What's a Chief anyways?

Chief Petty Officer is the seventh enlisted rank in the U.S. Navy, just above Petty Officer First Class and below Senior Chief Petty Officer, and is a senior non-commissioned officer. The grade of Chief Petty Officer was established on April 1, 1893 for the Navy.

The Chief is considered the backbone of the Navy. They are on the deck plates insuring the job gets done and that the orders of officers are carried out. When any sailor has a question of fellow sailors, petty officers, and even officers, the standard response is “Ask the Chief!”

In naval terminology, the Deckplate can roughly refer to the deck ("flooring"), or the area of the deck of a ship or boat (submarine). It can also refer to the Chief Petty Officer leadership.

The term "deckplate leaders" is a colloquial term referring to the senior enlisted personnel of the rank of Chief Petty Officer and higher. They are generally charged with keeping good order and discipline within the lower enlisted ranks.

Unlike Petty Officer First Class and lower ranks, advancement to Chief Petty Officer not only carries requirements of time in service, superior evaluation scores, and specialty examinations, but also carries an added requirement of peer review. A Chief Petty Officer can only advance after review by a selection board of serving Senior and Master Chief Petty Officers, in effect "choosing their own" and conversely not choosing others.

Advancement into the Chief Petty Officer grades is the most significant promotion within the enlisted naval ranks. At the rank of Chief, the Sailor takes on more administrative duties. In the Navy, their uniform changes to reflect this change of duty, becoming identical to that of an officer's uniform except with different insignia. Sailors in the three Chief Petty Officer ranks also have conspicuous privileges such as separate dining and living areas. Any naval vessel of sufficient size has a room or rooms that are off-limits to anyone not a Chief (including officers) except by specific invitation (if one is invited to eat in the Chief's Mess, it is customary to eat everything on the plate no matter what condiments are added by members of the Chief's Mess to enhance one's dining experience). In Navy jargon, this room is called the Chief's Mess, or tongue in cheek, the "goat locker". In addition, a Chief Petty Officer, no matter how much he was on "first name" basis with other petty officers before promotion, is always addressed as "Chief" by subordinates and superiors.

Chief Petty Officers serve a dual role as both technical experts and as leaders, with the emphasis being more on leadership as they progress through the CPO ranks. A recognized, collateral duty for all Chiefs is the training of Junior Officers. Like Petty Officers, every Chief has both a rate (rank) and rating (job, similar to an MOS in other branches). A Chief's full title is a combination of the two. Thus, a Chief Petty Officer, who has the rating of Gunner's Mate would properly be called a Chief Gunner's Mate.