Naval Support Facility Dahlgren welcomed 19 new chief petty officers during a pinning ceremony Sept. 14 at the installation's movie theater. Friends, families, mentors and fellow Sailors gathered to witness the new chiefs put on their anchors and don their combination covers for the first time. That ceremony highlight came after the chiefs marched into the theater signing a rousing rendition of "Anchors Away."
Steven Collins, a retired master chief petty officer and former SEAL, was the ceremony's guest speaker and addressed the new chiefs.
"I've had a few events in the Navy that allowed me to feel the way you feel right now," he said. "When I pinned on my aircrew wings in 1977, when I pinned on my SEAL trident in 1981 and in 1986 when I pinned on my chiefs' anchors."
Collins assured the audience that nothing in his Navy career justified any book-writing, but said his work in a joint service environment taught him to adapt without forgetting his Sailor roots.
"I want you to understand that Sailors are different," he said. "That's because we always want to make it better, faster, cheaper, stronger, lighter and smaller."
With many joint missions under his belt and with many friends from other services, Collins maintained that he'd choose a team junior Sailors with a few ensigns to meet any challenge.
"I feel confident that this team would stand the best chance over all of achieving anything that came our way," he said. "Anytime, anywhere."
Of course, learning how to keep the energy of Sailors focused on the job at hand is not always an easy task. "Work is good," said Collins. "Your Sailors need to work. Make sure they have enough work to grumble about. That way, you know they are alive.
"You know what they say about idle hands? Well, idle Sailor hands are the same thing times five. So make sure they don't get in trouble; work them hard. They'll sleep better at night and maybe, one day, they'll be standing where you're standing right now."
The next bit of advice concerned the challenge of maintaining a good family life while serving. "Sometimes us chiefs have a little too much passion for our work," said Collins. "You new chiefs did not get selected because you don't work, but if you have a family outside of your fellow Sailors, you must find some level of balance and find ways to delegate."
Including one's spouse in decision-making is a sure way help the work-life balance of busy chief petty officers, said Collins. "Your spouse may be working harder, even as you work harder. You both might need a break."
"To the families and the new chiefs, my hat is off to you; my prayers go out to you. My advice is to maintain a high level of communication and understanding between you.
"A chief is dedicated to our country, as are the families, [to] his or her work and to the family. I don't need to tell you the difficulties; you live it every day. But I can tell you this: you are not alone and that many have come before and the strongest do survive and never ring the bell to quit."
Once Collins left the stage, each new chief petty officer was called front and center. Members of their families, friends and mentors took to the stage to pin anchors on their new khaki uniforms. Another chief petty officer, chosen by the selectee, then placed the combination cover on the head of each new chief.
To the flash of cameras, each new chief petty officer was piped ashore. After the ceremony, some very tired new chief petty officers relaxed with friends and family and reveled in their newfound membership to a very exclusive fraternity.