“The biggest contribution I made in four years as CNO [Chief of Naval Operations] was my selection of Duane Bushey to follow Bill Plackett as MCPON [Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy]. Bill and Karen did a superb job! Selection of a replacement was tough.... But, Duane and Sue Bushey seemed to offer a unique quality in their ability to communicate with our people, that special sense of empathy, understanding and commitment that marks true leadership capability. They’ve proven that no challenge was too great, no concern too small to warrant action. They’ve truly taken the pulse of our Navy men and women and helped the Navy’s top leadership meet its responsibilities to our most precious asset: Our people.”
Admiral C. A. H. Trost, USN (Ret.)
Former Chief of Naval Operations
Roger Bushey farmed, fished, worked for the state and, in his spare time, drove an 18‑wheeler.
He taught his only son, Duane, how to till the earth for planting, repair equipment when it broke, and to respect authority and the rights of others. When Duane joined the Navy, his father was very proud, but he always believed that one day his son would return to the farm.
Duane Bushey thought so too. He never planned to make the Navy a career. It just happened.
One summer’s night in 1962, while sitting on a sand dune at Ocean City, Maryland, Bushey told his childhood sweetheart, Susan, that he wanted to go see what was on the other side of that ocean. She didn’t understand. Her plans were made to go off to college in September. He had sent in applications too. She didn’t know that during his last month of high school, he had decided to join the Navy and see the world.
“Where does that leave me?” she asked.
“I’ll come back and get you,” he promised.
Three days later, he and his friend, Paige Pilchard, found a recruiter in Salisbury, Maryland, and joined the Navy.
Although he never took a book home to study while he was in high school, Bushey scored high enough on the entrance exam to be guaranteed any “A” school he wanted in the Navy. He signed a contract with that guarantee.
Somewhere around the fifth week of boot camp, he went to see the classifier.
“My classifier was a great big, burly chief,” Bushey said. “He had tattoos all up and down both arms. I’ve said over the years that he was a boatswain’s mate, but I really don’t know what he was. He looked down at me and said, ‘What do you want to be, boy?’”
Bushey had prepared himself for the question by looking at the pictures of the different ratings in a book the recruits were given.
“I want to be an aviation electronics technician,” he answered.
The chief opened Bushey’s high school record. He saw some “Bs,” a few more “Cs,” and a lot of “Ds,” but none of what he was looking for. To go into his chosen field, Bushey needed the tough courses he had opted not to take in high school: algebra, trigonometry, calculus.
“Why don’t you be a sonarman?” the chief classifier suggested.
“I don’t want to be a sonarman,” Bushey answered. “I want aviation.”
“You’re too dumb to be an aviation electronics technician,” the chief growled. “Why don’t you be a sonarman?”
Bushey continued to hold his ground.
Finally, the classifier gave him other choices in the aviation field and Bushey picked aviation electrician’s mate. That too required more math courses than he had in his school record.
The chief said: “You’re too dumb to be that too. Why don’t you be a sonarman?”
But Bushey wasn’t an ordinary recruit. He had a signed contract with a guarantee. If the Navy couldn’t give him what he wanted, in his mind, the contract was broken.
After another round, in which neither he nor the chief made headway, Bushey decided it was time to take his contract and go home.
When he stood up to leave, the chief’s eyes opened wide.
“I didn’t tell you to leave,” he yelled at the recruit. “Where are you going?”
“I’m out of here,” Bushey told the chief. “I signed a contract in Salisbury, Maryland, that said I could be anything I wanted to be in the U.S. Navy. I picked one and you said I couldn’t be that. I picked another and you told me I couldn’t do that either. I’m going home. I know how to drive tractors and I got a farm back there and, by God, I’m going back to Salisbury, Maryland. I don’t have to put up with this.”
Bushey got his orders to aviation electrician’s mate “A” school and for the next several months, he spent long days and nights trying to prove the chief wrong. He was not dumb and he would not “flunk out.”
“I graduated number three in my class, but that chief was right,” he said, recalling the incident 29 years later. “I had to take remedial math to catch up with everybody else. My rear end is so small because I spent from 10 o’clock at night until 2 o’clock in the morning sitting in the head on a john because that was the only place you could have lights on at that time of night in the barracks. I would go in there to study algebra and trig, a slide rule, and calculus. But I wasn’t about to flunk out because he told me I was going to.”
