PACIFIC OCEAN (June 13, 2011) – Sailors PT on the flight deck aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) as part of the “Chiefs in Training” program. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class N. Ross Taylor)

TIMOR SEA (July 24, 2011) - Sixteen board eligible first class petty officers aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) received advanced leadership and team-building training. The training began shortly after the chief’s board eligible list came out and concluded on July 7.

They attended weekly classroom training, participated in group physical training (PT) sessions three times a week and gained useful knowledge on how to become better leaders at sea. All this was accomplished underway and made possible by Cowpens’ Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Mess.

“It was a great opportunity to learn more of what will be expected of me as a chief, and also how I can perform at a higher level and be more effective as a first class,” said Fire Controlman 1st Class (SW) Joseph Hand, a native of Florence, N.J. “Now, I better understand what ‘deckplate leadership’ really means and how to acquire the tools needed to perform the job of a chief.”

The ‘Chiefs in Training’ program was implemented on Cowpens by the Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Bryan Hawkins, a native of Oakland, Calif.

Hawkins said the program is voluntary and designed to better prepare those first class petty officers who are board eligible in the event they are selected to advance to the rank of chief petty officer.

“The Navy is changing the way it develops leaders in the 21st century,” said Hawkins. “This training strengthens the foundation and improves the readiness of Sailors preparing to transition from a first class petty officer to a chief.”

The eager first classes met three times a week in the Chief’s Mess and had an opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics with their peers. Each classroom session was facilitated by a chief petty officer. The training topics covered numerous topics, from basic administration tips and uniform regulations to advanced leadership and mentorship subjects, such as ‘Sailorization,’ conflict resolution and division officer training.

“The topics were valid and all revolved around leadership,” said Culinary Specialist 1st Class (SW) Nicholas Young. “The discussions helped me see how I might be able to handle a certain situation more than one way from hearing other leading petty officers (LPO) give their inputs.”

Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 1st Class (SW) Vincent Wenzel, from Boise, Idaho, really enjoyed the motivation and team-building aspect of the group physical training sessions.

“The camaraderie during the ‘Chief's in Training’ PT sessions was great," said Wenzel. "It brought us together as fellow first classes and possibly chief selects and gave us the motivation and support we all need. I know that we gained from that experience."

Hawkins said that although the program is optional, the participants were required to attend every session and conduct themselves in accordance with the Navy’s core values at all times.

“The overall objective was to make more capable leading petty officers while improving their chances for selection by making them stronger CPO candidates,” said Hawkins. “The program here aboard Cowpens has been an overwhelming success.”