Here Come the Judge

Here Come The Judge

By Garland Davis

CPO Insignia.jpg

It was a Friday afternoon and all the Chiefs had early liberty. I guess I can talk a little about the initiations since they no longer do them. It was CPO Initiation day. We entered the CPO Club and found the table that BMC Garcia had been sent ahead to hold for us.

As we went through the door, I was accosted by the Master Chief who was running the initiation.

He said, “Dave, I have a problem. The Master Chief who was supposed to act as the judge called and said his daughter went into labor and he is at the hospital. He’ll not be here. Will you be the judge?”

Now, CPO initiations were a Kangaroo Court that tried all the prospective Chiefs for major and minor offensives such as. “Prospective Chief Jones slept with a First Class Petty Officer’s wife last night.”

I tried to decline acting as Judge, but there was no one else so I reluctantly agreed.

There were approximately three hundred CPO observers in the room. To raise money to pay for drinks, each observer and participant was fined a minimal amount to pay the bar bill. Anyone disrupting the ceremony by getting up and moving around the room to go to the head or the bar were charged a quarter.

As I said there were about three hundred Chiefs. There were also Commanding Officers and Executive Officers as well as junior officers who were detailed to act as defense counsels for the obviously guilty miscreants.

I took my position as the judge and looked out over the room. Right down in front was a table with some doctors and nurses from the Medical Center. One of those to be initiated was a Corpsman. Beside me was a Senior Chief Yeoman who was to act as recorder and keep track of the bar bill, in case we needed to raise more money. There were a couple of Chiefs who were acting as Master at Arms collecting the fines and escorting the guilty prisoners before the bar.

I started by welcoming everyone to the initiation. I then said, “I see a number of Chiefs wearing working khaki. You are not working. That will cost you two dollars.”

“Those Chiefs wearing dress khaki today, you didn’t intend to do any work. You get up two dollars also.”

“Those Chiefs wearing Salt and Pepper (for a short time there was a uniform of dress blue pants and white tropical shirts) get up three dollars because I hate that damned uniform.”

“It will also cost two dollars for each retiree in the audience.

“Since they are overpaid, all officers will be fined four dollars.”

“And if anyone is wearing panty hose, that will cost you an extra dollar,” while looking at the number of nurses.

Navy Nurse.jpg

A nurse Lieutenant at the front table raised her hand and said, “Your honor, I am not wearing panty hose.”

I said, “Step up here and prove that Darlin’ and I’ll give you five dollars.”

She did! I saw that Senior Medical Officer cloud up. I am sure he had words with that girl when they got back to the Medical Center.

The initiation proceeded as the miscreants were marched before the bar and examined and fined hundreds of dollars.


I had the prospective HMC and his defense counsel, an Ensign Nurse before me when I noticed observers going to the head unmolested by a MAA collecting the quarter fine for disrupting the dignity of my court.

I stopped everything and announced, “I need another MAA to stand by the head door and collect fines. I need a volunteer. Do I have anyone who will act as MAA?”

The aforementioned BMC Garcia yelled, “I’ll do it, Dave, your honor if you’ll give me back my two dollars and let me kiss that good looking head up there.”

I said, “That’s a deal. Get your money back and come kiss the good looking head.”

Garcia made his way through the tables. I saw the Nurse prepare for Garcia to kiss her. He walked past her and threw a lip lock on the YNCS who was acting as recorder.

Cracked the whole place up.  Must have taken me five minutes to restore order.

After the trials and punishments, we got down to the serious part of advancing the new Chiefs. They were lined up in their new khaki uniforms but without the CPO collar devices or covers. Wives, mothers, sisters, brother Chiefs, and some Commanding Officers had the honor of pinning the new Chiefs. A fellow Chief presented them with their CPO combination covers.  The Hat!

As they stood in a line before the room, a Chief read the CPO Creed:

cpo pinnning.jpg

The Chief’s Creed

During the course of this day, you have been caused to suffer indignities, to experience humiliations. This you have accomplished with rare good grace and therefore, we now believe it fitting to explain to you why this was done. There was no intent, no desire, to demean. Pointless as it may have seemed to you, there was a valid, time-honored reason behind every single deed, behind each pointed barb.

By experience, by performance and by testing, you have been this day advanced to CHIEF PETTY OFFICER. You have one more hurdle to overcome. In the United States Navy and only in the United States Navy, E-7 carries unique responsibilities. No other armed force throughout the world carries the responsibilities nor grants privileges to its enlisted comparable to the privileges and responsibilities you are now bound to observe and expected to fulfill.

Your entire way of life has now been changed. More will be expected of you, more will be demanded of you. Not because you are an E-7, but because you are now a CHIEF PETTY OFFICER. You have not merely been promoted one pay grade–you have joined an exclusive fraternity, and as in all fraternities, you have a responsibility to your brothers, even as they have a responsibility to you.

Always bear in mind that no other armed force has rate or rank equivalent to that of the United States Navy. Granted that all armed forces have two classes of service: enlisted and commissioned, however, the United States Navy has the distinction of having four i.e., Enlisted, CHIEF PETTY OFFICER, Commissioned Warrant Officer and Commissioned Officer. This is why we in the United States Navy may maintain with pride our feelings of superiority once we have attained the position of E-7.

These privileges, these responsibilities do not appear in print, they have no official standing, they cannot be referred to by name, number nor file. They exist because for over 200 years the CHIEFS before you have freely accepted responsibility beyond call of printed assignment, their actions and their performance, demanded the respect of their seniors as well as their juniors.

