Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens recently took a moment to answer questions from the fleet about executing the first year of CPO 365.
CPO 365 is a year-round training initiative that Chiefs Messes throughout the Navy take on to prepare first class petty officers to become chiefs. Phase II of CPO 365 begins when the chief petty officer selection board results are released, which occurred Aug. 1 this year.
Many commands have truly embraced CPO 365 and have viewed this year as really being the first year that the program has found its legs. What do you think of the program as a whole?
I am very pleased with the process. I am not taking anything away from the training we have used in the past because it worked well for during it’s time. Society has changed and evolved, and if we want to continue to have the ability to train our reliefs, we must change and evolve as well. I think if you ask any CPO Mess that has been and is fully engaged in CPO 365, you’ll find that each Mess is brainstorming new and innovative ways to train our First Class Petty Officers to take their place.
Many of the Sailors participating in CPO 365 are not even eligible for chief. Some won’t be eligible for three years. What do you want those Sailors to take away from the program each year?
There’s enough change that occurs within our Navy every year that CPO 365 should never get old and stagnant. Think about our Navy programs, procedures and policies. They are constantly evolving. CPO 365 is first and foremost about helping a first class petty officer be the best work center supervisor or leading petty officer that they can be because the Navy is forever evolving.
The training will always change, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year. If first class petty officers and chief petty officers find themselves re-hashing the same old information time and time again, they must look within themselves to determine where the updates need to take place and effectively make the change.
For those Sailors who saw their names on the list, what do you think CPO 365 has done to prepare them for their anchors?
I think that CPO 365 has provided professional and solid training that these future leaders need in order to be effective chiefs. CPO 365 Phase II is an opportunity for our first class petty officers to display to the CPO Mess the skill-sets that they learned during Phase I.
Talk about the CPO 365 stand down.
I received two letters alleging that inappropriate conduct is taking place during CPO 365 Phase II. Upon initial look, I think that we have a few CPO Messes operating outside of CPO 365 Guidance. I directed all CPO Messes to stop training from Monday [August] 12th and resume on August 14th. This gave commands and all CPO Messes a chance to review CPO 365 Guidance and the Navy’s policy on hazing.
We should never think that we are above the law. If we think that CPO selectee training cannot be shut down, we are wrong. If we want to be responsible for training our future chiefs, then we must do it in a professional manner. I want to re-emphasize I believe that the large majority of the mess is doing the right thing and for that I want to thank you. However, know that any formal complaints will be fully investigated.
What is the ultimate goal with CPO 365?
The ultimate goal of CPO 365 is to train our relief to the best of their ability. To have meaningful and practical training that reflects the times of our society and that will make our future leaders capable under pressure and able to successfully complete any mission they are called to do.
Our leaders are held accountable as they should, and being a chief petty officer isn’t for the weak of heart nor lazy of mind and body. It requires us to be “all in, all the time.” We are called upon at all levels of our chain of command and again, a few short weeks isn’t enough time to cram all of the wisdom within the CPO Mess into a CPO selectee. It should be happening throughout the year.
What do you say to the negative feedback you’ve received about CPO 365?
Anytime you change something, there will be rumblings. Make no mistake about it. Some folks can think back to when we de-segregated the military, the nay-sayers said that was the end of the Navy as we knew it! Our Navy thrived. Remember when we put women on ships.
The nay-sayers hollered that was the end of the Navy! Women are now leading our Navy and have been become solidified members on the battlefield. It comes with the territory of being the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy. Not everyone will agree with your decisions.
Do you see any more changes to the program or to the final few weeks of the program for selectees? Are you content with setting guidelines and letting commands determine the final chapter in the process?
I have no intentions of making any significant changes to CPO 365 and want to provide every CPO Mess an opportunity to become experts at what we currently have in place. I place a great deal of faith and confidence in each CPO Mess to ensure the training that we are conducting rests within the guidelines provided.
In your opinion, is CPO 365 the best way to train the Navy’s future leadership and why?
At this particular point of time in our history, I believe CPO 365 provides us with the best training opportunity. However, I am also confident that in time CPO 365 will also change because that’s what we do, we constantly evolve. I’ll be a retired MCPON years from now and there will be a new name, a new process and new way of doing business to train our chiefs. I’ll trust that it was put in place because the times that our future Sailors will serve necessitate that.
CPO 365 is about our moment in history more than it is about my belief that this is the absolute right way to do it. I believe it’s the right way to do it today, but I certainly can’t speak for the future.