So Thursday while I was down the Navy Yard to hear CAPT Hudner, USN (ret), MOH recipient speak to the CPO Selects, I heard some news......
CAPT Hudner was a few minutes late and to fill the time the CPO Selects were asked if they were looking forward to meeting the MCPON.
Full stop! The MCPON is coming? Here? LOL I turned to the mentor Chief beside me "The MCPON is coming here? I've got to get invited to that!"
So when Sr. Chief Twiford came over to CAPT Hudner & myself while the CPO Selects were taking pictures, I asked "Where are you having me stand later so I am in a spot where I can shake the MCPON's hand?" LOL, he took it right in stride and told me that if I was at the gate at 1530, he would see to it. Sr. Chief Twiford rocks! He wasn't sure I'd be able to be in the "All Hands". I assured the Senior Chief that I would bring a book and he could stick me in a corner. I just wanted a chance to say hi.
So there I was at the gate at 1531 (ok, not so prompt). I walked through & I was all "Yellow M&M" as Jennifer likes to say and I was not paying attention. There was a Chief standing there watching me. "Are you waiting for me?" He answered in the affirmative and said "He's speaking now" and off we ran. And by "ran", I mean he was walking and I was trotting behind him.
I knew where we were headed, I've just never gone there at top speed, lol. As we approached the door, MCPON West was standing with his back to us. He was addressing Old Ironsides' crew, answering a quession about the importance of learning and understanding their Naval Heritage. The MCPON told them to take time to fully contemplate what USS Constitution represents to the Navy and to our country.
I was directed to a spot near the galley entrance and settled into to listen. I could see one of the Chief's making his way around the edges of the room in my direction.....I had a good idea who it was. A few hours before I had received a message from MCPON West's PAO, Sr. Chief Houlihan had sent me a message, "Email me, I'm in your little town.". I sent back "No computer. Only cell phone. I know where you are. I'll see you at 1530" Really, you can't sneak up on the GODNAVBLOGSTRIFOR! Sr. Chief Twiford pointed to the galley and I followed with the Hooligan behind. It was great to meet him, we have been internet buddies for a while. He told me that I was free to listen in and blog whatever I wanted from the meeting. I know that's a big deal and I was honored.
Back in the meeting I listened to the give and take of the "All Hand's Call". The questions ran the gamut from training to uniforms to IAs to "Continuation Boards". Each Sailor was encouraged to not only give their name and rank, but their hometown. There was goodnatured banter about sports teams and loyalties. The MCPON is engaging and very personable, without seeming to glad-hand like a politician. His own stories were self-effacing and he easily related to his audience. But he was still clearly in charge. I know that's a line some can't straddle. The MCPON is definitely in a position of authority. I think some would seem aloof - I've never met a MCPON before, so that's a guess. Or some would try to be your friend. But in being your friend, that would cross the line wouldn't it? Instead, he comes across as their advocate. He is open but still "running this train" as SB says.
At the end of the Q&A, the MCPON wrapped it up by exhorting USS Constitution's crew to never forget that here they are the face of the Navy. I wholeheartedly second that. For many Americans and tourists, visiting this ship may be the only interaction that person ever has with the Navy. I know when I was young, Constitution was the Navy. Sure there was USS Cassin Young, but it was an also-ran (no offense, you know I love the TinCans!)
When I talk to some people I am astonished by what they don't know about the Navy or the military. But seriously, how would they know if they didn't have some connection (Thanks, Dad!)? For many that only connection will be a trip aboard Old Ironsides. Nevermind the historic significance of it. One of my favorite things about this command is their devotion to preserving and sharing the rich 200 year old history of this amazing ship. I have never met a crew member who stumbled, they all know their stuff.
Then it was time for some of the crew to be recognized. They came forward as called for a personal "Well Done" from the MCPON. He shook their hand, gave them his "coin" and high-fived them, each in turn. When I tell you these Sailors were beaming, it doesn't really cover it.
The MCPON wraps his meetings up with a little tradition - he leads the crew in a "Hooyah!" He told them it had to be loud, that he used it to energize himself.
Did I mention my new bling?
That's right - the MCPON gave me his coin! I was floored! It wasn't just in passing, it was in front of the whole crew at the end of the "All Hands". It came with a hug. I told them that it wasn't supposed to work this way - I am supposed to do things for them! He said it was his way of thanking me for my support of the Navy and the Constitution.
Well, let me tell you - it has been and continues to be my pleasure!
090827-N-9818V-693 BOSTON (Aug. 27, 2009) Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Rick West walks with Command Senior Chief David Twiford in front of the USS Constitution after attending a heritage training formal dinner aboard the USS Constitution for the chief petty officer selects. Every year 300 chief petty officer selects are chosen to spend a week living and training aboard the USS Constitution. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jennifer A. Villalovos/Released)
Many thanks to MCPON West, his PAO Sr. Chief Bill Houlihan (my friend The Hooligan) you guys made my day. (You should fan the MCPON on Facebook, I did)
But especially thanks to Sr Chief Twiford. Without his good humor about me and my adventures, this wouldn't have been possible.