Today, Bushey admits that the burly chief probably did the “best thing he could ever do for me.”
“Now that I’m more senior,” he said, “I realize the value in motivating people through that kind of play acting. He certainly made a big impact on me. If I was a better artist, I could sit down and draw his face today. I can’t tell you his name but I saw his face every day through ‘A’ School.”
Chiefs Make Big Impression
The classifier wasn’t the only chief who made an impression on Bushey as a young Sailor. Recently, when asked by a young petty officer who in his naval career had made the biggest impact, Bushey told him it was the “chief’s community as a whole.”
“My company commander in boot camp was an engineman chief named Lamb,” he said. “The meanest son of a gun I ever met. But he taught me something that I never forgot. One day, we were waiting to get our dress blues issued. I was standing by my locker and he walked by. I came to attention and he looked at me and asked why I was just standing around. I told him I was waiting to get my blues issued. He made me do 50 pushups. When I was through he walked off but 15 minutes later he came back and I was standing in the same place. He asked me again why I was just standing around and I gave him the same answer. He made me do 50 more pushups. Well, we did this about three or four times and finally he stopped me and said, ‘You sure aren’t very smart, Bushey. Haven’t you figured out why you are doing these pushups?’ And I said, ‘No, sir.’ He said, ‘Well, I’m going to give you a hint. In the U.S. Navy, you never just stand around waiting for something to happen. You make things happen. There is always something to do.’”
Bushey said that lesson stayed with him throughout his career.
“If I was standing somewhere not doing something, I felt that I was going to have to do 50 pushups,” he said. “I didn’t want to do that, so I always found something to do.”
Comparing today’s leadership with chiefs like Lamb and his classifier, Bushey believes that both were right for the times.
“It was a different style of leadership back then,” he said, “but it was effective because young Sailors like me feared and respected authority. We didn’t ask questions like Sailors do today. I’m not saying the way we do it today is wrong. It’s just different. Everybody who grew up in society today is different.”
Things He Didn’t Like
There were things about the old style of leadership that Bushey did not like, but had very little control over as a junior enlisted. After “A” school, he was assigned to Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Maryland. One day, while leaving the station in his convertible, the wind blew his white hat off his head and out of the car. When he stopped to retrieve it, the base master‑at‑arms arrived and put him on report for being out of uniform. When Bushey argued that the wind had blown his hat off, the master‑at‑arms changed the charge to littering the roadside. Bushey was confined to the base and given extra duty.
“I was very bitter,” he said, “because it was the weekend and I was on my way to see Susan. Something like that would almost make you want to get out of the Navy. Instead, l just promised myself that when I became a leader, I would not abuse my power as that master‑at‑arms had done.”
Becoming a Leader
Bushey became a leader quickly. When he made [petty officer] third class in 1963, he married Susan Prause and reenlisted under the STAR (Selective Training and Reenlistment) Program for an advanced electronics “B” school. After graduation, he and Susan loaded their belongings in a small trailer and drove across country to Long Beach, California, where he reported aboard Kearsarge. In 1965 he was advanced to [petty officer] second class and in 1967 to [petty officer] first class. While onboard Kearsarge, he earned designation as aircrewman and plane captain in the C‑1A aircraft [carrier-based aircraft]. Bushey and his shipmates were awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for their performance in support of Seventh Fleet operations off the coast of Vietnam. Bushey served subsequent tours with Heavy Attack Squadron One Twenty‑Three (VAH‑123) at NAS (Naval Air Station) Whidbey Island, Washington, and Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron One Thirty (VAQ‑130) at NAS Alameda, California. With VAH‑123, he served as a flight instructor for fleet replacement navigators in the A‑3 aircraft [strategic bombers] and as celestial and radar navigation instructor with VAQ‑130.
Before leaving VAQ‑130 in 1973, Bushey was named the CINCPACFLT (Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet) Shore Sailor of the Year. As a candidate for the honor, Bushey served as a model to wear the Navy’s new coat and tie uniform before it was available to the fleet.
The Busheys left the west coast in 1973 for Norfolk, Virginia, where he was assigned to Aircraft Ferry Squadron Thirty One (VRF‑31). There he qualified as an overwater navigator in several aircraft, a flight engineer for the P‑3 Orion, and a bombardier and navigator for the A‑6 Intruder. He accumulated 4,283 flight hours and 844,506 “stork” miles as an enlisted navigator. In November 1974, he was advanced to chief petty officer and to senior chief in 1977. As the command senior chief, he sampled his first taste of the leadership role that would eventually take him to Washington.
