The Path To Success

160503-N-IN729-167 YOKOSUKA, Japan (May 3, 2016) Master Chief Aerographer's Mate James Green is congratulated after being pinned to master chief aboard the U.S. Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Six Sailors were frocked to master chief during a ceremony aboard Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane/Released)
160503-N-IN729-167 YOKOSUKA, Japan (May 3, 2016) Master Chief Aerographer’s Mate James Green is congratulated after being pinned to master chief aboard the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Six Sailors were frocked to master chief during a ceremony aboard Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane/Released)

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.”

Stories of a Master Chief

160504-N-YC738-159 YOKOSUKA, Japan (May 4, 2016) Master Chief Electronics Technician Jose Sierra, center, from San Juan, Puerto Rico, bows his head in prayer at his retirement ceremony. Sierra retired after 30 years of service. He was selected for chief petty officer in 2005. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Xander Gamble/Released)
Master Chief Electronics Technician Jose Sierra, center, from San Juan, Puerto Rico, bows his head in prayer at his retirement ceremony. Sierra retired after 30 years of service. He was selected for chief petty officer in 2005. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Xander Gamble/Released)

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adrienne Powers,
USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan – From “Navy—It’s not a job, it’s an adventure” to “America’s Navy,” there has been one consistency over the last 30 years. Even that consistency has come to an end.
Retired Master Chief Electronics Technician Jose Sierra enlisted under then-President Ronald Reagan and retired after serving on board USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).
“Ronald Reagan is probably one of my favorite presidents,” he said.
In 1990, Sierra started his Navy adventure aboard USS Saratoga (CV 60) in support of Operation Desert Storm from the Persian Gulf. He said he will never forget the night of December 20 when Saratoga anchored off the coast of Haifa, Israel for his second port visit.
“There are a lot of stories I can tell, but this one will always stick in my head,” he said.
Sierra was woken up at midnight on board the ship and told to turn on his equipment–he was an air traffic controlman at the time. A liberty boat had capsized. Twenty one Sailors drowned.
“I knew three of the Sailors who were in my division and they are still very dear to my heart,” said Sierra. “To this day, I remember them and try to honor them anyway I can.”
Saratoga was decommissioned in 1994, but the 21 Sailors are memorialized in Mayport, Florida—a place Sierra visited years later to pay his respects.
Sierra reported to his next duty station as a second class petty officer working in the White House with men and women from all branches of the armed forces.
“I met the President once,” said Sierra. “At the end of my tour, I had my picture taken with President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office.”
Sierra said the highlight of his career was “working with the people in the White House—they are the best the armed forces have to offer. My view of the Navy at that time was a Sailor only saw their chief because they were in trouble. When I got to the White House, I really took a lot from the leadership style of the Army and Air Force noncommissioned officers and tried to bring that back with me to the Navy.”
Sierra left the White House as a chief petty officer and used this new leadership in duty stations around the world, including his native land. Before moving to the continental United States and enlisting, Sierra spent the first 24 years of his life growing up in an area influenced heavily by music and dance.
“Being from Puerto Rico, it’s what we do,” he said. “There’s a party every weekend and dancing everywhere.”
Salsa dancing became a source of comfort for Sierra when he was far from home. He became depressed as he left his family behind his first time in Japan. Returning to his roots helped him get through challenging times.
“I got into salsa dancing to the point that it became my therapy,” he said.
Sierra plans to continue salsa dancing since retiring, including traveling to salsa festivals around the world.
“It’s something I really enjoy—it keeps you young,” he said. “Even before when I was in a foreign country and heard salsa music, I felt that ache inside. That’s what I do in my free time now—I go salsa dancing.”