This blog is part of a series of posts following Coast Guard Cutter Healy on their journey through the Arctic to the North Pole in support of Geotraces 2015. Stay tuned to learn more about the mission, the cutter and the crew!
Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory Mendenhall
On Sept. 6, three Coast Guard Cutter Healy crewmembers walked down the ship’s brow onto a large ice floe at the North Pole. Twenty-two of their shipmates followed. The Arctic wind was howling, bringing the temperature down to a biting negative seven degrees. In spite of the environment, these three stood proudly in their service dress bravos as their shipmates pinned anchors to their collars, bestowing upon them the title of indoctrinated chief petty officer.
The rank of chief petty officer holds a unique reverence in the Coast Guard. Chief petty officers are looked to and leaned on by their commands and their crews to be the solid keel on which missions succeed. How does a prospective chief petty officer adequately prepare to embrace and meet such formidable expectations?
Chiefs Call to Indoctrination, or CCTI, has long served as an important stepping stone to becoming a steadfast, deckplate leader. CCTI not only prepares prospective chief petty officers to succeed in their new roles and responsibilities, but serves as an introduction and welcome into the camaraderie, pride, and heritage of the chief petty officer community.
Chief Petty Officers Megan Hart, John Lobherr and Erin Hunter, a machinery technician, boatswain’s mate, and health services specialist respectively, completed CCTI while underway on Healy, culminating with a one-of-a-kind ceremony held at the North Pole.
Healy reached the North Pole Sept. 5, becoming the first U.S. surface vessel to do so unaccompanied. The cutter is underway in support of the National Science Foundation-funded Arctic Geotraces, part of an international effort to study the distribution of trace elements in the world’s oceans.
Hunter, Hart and Lobherr are now officially indoctrinated, but their growth as chief petty officers is not over.
“I’m learning,” said Hunter. “I’m learning from a lot of wisdom. There’s a lot of knowledge onboard Healy.”
The process has special meaning to Hunter, as her grandfather was a chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy.
“I worked really hard to advance before he passed away so he could put my anchors on, but we lost him,” said Hunter. “He’s with me every day. He’s my motivation to be as good as a chief as he was.”
What it means to be a good chief petty officer is a little different for everyone, but there are some key elements all chief petty officers are encouraged to embrace and put into practice.
“I believe the meaning of the anchor really sums it up best,” said Lobherr. “The anchor signifies stability and security and reminds chiefs to keep those they serve safe from harm and to uphold the finest traditions of the U.S. Coast Guard. The chain is symbolic of flexibility and strength and stands for the reliance of one chief upon another to get the job done. Finally, the chain fouled around the anchor is to remind the chief that there may be times when there are circumstances beyond their control in the performance of duty, yet a chief must still complete the task. These lessons are all brought to bear during CCTI and will leave a very meaningful impact on my career and life in general.”
While CCTI began on a ship, it has long been conducted only at shore units, until recently.
“It’s coming back full circle,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Scotty Hudson, an electrician’s mate aboard Healy. “It started on a ship. We’re back doing it on a ship, on a deployment, on an historic mission.”
“It’s a unique opportunity in its own right,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Matthew Lasley, a boatswain’s mate aboard Healy. “It’s been quite some time since the Coast Guard has authorized a CCTI aboard a ship, and it has generated a lot of positive interest.”
Hunter, Hart and Lobherr were joined by 22 of Healy’s officers, warrant officers, master and senior chief petty officers, and chief petty officers for their pinning ceremony at the North Pole. Capt. Jason Hamilton, commanding officer of Healy, and Cmdr. Karl Lander, executive officer of Healy, were also in attendance. These men and women braved the Arctic wind to stand beside their shipmates, also wearing their service dress bravos, to witness them be pinned and to welcome them as the newest indoctrinated members of Healy’s Chiefs Mess.
The ceremony was followed by a round of sincere hugs and hardy handshakes, as the group made their way back to Healy’s brow. Hart, Hunter and Lobherr were visibly moved, and glowingly proud of joining this group of diverse and talented chief petty officers.
“In Healy’s Mess, each one of us is a technical expert in our rate and a competent leader,” said Lasley. “It takes everybody represented here to get our mission done. We know that we have to be the foundation upon which this mission’s success is built.”
Aboard Healy, as is the case at most Coast Guard units, both the junior enlisted as well as the officers look to the Chief’s Mess for expertise, guidance, and inspiration.
“Chiefs have experience of a broad nature,” said Chief Petty Officer Shannon Riley, a machinery technician aboard Healy. “We bring that to the table, to bring the junior enlisted up into the ranks, to mold and shape our new junior officers, and to help guide and advise our senior officers, to move forward and meet the goals of the ship, and the goals of the Coast Guard.”
Capt. Hamilton concurred with Chief Petty Officer Riley and praised Healy’s Chiefs Mess for their professionalism.
“Our Chiefs Mess sets the standard for excellence,” said Hamilton. “Their leadership and technical expertise has inspired the crew and enabled Healy to become the first U.S. surface vessel to reach the North Pole unaccompanied.”
Hunter, Hart, and Lobherr will continue to add to the experience and expertise of Healy’s Chiefs Mess for as long as they sail aboard the Coast Guard’s largest icebreaker. Eventually, they will transfer to units throughout the Coast Guard, taking with them the knowledge gained through their underway CCTI and the story of a pinning ceremony held at the northernmost point on the globe.
“It is really an honor,” said Lobherr, “to get to do this at the top of the world.”
Editor’s Note: On October 12, Coast Guard Cutter Healy safely returned to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, completing their Arctic journey and support of Geotraces 2015.