In January 1980, Bushey moved his wife and three children to El Paso, Texas, where he attended the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss. Six months later, he returned to VRF‑31 as a master chief and took on collateral duties as command master chief. He then served as command master chief for Commander Tactical Support Wing One (COMTACSUPWING ONE) in Norfolk. While there he was named as the Tidewater Virginia’s Military Citizen of the Year for 1982.
One More Tour
In 1985, as his tour at COMTACSUPWING ONE drew to a close, Bushey submitted his retirement papers and had already set a date but Captain. Paul W. Parcells, commanding officer of the pre‑commissioning unit for Theodore Roosevelt in Norfolk, convinced Bushey to do one more tour as his command master chief.
For two years, Bushey worked hard, convinced that he was in his twilight tour. His goals were to make the new carrier “the best ship in the Navy, take it on a Med cruise, and then retire.” Throughout his career, he had used spare time to talk to other Sailors, asking about the jobs they did and their commands.
“I was always curious,” he said. “If I was in between flights somewhere, and I saw a bunch of Sailors standing around, I’d go talk to them. I was also a door opener, curious to know what was on the other side. There’s hardly an air station in the U.S. Navy that I haven’t been on.”
On Theodore Roosevelt, he opened a lot of doors and talked to a lot of Sailors. On the ship’s closed‑circuit TV, he talked to the crew during a weekly question and answer session. A strong believer in community involvement, he encouraged his Sailors to volunteer their services during off‑duty hours. In 1988, he and his family were recognized as Tidewater’s Family of the Year. In 1988, when nominations were being sought for MCPON William H. Plackett’s relief, Bushey was persuaded to put in a package. It survived the E‑8/9 selection board, the special selection board, and emerged among the top four candidates.
In June, Bushey and his wife joined AWCM(AW) (Master Chief Aviation Warfare System Operator) Ronnie D. and Sarah Cole, CINCUSNAVEUR (Commmander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe); MMCM(SW) (Master Chief Machinist’s Mate) Francis R. and Estrelita Patterson, C M/C (Command Master Chief) Naval Training Station, San Diego; and ATCM(SW) (Master Chief Aviation Electronics) William C. Smith, CINCPACFLT (Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet), for a week in Washington.
During the interview phase of the competition, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Admiral Leon A. Edney kept Bushey in his office for what seemed to Bushey a “very long time.”
“We talked about all kinds of issues,” he said. “One question he asked me, I didn’t know the answer, and I told him I didn’t know. He kind of scowled at me and said, ‘How are you going to be a MCPON if you don’t know about all the programs available to your people?’ I told him I may not know the answer but the career counselor probably did, and I would call him or go see him to get the answer.”
The Seventh MCPON
On June 17, Admiral. Carlisle A. H. Trost announced that he had selected Bushey to be the seventh Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy.
“I feel like the alarm clock is going to go off soon, and I’ll wake up,” Bushey told a reporter for Navy News during a phone interview shortly after the announcement.
In August, Bushey began his indoctrination for the job, travelling with MCPON Plackett and attending a series of briefings on the issues that he would be addressing during his term of office.
During early interviews with the media, he listed physical fitness, education, integrity, and quality family time among his personal priorities.
He promised to support family programs already in place. Before taking office, he advocated the use of Direct Deposit System (DDS) in a video for the Navy Accounting and Finance Center.
A CNO’s Assessment
On September 9, Bushey relieved Plackett in formal ceremonies held at the Washington Navy Yard. Admiral Trost was the guest speaker. Prior to presenting the Distinguished Service Medal to the outgoing MCPON and welcoming the new one, the CNO spoke of the billet that had been created in 1967.
“In my judgment,” he said, “it would be hard to overstate the importance of the decision in 1967 to designate the Navy’s top enlisted Sailor and assign him or her to the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations as a key advisor. For what this billet is all about is leadership. Leadership of a group of people found in no other walk of life, a group of people whose contributions and sacrifices deserve the very best leadership that our service and indeed our country can provide.
