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The Chief Petty Officer


Seven Veteran chief petty Officers of the U.S.S. Pennsylvania of the United States Pacific Fleet prove the ancient adage: "men make the Navy"

Seven veteran chief petty officers of USS Pennsylvania of the United States Pacific Fleet prove the ancient adage: “Men make the Navy.” (NH 118954)

The earliest known use of the term “chief petty officer” dates back to 1776 onboard Continental Navy Ship Alfred, when the title “chief cook” was conferred upon cook’s mate Jacob Wasbie. This was an informal designation that noted Wasbie as the foremost ship’s cook, but was not officially recognized nor consistently used throughout the Navy.

The chief petty officer, as recognized today, was officially established 1 April 1893, when the rank “petty officer first class” was shifted to “chief petty officer.” This originally encompassed nine ratings (occupational specialties): chief master-at-arms, chief boatswain’s mate, chief quartermaster, chief gunner’s mate, chief machinist, chief carpenter’s mate, chief yeoman, apothecary, and band master. Chief petty officer could be either an acting (temporary) appointment, designated as AA, or a permanent appointment, designated as PA. The Career Compensation Act of 1949 created an E-7 grade that standardized pay for all chief petty officers, regardless of acting or permanent status. Acting status for chief petty officers was not eliminated until 1965. A 1958 amendment to the Career Compensation Act added two new pay grades, senior chief (E-8) and master chief (E-9), and created six new rating titles.

Today, there are three chief petty officer ranks: chief petty officer, senior chief petty officer, and master chief petty officer. Chiefs are recognized for exemplary technical expertise within their rating, superior administrative skills, and strong leadership ability. Most importantly, chiefs bridge the gap between officers and enlisted personnel, acting as supervisors as well as advocates for their Sailors.

Learn more about the rank of chief petty officer by exploring the links, below. 


History and Tradition of the Chief Petty Officer

Anomaly of the "Enlisted Officer"

Master Chief Petty Officers of the Navy

One Hundred Years of Leadership

History of the Chief Petty Officer Grade

Chief Petty Officers' Uniforms U.S. Navy

United States Navy Chief Petty Officer Creed

United States Navy Chief Petty Officer’s Pledge



Z-Gram #9: Meritorious Advancement in Rate of Superior Performing Career Petty Officers

Z-Gram #80: MCPOs on E-8/E-9 Selection Boards

Z-Gram #120: Revised Master Chief Petty Officer of the Fleet/Force/Command Program


Notable Chief Petty Officers

Master Chief Petty Officers of the Navy

Chief Petty Officer Recipients of the Medal of Honor

Master Chief Boatswain's Mate Carl M. Brashear

Chief Gunner's Mate John Henry "Dick" Turpin

Force Master Chief Petty Officer of the Seabees James D. Fairbanks


Click here to learn more about Navy ratings and ranks.


Infographics and Selected Imagery

Chief Petty Officer

This infographic shares the rich history of the U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer. (U.S. Navy graphic by Dan Garas/Released)

Chief Petty Officer's Uniform, 1920-1945

Chief Petty Officer's Uniform, 1920-1945. (K-20440)

Photo #: NH 65511 Chief Petty Officer's Insignia

Chief Petty Officer's insignia, worn by Yeoman (F) Bertha Sobel during World War I. (NH 65511) 

Chief Petty Officer

Chief Petty Officer adjusts the propeller mechanism of a torpedo while it was being loaded on a submarine at New London, Connecticut, circa July 1943. (80-G-K-16056)

Photo #: NH 107679 Senior Chief Boatswains' Mate Carl M. Brashear, USN

Senior Chief Boatswains' Mate Carl M. Brashear, USN, photographed on board USS Hunley (AS-31) while at sea, circa April 1971. Photograph was taken by Chief Photographer's Mate R.A. Walker, USN. (NH 107679) 

John P. Conroy, Chief Petty Officer, USN

John P. Conroy, Chief Petty Officer, USN, Navy Cross recipient. (NH 50633)

Chief Petty Officer E. T. Connelly, Squadron

Chief Petty Officer E. T. Connelly. Photographed at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. (NH 50629)

Photo #: NH 53180 Chief Yeoman (F)

Chief Yeoman (F) in New York City during a Victory Loan parade, May 1919. Note her Chief Petty Officer's hat insignia and rating badge. (NH 53180)

Photo #: NH 105712 USS Aramis

Chief Petty Officer, in winter clothing, standing on the ice beside USS Aramis, circa 1918-1919. (NH 105712) 

Published: Wed Jul 21 16:05:06 EDT 2021