guard and leaders of character. They bring a vast amount of experience and positive influence to cadets that they can reflect on and use for the rest of their career as commissioned officers.
For those among the Chief Petty Officer Mess who have a desire to help train our next generation of leaders, detailed Information about the company chief selection process can be found on the U.S. Coast Guard Personnel Service Center website for Special Assignments.