Story by Max Lonzanida on 08/24/2019Before the crack of dawn for three days this week, Norfolk's Town Point Park reverberated with the echoes of the U.S. Navy's fight song "Anchors Aweigh". The park, next to the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, was where a sea of over 250 Chief Petty Officer Selects mustered on August 21-23 this week to kick off the 19th Annual Chief Petty Officer Heritage Days.
The event is the largest and longest running training event for newly selected CPO Selects in the region. Over the course of three days over 860 CPO Selects from over 58 area gathered to connect with the rich history and heritage of the U.S. Navy throughout training stations aboard the decommissioned Iowa-Class Battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64).
After moving with a purpose to cross the brow of the Battleship, guest presenters at various stations provided a wealth of historical information to groups of CPO Selects. The Battleship's wardroom was the setting for a presentation by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (Ret.) Duane Bushey, who provided some insights into his tenure as the U.S. Navy's 7th MCPON. The Captain's wardroom was the setting for a presentation by Fleet Master Chief (Ret.) Susan Whitman and Senior Chief (Ret.) April Maletz, who tag teamed an energetic presentation about the roles of Women in the Navy. Additional learning stations throughout the spaces aboard the Battleship were facilitated by area Chief Petty Officers both active and retired.
In a shaded area below turret #3, Captain Eddie Lee Duckworth, USN (Ret.) and the museum's Deputy Director of Education Elijah Palmer, presented some insights into the U.S. Navy's role during the Vietnam War. Duckworth served during the conflict and piloted 224 combat missions while assigned to Helicopter Attack Squadron (Light) Three; nicknamed the "Seawolves", which was active from 1967 through 1972.
The presentation hinted to the museum's new exhibit about the Vietnam War, which include highlights of naval intelligence, special warfare communities, the surface navy, naval air power, riverine operations, and the capabilities of logistical and non-combat support operations. Its slated to open on October 9, 2019.
After mustering on the fantail, CPO Selects cycled through for group photos and lunch. At the conclusion of each day was the culminating event, the cadence and guidon competition. As in years past, the event was held under the covered Sail Nauticus Pavilion where groups of CPO Selects and area CPOs gathered for an event that merged the lines of a USO show and vaudeville act to show esprit de corps while competing for the title of Best Mess.
Groups took their turn on stage showcasing their best and presented their guidons to the panel of judges. Guest speakers after the competition included Fleet Master Chief (Ret.) Susan Whitman, Fleet Master Chief (Ret.) Thomas Howard, US Navy Reserve Force Master Chief Chris Kotz and U.S. Fleet Forces Fleet Master Chief Rick O'Rawe. A presentation of the trophy for the Best Mess was presented each day by the museum's military ceremonies coordinator and chair, BTCS(SW) Thomas Dandes, USN (Ret.), concluding each days event that has enabled groups of CPO selects to connect with the history and heritage of the U.S. Navy.