By Connie Hempel NAS Patuxent River Public Affairs
It was just over a year ago when Air Force Master Sgt. Jarrod Morris came to NAS Patuxent River, and he still remembers the bewildered looks his new co-workers gave him. They were not used to working with Airmen.
Today, he proudly walks among a select group of Sailors, and instead of getting what he called "weird looks," he's now getting the respect of a Navy chief.
This summer, Morris, part of the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System, or N-UCAS, program team with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, completed an initiation unlike any other in America's armed forces. Standing side-by-side with more than two dozen of the Navy's future enlisted leaders throughout the six-week Chief Petty Officer Select induction, Morris earned a set of Chief's anchors which were pinned on his Air Force uniform at the September pinning ceremony.
"It's one of the proudest moments of my 20-year military career," he said. "Being able to go through it and accomplish it. Now, chiefs from around the base shake my hand and call me 'brother.'"
Morris' interest in the age-old Navy ritual was piqued during his 2002-2006 tour as an Electrical and Environmental Systems instructor at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, by a fellow instructor and retired Navy master chief.
"He always talked about Sailors going through a Chiefs' initiation and how it was nothing like what the Air Force did," Morris said. "I was curious to see what it was."
But when he arrived on station at Pax River, he didn't consider the possibility of being initiated until his co-worker, Senior Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Thomas Haas, nominated him for the process.
"I felt he would be a perfect candidate because of his respect for our traditions and his interest in supporting them," Haas said. "Since he's checked on board, he's shown a tremendous interest in the way we do business in the Navy, just as I was interested in how they do business in the Air Force. The best way to help him understand why we do things a certain way was by sending him through initiation."
After discussions within the mess and a brief interview with the station's command master chief, Command Master Chief William Lloyd-Owen, Morris was given the green light for the induction.
"There were some days I thought, 'I don't really need to go through this,'" he said about the leadership training. "It was tough, but it was a pride thing."
The best part for Morris was "seeing everybody come together, pull through and become chiefs."
Morris, a Mingo Junction, Ohio, native has been in the Air Force for 20 years and an E-7 for the past five, the same pay grade of a Navy chief.
"He has great experience from the Air Force and his leadership abilities are different from ours," Haas said. "I really think his point of view as a leader and bringing his experiences to us will benefit the mess and vice versa."
Lloyd-Owen, who's been in the Navy for 28 years, said this was the first time he's seen an Air Force member go through the initiation.
"I'm proud of him for accomplishing it," Lloyd-Owen said.
Morris' next career milestone: "Getting the X-47 to the ship and watching it take off and land from an aircraft carrier next year," he said.