Chief Petty Officer

Chief Petty Officer

Chief Petty Officer is a non-commissioned officer or equivalent in many naval services and coast guards.


Chief Petty Officer refers to two ranks in the Canadian Navy. Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class (CPO2) ("Première maître de deuxième classe" or "pm2" in French) is equivalent to a Master Warrant Officer, and Chief Petty Officer 1st Class (CPO1) ("Première maître de première classe" or "pm1") is equivalent to a Chief Warrant Officer.

Chief Petty Officers are normally addressed as "Chief Petty Officer Bloggins" or "Chief Bloggins", thereafter as "Chief". The "1st Class" and "2nd Class" designations are normally only used when such a distinction needs to be made, such as on a promotion parade or to distinguish two Petty Officers with similar names but different ranks. Despite their equivalence to the senior warrant officer ranks of the other elements, Chief Petty Officers are never addressed as "Sir" or "Ma'am".

United Kingdom

In the Royal Navy, the rank of Chief Petty Officer comes above that of Petty Officer and below that of Warrant Officer Class 2. It is the equivalent of Colour Sergeant in the Royal Marines, Staff Sergeant in the Army, and Flight Sergeant in the Royal Air Force.

United States

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Petty Officer

Petty Officer
collar device
Chief Petty Officer is the seventh enlisted rank in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, just above Petty Officer First Class and below Senior Chief Petty Officer, and is a senior non-commissioned officer. The Grade of Chief Petty Officer was established on April 1, 1893. [cite web
title= MCPON Reflects on 114 Years of Deckplate Leadership
accessdate= 2008-05-10
author= Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SW/FMF) Joe R. Campa Jr.
date= 2007-03-30
quote= "...commemorating the establishment of the rank of Chief Petty Officer (CPO) in 1893."

Unlike Petty Officer First Class and lower ranks, advancement to Chief Petty Officer not only carries requirements of time in service, superior evaluation scores, and specialty examinations, but also carries an added requirement of peer review. A Chief Petty Officer can only advance after review by a selection board of serving Senior and Master Chief Petty Officers, in effect "choosing their own" and conversely not choosing others.

Advancement into the Chief Petty Officer grades is the most significant promotion within the enlisted naval ranks. At the rank of Chief, the Sailor takes on more administrative duties. In the Navy, their uniform changes to reflect this change of duty, becoming identical to that of an officer's uniform except with different insignia. (In the Coast Guard, petty officers, chief petty officers, warrant officers, and commissioned officer all wear similar uniforms.) Sailors in the three Chief Petty Officer ranks also have conspicuous privileges such as separate dining and living areas. Any naval vessel of sufficient size has a room or rooms that are off-limits to anyone not a Chief (including officers) except by specific invitation (if one is invited to eat in the Chief's Mess, it is customary to eat everything on the plate no matter what condiments are added by members of the Chief's Mess to enhance one's dining experience). In Navy jargon, this room is called the Chief's Mess, or tongue in cheek, the "goat locker." In addition, a Chief Petty Officer, no matter how much he was on "first name" basis with other petty officers before promotion, is always addressed as "Chief" by subordinates and superiors.

Chief Petty Officers serve a dual role as both technical experts and as leaders, with the emphasis being more on leadership as they progress through the CPO ranks. A recognized, collateral duty for all Chiefs is the training of Junior Officers. Like Petty Officers, every Chief has both a rate (rank) and rating (job, similar to an MOS in other branches). A Chief's full title is a combination of the two. Thus, a Chief Petty Officer, who has the rating of Gunner's Mate would properly be called a Chief Gunner's Mate.

Each rating has an official abbreviation, such as QM for Quartermaster, BM for Boatswain's Mate, or GM for Gunner's Mate. When combined with the petty officer level, this gives the short-hand for the chief's rank, such as BMC for Chief Boatswain's Mate. It is not uncommon practice to refer to the chief by this short hand in all but the most formal correspondence (such as printing and inscription on awards). Mostly, though, they are simply called "Chief," regardless of rating.

The rating insignia for a CPO is a perched eagle with spread wings (often, affectionately, referred to as a "crow") above three chevrons. The chevrons are topped by a rocker that goes behind the crow. This is used on the Dress Blue and Aviation Working Green uniforms. On all other uniforms, the insignia used is the one that has become universally accepted as the symbol of the Chief Petty Officer. This is a fouled (entwined in the anchor chain) gold anchor superimposed with a silver "USN" in the Navy or a silver shield in the Coast Guard.

In the Navy, officers and Chiefs are referred to as "khakis." This is a reference to the color of their most common shipboard "working" uniforms, and is a direct contrast to those in paygrades E-6 and below (deckplate sailors or, blueshirts). However, the Navy is experimenting with a new working uniform for the junior enlisted grades that consist of a khaki shirt and black (or more specifically, navy blue) trousers. This has caused some dissent within the Chief and Officer ranks. [] [] [] In the Coast Guard, petty officers, Chief Petty Officers, warrant officers, and commissioned officer all wear similar uniforms.