It is now required that you be a fountain of wisdom, the ambassador of good will, the authority in personnel relations as well as their technical application. “Ask the Chief” is a household word in and out of the Navy. You are now the “CHIEF”.

The exalted-position you have now received, and I use the word “exalted” advisedly, exists because of the attitude, the performance of the Chiefs before you. It shall exist only so long as you and your compatriots maintain these standards.

So this is why you were caused to experience these things. You were subjected to humiliations to prove to you that humility is a good, a great, a necessary change which cannot mar you—which in fact, strengthens you, and in your future as a CHIEF PETTY OFFICER, you will be caused to suffer indignities, to experience humiliations far beyond those imposed upon you today. Bear them with the dignity, and with the same good grace, which you bore these today.

It is our intention that you will never forget this day. It is our intention to test you–to try you–to accept you. Your performance today has assured us that you will wear your hat with aplomb brothers in arms before you.

I take a deep, sincere pleasure in clasping your hand, and accepting you into our midst.

Then all the Chiefs in the room went down the line congratulating each of the new Chiefs and welcoming them to the Mess.

Initiations were fun and, at the same time, very serious. Too bad they no longer do them in our kinder, gentler, more diverse Navy.


16 thoughts on “Here Come the Judge

  1. Excellent reminder of what was an important rite of passage for generations of Navy Chiefs. I had the honor of presiding at several initiations while at Yokosuka, Japan (the same place I was initiated some years before) and through all the fun and games, we tried never to lose sight of what was to come…that moment when the new Chiefs were escorted into the room to a resounding “Attention on Deck”!, the reading of the creed and the welcoming by all those present who had gone before still have a particular place in my memories of the Navy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mike Maynor says:

    It’s been 33 years since the day I was initiated as a CHIEF PETTY OFFICER. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. The olive races, the coffin, the ice box (after 30 minutes of sitting on those ice blocks, I couldn’t have felt my ass cheeks if I had a blow torch), truth serum, bombing runs (37 eggs for a Special case and I ate every damn one of them that I could stretch and reach), skits, singing, etc. As a BTC Selectee Snipe, I was determined that I would do anything and eat anything I had to to prove my worth. Also, my brother was a retired BMC Coast Guard Chief who went through a Navy Chiefs initiation, so I had to do him one better. Even though I ate some God awful tasting shit and shit I would never ordinarily eat even on a bet, nothing my fellow Chiefs could do was going to make me sick or hurt me. Aside from my marriage to my wife and the birth of my sons, it was the PROUDEST day of my life. I would gladly and proudly go through it again in a heartbeat. To all the Chiefs who came before me, Thank you Brothers and Sister for setting such high standards. To those Chiefs who followed us, Thank you Brothers and Sisters for maintaining those lofty standards. To the new Chiefs about to “come on line”, thank you for your dedication and service. It is now you obligation and duty to maintain those standards and to even raise them even higher. Never, ever forget where you came from and always protect your troops. It is with great pleasure that I say Welcome to the Chiefs Mess.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. James Whalen says:

    I’m a lucky Marine who had the Honor to take part in this amazing event. It was one of my best days ever. Very disappointed that present Chiefs will never know that feeling or respect. Chiefs today are not what they once were or come close to have the respect.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. tonyparr says:

    Been 36 years since I served as “Defense Counsel” for my PO1 making Chief. Ceremony was wild, but some seriousness there that said, You are something different.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Chris Chipp ABHCS says:

    I read the creed the for the first time in a very long time and as always it brought a tear to my eye and chuckle when I remembered the “Happiest Day of My LIfe”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tom French, MSCS(SW), USN, Ret. says:

    27 Years ago, Aboard USS Ticonderoga CG-47 Up in the gulf when things were “A Hoppin”, Our CMC & CO decided we would pull into home port with all of us wearing our CPO Uniforms (15 Sept.) by holding Initiation early, at Sea. I was pinned by my Sponsor MSC(SW) John Clark and I believe either the CO or XO.
    Every Initiation afterwards I like so many Honorable CPOs “teared up” as I still do today upon reading the CPO Creed. Tom French, MSCS(SW), USN, Ret.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. B. Dobb says:

    I agree, I was an ensign and assigned as defense lawyer. While totally unaware of any of the trials, tests and traditions, I can say by being part of this process it taught me many lessons. One of which is that I can only drink three glasses of truth serum… I got out in ‘89 after 6 years. Troubling to hear how many of the Navy’s tradition have gone to the wayside.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Tom Hudson says:

    It’s been 50 years since my Chief’s initiation. I went on to make Warrant Officer and LDO, but the day I made Chief Petty Officer continues to be the most memorable. The ceremonies today have been made so sterile and PC that I doubt if the initiates have the same feeling of accomplishment that I and my fellow new Chiefs felt. After the ceremony we and our wives/significant others were taken to dinner at the CPO club for the first time. We had arrived!


  9. Chuck Bruno says:

    Great article Garland, as usual. I was initiated 43 years ago at the CPO Club in Yokosuka (on the hill) and as said previously I remember every minute of it. I was a “special” Special Case because as a 1st class I moonlighted as bartender in the CPO Club for a couple of years before making Chief, and knew a lot of their secrets. A lot of special people made that day so special. Guys like Harry Leggett, Sam Bell, Jack Thomas, and a bunch more that are no longer with us. To them RIP, and to those still here, lift one in cheer to the memories so dear…..


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