By Kaylee LaRocque 

NAS Jacksonville Public Affairs Officer

Despite an interruption by Hurricane Irma, the Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) chief petty officer (CPO) induction season came to a close with several pinning ceremonies Sept. 15.

Ceremonies were held at various locations aboard the station as family members, friends and sponsors pinned the new chiefs. 

Eleven CPO selectees from NAS Jax, NAS Key West, Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Navy Region Southeast, Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 202 Detachment Jax, and Region Legal Service Office Southeast proudly sang "Anchors Aweigh" as they marched into Dewey's to receive their fouled anchors. 

After Navy Band Southeast and the NAS Jax Color Guard presented the colors and invocation was delivered by Lt. Kyron Bell, a Navy chaplain, NCCS April Greggs of Navy Region Southeast, welcomed the guests and stressed the importance of the ceremony. 

"It is my great pleasure to welcome you here today to witness a Navy tradition that has been performed for more than 100 years," said Greggs.

"You will not just be present for the advancement of first class petty officers to the next higher paygrade, but you are also sharing in the most significant transition that they will ever make in their Navy career."

The guest speaker for the event was retired Command Master Chief Mack Ellis who thanked family members in attendance and all past and present CPOs. "Because of your sacrifices throughout the years, because of your scars in paving the way, we get to witness a new legacy of greatness today," said Ellis. 

He also offered the following advice to the CPO selectees. "This is your hour, your day, to let it all sink in and realize that you are today's heroes; therefore, enjoy the moment because tomorrow, it's all about being the chief and giving back. Giving back by leading by example - understanding and supporting your commanding officer's philosophy, being the innovator of rules and regulations, mentoring enlisted and junior officers and displaying what integrity means."

"Remember, the road to success is always under construction - meaning even though you've made it, don't get complacent," Ellis continued. "Continue to learn something every day and pass it to your Sailor as you would your own child or younger sibling. As the chief, you don't raise heroes, you raise Sailors. And, if you treat them like Sailors, they'll turn out to be heroes, even if it's just in your own eyes."

"I've always believed and said that our Sailors must know that the chief will always be their first line of defense, denouncing any form of racism, sexism or hateful behavior because we all know we should be judged by the content of our character," said Ellis.  

The ceremony continued as MACS Paolo Fleurant recited the CPO Creed and Chief Butler read the "Fouled Anchor."

Each selectee was officially pinned and covered by family members, friends and sponsors before proudly saluting fellow chief sideboys as they walked the "red" carpet.  

"This is the greatest day of my life and it's another journey that is just beginning," said BMC Walley Weekfall of NAS Key West, who evacuated during Hurricane Irma with his family. "I didn't get here today by myself, it was all the hard work of my Sailors."

ABHC Anthony Taylor has been waiting 18 years for this day. "It's overwhelming but exciting," he said. "It's been a lot of hard work went into how we got here but we couldn't have done it without the help of my Sailors and fellow brother and sister CPOs. I'm enjoying this, but on Monday, it's back to work."

At All Saints Chapel sponsors, family members and shipmates gathered to honor CPO selectees from Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing Eleven squadrons eager to pin fouled anchors to their khaki uniform collar and don their chief's cover.

Fleet Readiness Center Southeast also held a pinning ceremony at Hangar 1000 where family members, friends and shipmates gathered to recognize their newest CPOs.