“To be a good leader, to give the kind of leadership that this demanding service requires of us, we need to be proactive. We need to be aware of potential problems before they become real problems. We need to address ourselves to causes and not just to symptoms of causes. We need to be wise, knowledgeable, and farsighted... and then we need to handle all the emergent problems anyway.
“What we find is that no matter how much wisdom, knowledge, and farsightedness we possess, we cannot lead alone. No matter what we think is the reality of a situation, there is probably another reality on the deck plates, and our people need and deserve leaders who know what that reality is. The way we do that is first, to get out on the deck plates ourselves and see what is going on; and second, to have people, at all levels of command, who are, by whatever term we use, the chiefs of the boat who can take the pulse of the command and give us the straight information, perhaps better than we can get it for ourselves.
“The Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, like his counterparts in hundreds of Navy commands around the world, is chartered to observe and act, not to supersede the regular chain of command, but to strengthen it and make it work better. His or hers are the experienced eyes that can see the reality of the deck plates. His or hers is the persuasive, tactful voice that can give just the right encouraging word to junior or senior alike, that will turn a potential problem into a working solution. Indeed, he or she is the pulse-taker of the command.”
“Speak the Truth”
The new MCPON made a commitment to himself and to the enlisted community to “speak the truth.”
“I hope people will learn that I’m going to be honest with them,” he said in his first interview with All Hands. “I’m not going to try to build false hopes. I believe Sailors will do anything in the world for you, as long as they know why they’re doing it.”
Bushey also promised to listen more than he talked when visiting with Sailors.
“God gave me one mouth and two ears,” he said. “I should do twice as much listening as talking, and that’ll be my priority.”
Bushey used the term “preventive maintenance” to describe his role in protecting people programs already in place. He found himself in good company. Bushey was impressed with the concern that the Navy’s senior leadership had for Sailors.
“In every issue that comes up, they say, ‘How is that going to impact the people?’” he told the editor of NAVALOG at Newport, Rhode Island.
Soon after the announcement of Bushey’s selection was made, the Navy also announced that Vice Admiral Jeremy “Mike” Boorda had relieved Vice Admiral Leon Edney as Chief of Naval Personnel. Vice Admiral Edney became the VCNO (Vice Chief of Naval Operations).
As a former enlisted man, Vice Admiral Boorda brought a unique perspective to his new job.
“My real goal is to improve Navy readiness by making people feel good about what they do and having the term ‘The Navy Takes Care of Its Own’ really mean something. There’s a whole bunch of things to do that,” he told reporters during a press conference shortly after taking office. He emphasized the need to treat people as individuals and to talk straight in an “understandable way.” He was not interested, he said, in making his job or the job of people in the personnel business any easier.
“If our job gets harder because we have to do more for the rest of the Navy, so be it,” he said. “I hope that when my time as CNP is over, someone will be able to say, ‘Hey, that guy really cared about Sailors and everything he did had that focus.’”
Bushey found that his goals and those of Vice Admiral Boorda were closely linked.
“I feel very close, very personal with Vice Admiral Boorda,” Bushey told Sea Services Weekly within weeks of becoming MCPON. “He has told me that his door is open to me at any time. I have priority because I represent the enlisted community. He is very sincere about doing what we can for the troops. I feel that I can go in and say things are screwed up and why, and he will listen to me. He may not always agree with me, but God forbid that everyone agree with me all of the time!”
Bushey also found a strong ally in the CNO.
“I feel very comfortable with Admiral Trost. I can be straightforward with him—I don’t have to sugar coat things. He appreciates honesty and has a deep and sincere concern for the welfare of our sailors.”
Family support programs, such as family service centers, family advocacy, the ombudsman program, and child care had become an integral part of Navy leaders’ commitment to quality of life. “The focus of my intentions for the next three years will be our sailors and their families,” Bushey said. “Anything the Navy policymakers, Congress, and my office can do to improve the work and home situations of our sailors is where my attentions and efforts will be.”
On November 28, 1988, MCPON and Mrs. Bushey attended a two-day Navy‑Marine Corps Family Support Conference in Norfolk. Like the one held in 1978, the conference provided a forum for establishing goals, directions, and strategies for the future of family support programs in the Navy and Marine Corps. Over 1,200 people attended, including flag officers, senior enlisted leaders, government officials, family support program managers, counselors, and civilian resource representatives.
