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Command Master Chief/Chief of the Boat Course

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When Command Master Chief Loretta Glenn stepped aboard USS Gettysburg (CG 64) for the first time as command master chief (CMC), she had a plan. She had been going over it for the last two months while waiting for the departing CMC to retire. She knew exactly what her goals were and how to accomplish them, and she knew she wasn’t alone.

You see Glenn had recently completed the newest senior leadership course in the Navy, the Command Master Chief/Chief of the Boat (CMC/COB) course at the Senior Enlisted Academy, Newport, R.I. There she was given the tools to dive headfirst into her command role. She not only had the training, but also a huge network of current and former CMCs to help her with any problem she might encounter.

“I didn’t just get a turnover from one CMC, I got a turnover from a bunch of them,” said Glenn. “I have to take my hat off to master chiefs who went into their first CMC tour and winged it, figuring out the job and paving the way for the rest of us.”

Some of the same CMCs who “paved the way” are the facilitators and writers of the CMC course. As Glenn gets started in her new command, she will have them to fall back on if she needs any guidance.

“We tell them that once they get to their commands, they will run into a wall at some point,” said Irvin Clifton, a retired force master chief and one of the facilitators of the course. “And when that happens, they call or e-mail us here for advice.”

Clifton explained he didn’t understand what his job was when he arrived at his first CMC assignment. He was told he was responsible for the command climate, but didn’t know what that meant. He was told he was to work with the CO and XO, but didn’t know to what level.

“Now we give them a chance to make their mistakes in a school, so when they fall, they fall on carpet and not on the non-skid of a ship,” said Clifton.

Before the CMC/COB course was developed in 2002 by order of Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SS/AW) Terry Scott, the Senior Enlisted Academy was the only education source available for senior and master chiefs in the Navy. While this course offered solid leadership skills to the Navy’s enlisted hierarchy, it didn’t address the specifics required of a new CMC.

“The Senior Enlisted Academy and CMC course are two different levels of education,” according to CMDCM (SW/SCW/AW) Ralph Rao, director of the Senior Enlisted Academy and one of the developers of the course. “The Senior Enlisted Academy is for a senior chief or even a new master chief. But when you are going to become a member of the command ‘triad,’ you need a higher education.”

The triad is one of the primary emphases of the school. It’s the phrase used to describe the relationship between the CO, XO and the CMC.

“If you have a tripod and remove a leg, it falls. It’s the same thing with the triad of a command,” said Clifton. “We are imprinting on the Navy that all three are one team.”

The three positions have been in commands for a long time but are still being developed by the Navy into one mission-focused unit, with each position clearly defined.

To ensure senior Navy leaders are fully aware of what each position brings to a command, several topics of each leadership course have been merged. Prospective COs, XOs and CMCs are in the same classes working on case studies that challenge each position to their fullest and require them to use each other’s strengths to solve problems.

“At one time, we would have the prospective COs and XOs come over to the Senior Enlisted Academy to talk with our classes,” said Rao. “In this new course, we kick off the very first day with them together and have case studies throughout.”

These case studies give prospective CMCs a good look at some of the problems they may encounter when they reach their command, and also the insight of hearing from dozens of different COs how they might be handled. It would take years of working in different commands as a CMC to hear as many different viewpoints on one subject.

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