CAMP PENDLETON, CALIF. -- On April 1st 1893, the rank of chief petty officer was established in the Navy as the highest attainable rate an enlisted sailor can earn, though today, the highest has become Master Chief Petty Officer.
Since that day, the birth of the revered title is celebrated annually to honor the service of chiefs committed to developing their junior sailors and instilling them with the core values of the Navy.
Marines and sailors with I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group dedicated Camp Pendleton’s ‘Anchor Up Club’ as a ‘Chiefs Mess’ to the North County Chief Petty Officer Association in celebration of the 123rd birthday of chief petty officers throughout the Navy on April 1, 2016 at Camp Pendleton.
A ‘Chiefs Mess’ is a lounge and living quarters area typically designated for chief petty officers aboard boats, ships, and Naval Air Stations. This place is also referred to as ‘The Goat Locker’ and without invitation, junior enlisted and officers are not allowed to enter.
“It’s unique to be able to have a ‘Chiefs Mess’ on a Marine Corps base,” said Chief Petty Officer Frank Garza, a chief hospital corpsman with the Naval Hospital. The only Marines allowed inside the ‘Chiefs Mess’ are staff noncommissioned officers from the rate of E-7 to E-9 – and they still require an invitation since they aren’t Navy personnel.
A few Marines with I MHG were present at the dedication ceremony to celebrate their longstanding traditions with the Navy and the bond they share.
“I’m glad that Marines were able to come celebrate today’s events with us,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Smith, command master chief petty officer of I MEF. “The ‘Chiefs Mess’ has been a long time coming and could not have happened without their assistance and the NCCPOA.”
The Navy and Marine Corps has held a relationship for 240 years, serving together in all of America’s wars, and the new ‘Chiefs Mess’ holds all of the memorabilia to tell the tales of times shared by sailors and Marines.
“The Chiefs Mess originated as a place on ship where only the tested, tried and trued were allowed,” said Garza. “It was a place shared by CPOs and [staff noncommissioned officer] Marines and now it is a place that holds our combined history.”
The dedication of the ‘Chiefs Mess’ to chief petty officers on Camp Pendleton has a value that extends throughout the Navy.
“I’m extremely excited we got this place,” said Smith. “I’m happy that we got a new space where we can demonstrate our Navy heritage and further the legacy of CPOs, as well as take care of our junior sailors.”
Primarily, the new 'Chiefs Mess' will be a meeting place for the NCCPOA but it will also be used for conducting professional military education classes and celebrations of Navy tradition.
The blue-green team already shares strong ties, but Marines will continue to take part in their customs and train alongside them to reinforce their capabilities and the bond they share.