Chief petty officer (CPO) selectees from around Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) would probably tell you busy is an understatement while going through leadership training before being officially frocked. In a five-day span, the selectees participated in four different challenging events.
The Eco Challenge at Camp Blanding is a favorite of “genuine” CPOs and CPO selectees. The event on Aug. 24 is a true testament to enhancing leadership skills and building camaraderie. Working together in teams, selectees were faced with a variety of physical and mental challenges as they made their way through the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center obstacle course.
“I remember going through this same experience as a select and now seeing the lessons learned and the teamwork needed as a chief is very rewarding to me,” said AEC Robert Frehulfer.
Each station in the course was specifically set up to test their physical fitness and build confidence and trust in themselves, as well as their teammates.
Beyond the physical challenges, CPO selectees from around Florida were presented a number of training scenarios specifically designed to mimic real-world situations chiefs face each day in the Navy. The solutions to these scenarios could only be found as the selectees learned how to plan, lead and work together as a cohesive unit.
“So far this season, the Eco Challenge has been my favorite,” said ADC (select) Carlos Franco.
Another event that week was a 5K run at Jacksonville Beach. CPOs and selectees trudged through the sand, while supporters cheered them on.
“The run is less about actually running and more about motivation and showing the community how we come together in formation,” said ITC Paul Cummings.
CPOs did a throwback to naval history with the Great White Fleet Boat Races at the antenna farm Aug. 27, paying homage to the Great White Fleet in the early 1900s that journeyed around the globe. Homemade vessels were crafted by the selectees to represent battleships and were floated along an obstacle course, with a genuine chief riding in the vessel.
“I really enjoyed the camaraderie and watching everyone work together,” said ENC (select) Kyle Thurber.
One vessel lost a front tire and had to go uphill being ferried by selectees. Genuine chiefs watched from the sides and sprayed water on the competitors. The competition had 11 entries and the winning boat team was USS Georgia (BB-15).
The last major event incorporated family members and music. For the third year in the row, the Navy Exchange (NEX) CPO Night featured a lip sync battle where each boat team competed against each other. Family members were invited to attend and cheer for their Sailors. During a rendition of “I Swear” by All 4 One, AWOC (select) A.J. Dyer jumped on judges table to serenade them, leading to roars of laughter from the audience. This year’s judges were NAS Jax Commanding Officer Capt. Michael Connor, Executive Office Capt. Brian Weiss, Command Master Chief Jeffery Waters and guest judge Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic’s Force Master Chief Huben Phillips.
“This is a unique event. After 17 seasons, I’ve never seen anything like this and I’m going to take the idea back with me,” Phillips told the crowd.
Twelve boat teams lip synched along to a variety of songs. Some groups chose to use props or costumes. Others used audience participation, such as Naval Recruiting District Jacksonville who pulled out NCC LaTonya Perossier from the crowd during the song, “My Girl.” Trophies were given out to the top three teams. USS Louisiana (BB 19) placed first, followed by USS South Carolina (BB 26) and USS Georgia (BB 15).
“I think this was a good release from the strenuous training they have been going through and it was great for the families to come together,” said Family member Ivy Bullock.
Between songs, drawings were held offering prizes from the NEX. Additionally, Navy trivia questions were asked for other prizes. One of the prizes included a cutlass sword, a highly-coveted item among CPOs.
“I won two new pieces of luggage and I can’t be happier,” said ETC (select) Todd Dinwiddie.
Following the event, gift bags were handed out by the NEX and food vendors of the NEX served a meal to the attendees. A cake was cut by Waters and ISC (select) Gene Imrich, winner of the cutlass.