By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gordon
“I remember my wife crying when I came home Friday nights after working an eight-hour day at the auto-part store, then spending six more hours in the garage making some extra cash just to cover the rent and power bills,” said Master Chief Aircrew Survival Equipmentman Josh Turner, aircraft intermediate maintanence department leading chief petty officer.
Turner left the Navy in 2000, after his first enlistment aboard USS Belleau Wood (LHA 3) in Sasebo, Japan—he said civilian life looked more promising. He soon found life outside the Navy was more difficult than he thought. Turner’s path to success was one of many tough roads for Reagan’s six newly-pinned master chiefs.
Master Chief Electrician’s Mate Ernie Piol, engineering department leading chief petty officer, said he joined the Navy while living in Guam in hope of a better life and the ability to support his family.
“Who would have thought that someone quiet, shy and who barely knew English would make it this far in the military?” said Piol. “I knew if I worked hard and became the best Sailor I could be, I would be successful—so that’s what I did.”
Piol said he began his career with a drive for success that carried him this far. He was always content with a place to live, money to spend and friends.
“Having curfew and restrictions and having my bedroom, living room, kitchen, and everything be a big, gray ship for those first two years was pretty painful,” said Turner. “As a young Sailor, it was tough to feel the buy-in to what the command was doing and what our mission was. Being a first-term sailor on a forward deployed ship is tough.”
“Here’s the key thing about happiness, the root word being ‘happen.’ If something ‘happens’ that you don’t like, that would—in turn—make you unhappy,” said Master Chief Aerographer’s Mate James Green, operations meteorology and oceanography division leading chief petty officer. “But the key is, don’t base life on happiness, because it comes and goes. Base life on joy. Has my entire naval career been a joy for me? Yes. Because I look at it as a full body of work, it’s been a joy. It’s been a joy to serve my country.”
Seventeen percent of service members stay in for 20 years and the majority don’t reenlist after their first enlistment according to city-data.com.
“Never forget where you come from. Never forget what you were, what you are and where you’re headed,” said Green. “If you look down at your uniform, you have two identifying marks—one over your right breast pocket that says your name, and the main one over your left breast pocket that says United States Navy. One is who you are, the other is what you are.”
According to United States Code, Title 10, Section 517, only 1.25 percent of the U.S. Navy’s enlisted force can be master chiefs.
“It’s pretty humbling to know that I was the only active duty Sailor in my rate selected this year was really surprising to me,” Turner said, “I felt really honored, really surprised, like wow, I’m even asking myself ‘how?’”
On May 3, 2016 the master chief selects added a second star to their collar. The added weight on their collar means more departmental responsibilities, more work around the ship and it comes with the pride and respect of being the highest enlisted rank in the Navy.
“If I could describe it, it wouldn’t be in words,” said Green. “I can only describe it in the smile of my face and the rapid beat of my heart when someone calls me master chief.”
When asked how the master chiefs achieved their position, every one of them said it was more than their hard work and dedication to the Navy—it was the Sailors who supported them along the way.
“My wife and I were reflecting on where we were at back then,” said Turner. “We said ‘look how far we have come from that, and how could we ever have raised a family in that situation?’ That’s what the Navy can do for you.”