CPO 365 – A New Beginning

Fleet Master Chief Chuck Clarke

The following blog – written by Fleet Master Chief Chuck Clarke, U.S. Fleet Forces Command – was published in this month’s Cutlass newsletter , a conversation with the Chief’s Mess.  In it, he discusses Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens’s revisions to CPO 365.

Fellow Chief Petty Officers,

Happy New Year! I’ve been in my new job as the Fleet Master Chief for just over three months. One of my top priorities is to continue to have an open dialogue with the CPO Mess. While I plan to conduct my share of command visits, the reality is I’ll never be able to reach everyone face-to-face. I believe the Cutlass Newsletter, started by MCPON Stevens when he was in this seat, is a great communication tool, and I want to kick things off by talking about “CPO 365.”

There has been a lot of churn surrounding the release of the new guidance and the “Sun-downing” of the term Induction. Some in our ranks are aghast over the name change and aspects of the “Final Night” being cut from the proceedings and replaced with the “Final Test.” My take—change is sometimes necessary to move forward.

Since the rollout of the CPO 365 concept almost three years ago, we’ve experienced a gradual shift from a pressurized training model; (a requirement to transform and completely re-tool the mindset of the CPO Selectee over a period of six weeks) to the establishment of a continuum of training model (training 365 days a year) that accomplishes the same goal while alleviating the need to sprint to the finish line the day before pinning. The reality is that we DO NOT develop First Class Petty Officers (FCPO) into Chiefs overnight or even over the course of six weeks. Our charge as Chief Petty Officers is to develop our Sailors everyday!

CPO 365 offers the opportunity to prepare our FCPOs from, at a minimum, September 17 to September 15 the following year—allowing more time to embed our values, history and leadership tenets. The traditional metaphoric lessons used to hammer home leadership points have evolved toward a more subtle, but no less effective, year-round professional development approach. Training sessions once shrouded in secrecy have been replaced by training sessions standardized in a level of professionalism that is beyond reproach.

I view this new direction, not as a departure from traditional values but as an enhancement and solidification (through modification of long-standing practices) of our ability to develop current leaders, well into the 21st century and beyond. While it’s imperative that our sense of heritage and the time-honored traditions—that bring true value—maintain as necessary leadership navigational tools, we can never become so uncompromising to change that we’re unwilling to progress for the betterment of our Navy and our Sailors. The 365 model is truly a continuum of training, and agree or disagree, it’s been planned and aligned with our Navy’s Ethos and Core Values and has the best interests of our Navy and Sailors in mind. It concentrates on leadership teachings that are not only guided by heritage, but are also current and relevant to the challenges our FCPOs will face in today’s operational environment. Regardless of the name, only the leadership and commitment of the CPO Mess will keep the process of developing our reliefs substantive and meaningful.

As we continue to serve in an ever-changing military and Navy, where certain actions once acceptable are now taboo, we can elect to hold the line, bury our collective heads in the sand with hope that our unyielding/unbending stance will survive the test of time, or embrace change and avoid extinction or sanction. I believe we show our relevancy through our ability to fit into today’s construct of being transformational leaders—ready and able to answer all bells and take our rightful place in history.

Throughout our 119-year history, we’ve endured many changes and have emerged stronger as a result. In my humble opinion, transitioning from Initiation/Transition/Induction to CPO 365 does not signal an end of the storied history and traditions of the Navy Chief Petty Officer; it once again highlights our versatility and enviable ability to embrace and successfully execute necessary and meaningful change.

Thanks for continuing to lead with respect, confidence, loyalty and humility.