Punitive reduction in rate

Chief, Senior Chief, and Master Chief Petty Officers can only be punitively reduced in rate following conviction by a court-martial. A common myth states that a chief can only be reduced in rank by an Act of Congress.



There are two references that highlight this issue. First, the Manual for Courts-Martial, 2008 Edition, Appendix 2, Section 815, Art. 15, paragraph (b)(2)(H)(iv) indicates that, "...if the grade from which demoted is within the promotion authority of the officer imposing the reduction..." then an individual can be reduced. Second, MILPERSMAN 1450-010 indicates that, "....The commanding officer is not considered to have the authority at nonjudicial punishment (NJP) to reduce a service member in pay grades E-7 or above to a lower pay grade since advancement to E-7 or a higher pay grade requires selection by a board convened for that purpose by the Chief of Naval Personnel..."


In the Marine Corps, Staff Noncommissioned Officers (E-6 through E-9) may not be reduced at nonjudicial punishment. MARCORPROMAN, Volume 2, ENLPROM, paragraph 1200, pertains.


Previously, once selected for advancement to Chief, the selectee was made to endure a period of instruction and screening by his or her cognizant Chief's Quarters. The selectee was assigned a "Sponsor" who supervises the selectee's indoctrination. A "charge book", decorated in the manner dictated by the Sponsor, was presented for signature to every Chief, Senior Chief, and Master Chief in the local area. These chiefs would provide written tasks, ask questions or provide guidance to the selectee. The chiefs would also access fines and levee "criminal charges" written in the selectee's charge book in the case of the selectees performance being subpar. The charge book would be taken into evidence at the end of this Indoctrination Period. The Indoctrination Period would culminate with the Initiation Ceremony.

Initiation typically would begin midnight of the day of frocking and would last through the night and until midday. Schedules vary depending on command policy and mission availability. Selectees were ordered to muster in their dungaree uniforms with the "Dixie Cup" Sailor's hat. Initiation rites are similar to the old U.S. Navy tradition of Shellback initiation but tailored for the chief's community. At some point during the initiation, the selectee's Dixie Cup is laid to rest and usually eulogized by the selectee. This represents the transition into the Chief's community.

Initiations were attended only by previously initiated active duty and retired chiefs. During initiation the Selectee would stand before "The Kangaroo Court" and be judged of his crimes as read from his charge book. The sentences varied by the severity of the crimes. "Punishment" was carried out as part of the initiation. A selectee may, at any time after selection results are posted, elect to forgo the initiation process. Participation in the initiation ceremony is purely voluntary.

After initiation, the selectees were then recognized by their peers as fellow Chief Petty Officers and welcomed into the "Chief's Mess" (goat locker). The selectees were then allowed to bathe and don their new Khaki uniforms, sans collar devices and Combination Covers.

"Initiation" has changed over the years in order to adapt to current Navy policy, regulations, and guidelines. The most current term for the weeks of training, mentoring, and the final night of Chief selectee training is "Induction." MCPON Campa dubbed the term, and ordered its use beginning with the FY07 Induction season. Older, or retired, Chiefs often misinterpret the new Chiefs Induction season as a watered-down version of the often brutal hazing sessions they experienced during their initiations. The new version still adheres to the time-old tradition and spirit of "initiation". And many would argue that the current training actually brings back many traditions that have been lost through years of abusive tactics used during initiations of the past.

Frocking of the new Chief was, and is, conducted by their Commanding Officer where their "Anchors" are pinned on and they are presented with their Combination Cap by the Chief's Mess.

In some contexts, a Chief Petty Officer can refer to the class of non-commissioned ranks of this rank and higher:
* Chief Petty Officer
* Senior Chief Petty Officer
* Master Chief Petty Officer

Deckplate Leaders

In U.S. naval terminology, the Deckplate can roughly refer to the deck ("flooring"), or the area of the deck of a ship or boat (submarine). It can also refer to the Chief Petty Officer leadership.

The deckplate leaders is a colloquial term referring to the senior enlisted personnel of the rank of Chief Petty Officer and higher. They are generally charged with keeping good order and discipline within the lower enlisted ranks.


The Chief Petty Officer emblem is symbolized by a fouled anchor with the letters USN centered on the anchor. Officially the letters stand for United States Navy. According to naval tradition, the letters are symbolic of the following [] :
*Unity - to symbolize comaraderie of the fraternity.
*Service - to symbolize service to one's god, fellow man, and the Navy.
*Navigate - to symbolize true course before God and man.

ee also

* Petty Officer
* U.S. Navy enlisted rate insignia
* Comparative military ranks


*"The Chief Petty Officer's Guide" / John Hagan and Jack Leahy. - Naval Institute Press, 2004. ISBN 1591144590

External links

* [ History of the Chief Petty Officer Grade]
* [ The internets virtual Chief's Mess -]

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