The MCPON served as moderator for a discussion group that examined the needs of single sailors and how family service centers could meet those needs. Not surprisingly, the word “family” emerged as the primary reason that single sailors don’t look to family service centers as a resource. The group submitted recommendations for improving that image and suggested services that would be more realistic for the single sailor. Recommendations included providing storage space for sailors leaving on deployment and a volunteer referral service for single sailors with time on their hands.
In Mililtary Family, a newspaper for military members and their families, Bushey said he felt the significance of the conference was in the show of “strong interest in taking care of our people.”
During his first four months in office, Bushey set a hectic pace. On the road, he visited with sailors on the East, West, and Gulf Coasts; inland at Millington, Tennessee; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and El Paso, Texas. In December, he and Mrs. Bushey made an 18-day WestPac tour with stops in Hawaii; Guam; Tokyo, Yokosuka, and Atsugi, Japan; and Seoul, South Korea.
In Washington, he began working issues such as the High Year Tenure (HYT) policy, the recently introduced peer ranking system for enlisted evaluations, and a pending policy statement on fraternization.
With the HYT policy, Bushey picked up the revised policy where Plackett had left it. The battle was not yet won but Bushey finally succeeded in getting OPNAVINST 1160.5B issued, which established a formal High Year Tenure Selection Board to consider continuation beyond professional growth points.
“We have an instruction, we have the boards established and now we need to follow the rules to make it fair to everyone,” he said in a Sea Services Weekly article in February 1989. “The system has to be equitable in order to allow our young sailors advancement opportunities and that’s where we’re headed right now.”
The policy sets the maximum number of years personnel are allowed to serve by pay grade at: E-4,10 years; E-5,20 years; E-6,23 years; E-7,26 years; E-8,28 years; E-9,30 years. HYT boards, composed of master chiefs, meet quarterly and consider each waiver request on an individual basis. Since 1989, the instruction has been revised to modify eligibility and redesign waiver criteria.
Peer ranking, which requires reporting seniors to rank the top 50 percent of 4.0 performers in pay grades E‑6 through E‑8, was one of the first issues that Bushey tackled as MCPON. Bushey spent a great deal of time in Washington and in the fleet clarifying the intent of the policy.
“The purpose of peer ranking is to pick out the cream of the crop,” he explained in one interview, “so you can surface the top ones out. There are many confusions about peer ranking and NMPC [Naval Military Personnel Command] and I are working to get the word out to the fleet.”
Three years later, Bushey reports that commanders have learned to use peer ranking to produce more “honest evals.”
The fraternization issue landed on Bushey’s desk shortly after he took office in the form of a proposed instruction. Bushey objected to the wording and made his suggestions for improvement. Pushed by MCPON’s report of concern in the fleet for a policy statement, the recommendation of a Women in the Navy Study Report in 1987, and Congressional pressure, OPNAVINST 5370.2 was finally released in February 1989. In it, fraternization was defined as any personal relationship between an officer and an enlisted member which is unduly familiar and does not respect differences in rank and grade. For the first time in its long history, the Navy had put its custom of frowning on unduly personal relationships between its members, particularly between officer and enlisted, in writing. It also included relationships between senior and junior enlisted, a factor usually overlooked in the traditional policy.
In an interview with Navy Times before the instruction was issued, Bushey said he didn’t believe the Navy needed a fraternization instruction.
“It’s just good common sense,” he said. “You don’t mix sexual relationships, or friendly relationships, with work.”
On January 29, 1989, Bushey’s own work came to a temporary halt. He was admitted to Bethesda Naval Hospital with a respiratory infection similar to bronchial pneumonia. Though his recovery was more rapid than doctors anticipated, Bushey’s travel schedule was put on hold for the next few weeks.
During his recuperation, on February 13, Navy Times ran a cover story on the new MCPON that had a big impact on its readers and helped to build his reputation as a MCPON who “tells it like it is.”
“In his first few months in office,” the article said, “Bushey has stepped on more than a few toes, proving he is not a very political person for someone filling what many fleet sailors see as a very political job.”
A side article in that same issue featured “straight‑talk” from the MCPON. On the physical fitness program, he said: “I don’t think we can back off. And there’re some COs [Commanding Officers] that we ought to nail right to the wall. If they’d get off their ass and get on with the program we’d quit killing sailors. We do not take care of our people when it comes to health. We don’t feed them properly. [Congress] says we’ve got to have real butter. We’ve got whole milk. They build our ships so the only way we can cook things is to deep‑fat fry ’em or fry ’em on a grill. Maybe the young kids can take that; the older people can’t.”
