MCPON hosts Leadership Mess Symposium

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith speaks with attendees at the 2021 Leadership Mess Symposium Sept. 23 in Arlington, Va.

The Office of the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) hosted the 2021 Leadership Mess Symposium (LMS) in Arlington, Virginia, Sept. 22-23.

More than 100 command master chiefs, force master chiefs, and fleet master chiefs came together to discuss the future of the force. COVID-19 mitigation efforts were a top priority for those present, as they discussed issues affecting warfighting readiness, enlisted leader development, and Culture of Excellence initiatives.

This marked the first time this body of senior enlisted leaders joined together in person in over two years, with March 2019 archived as the most recent LMS conference. Many significant changes and world events have occurred since then, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. More than half of the roles within the Mess experienced a change of leadership since then due to retirements, completion of tours, and members fleeting up to new positions. With the rapidly changing landscape, MCPON Russell Smith felt this was an opportune moment to convene the Mess in order to provide stability and continuity during this time.

“Leadership is a face-to-face business,” said Smith. “It’s important to be able to look one another in the eye as we have these discussions because the future of our force depends on it. I’m thankful that our senior enlisted leaders have been steadfast in support of one another and their Sailors as we get after the vexing challenges of our day.”

Speakers included Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro; Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell; Dr. Jessica Gallus, senior advisor, Department of the Navy Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment and Suicide Prevention Office; and Dr. Charles Barber, Department of the Navy director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusions Program.

“Our readiness and strength relies on the dedicated efforts, innovative problem solving, and inspirational example of the Chiefs Mess,” said Del Toro. “I look forward to continued frank and open conversations with senior enlisted leaders about the issues facing our Sailors and their families. I am inspired by their dedication and transparency, and I am confident the leadership our Navy and nation needs is here in this room.”

The overarching theme and goal of the conference was preparing Sailors for combat at sea. MCPON Smith and the fleet master chiefs expressed that in the midst of today’s challenges, warfighting readiness and the defense of the nation will continue to remain the top priority and focus of the fleet.