On retention and quality of life: “Sailors love what they’re doing and they will continue to do it as long as they can maintain a decent living. We don’t want a Cadillac. We don’t want a five bedroom house with six baths. We want an old Ford pickup truck, we want an average home, and we want to be able to take mother out and do the normal things, go to the movies, have dinner. We’ve been able to do that, the pay has been O.K.”
On the quality of sailors: “You can take all the statistics you want and throw at me. I came from the deck plates, and I can tell you right now that even though we got more high school graduates, I’m getting more and more people that are coming in that can’t read. These guys aren’t dirtbags because they’re Category IVs (CAT IVs) [sailors who are not mission ready]. They’re CAT IV probably because they can’t read. So we set up a good remedial reading program so we can pull those people up, some of them through proper training.”
On his own job: “I was appalled that my office had so much power and that people had so much respect for the office that every little single thing I said in that trip report, somebody was calling me up and saying, ‘Well, what exactly did you mean by this…because we know the admiral is going to ask questions.’”
In the wake of the article, sailors wrote letters to the Navy Times editor praising the new MCPON’s courage and willingness to “speak out.”
MCPON Bushey’s comments on the use of butter in Navy messes and a point paper he submitted to Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command spurred a change to that portion of the Navy Ration Law prohibiting the use of oleomargarine. Effective January 1, 1991, general messes began offering patrons a choice of butter or margarine. Alternate preparation methods to reduce frying; inclusion of fruit; potato service bars; and more fish, poultry, fruit and vegetable recipes were among the “healthy choices” offered to sailors. The changes were all part of a Navy‑wide program to enhance nutrition and weight control.
Additionally, the instruction governing the Navy’s health and physical readiness program was revised in 1990. OPNAVINST 6110.1D did not change body fat or Physical Readiness Testing standards, but established a requirement that officer fitness reports, as well as enlisted evaluations, contain an entry on physical condition. In a February 1990 Navy Times article, MCPON Bushey applauded the change, saying that the new rules should help eliminate the enlisted resentment toward the program.
On March 2, 1989, Bushey had sufficiently recovered from his bout with pneumonia to testify with the senior enlisted advisors from the other services before the House Appropriations Committee Military Construction Subcommittee.
In his statement to the committee, Bushey requested additional funding to alleviate the Navy’s 55,000‑unit shortage in family housing, to construct more child development centers, and to provide a Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) for sailors in the Continental United States (CONUS) who were struggling to meet the high costs of housing and insurance in heavily populated areas.
A congressman asked the MCPON, if extra funding was available, what would he choose to spend it on? The MCPON answered that he would spend it on bachelor enlisted quarters for single sailors.
Four days after his testimony to Congress, Bushey chaired his first CNO Master Chief Advisory Panel. Like the MCPON, the panel cited living conditions aboard ship and in BEQs as their number one concern.
PRCM Stan Crowley, AirLant Force Master Chief, summed up the panel’s feelings during a press conference.
“Our sailors live in less space at sea than that alloted to a felon in a federal penitentiary,” he said. “That doesn’t bother them. They understand the requirements, the mission, and realize that they have to sacrifice something to carry out the important tasks their nation expects of them.”
But, the force master chief pointed out, when those sailors come ashore, they expect better living quarters.
“We lose the majority of our single sailors when they come from sea to shore duty,” he said, “and we expect them to live in inadequate facilities in poor condition with not much more room than they had at sea. That has to change.”
During the five-day session, the panel set stricter guidelines for chief petty officer initiations, made the recommendation that leadership training be mandatory at some point in a sailor’s career, and stressed continued emphasis on tight screening for command master chief selection.
Another concern addressed by the senior enlisted advisors was the 34 percent attrition rate for first‑termers. During his briefing to the panel, Vice Admiral Boorda asked for their help in stemming the tide.
“If we keep throwing away about one‑third of the sailors that we recruit in the first four years after their enlistment,” he said, “given the tough recruiting market and decreasing numbers of enlistment eligibles, we are fighting a losing battle unless we do something to stop the exodus.”
The CNP told the panel that the Navy was losing the largest number of first termers in boot camp and “A” school. To target those areas, he liberalized a few policies, such as allowing new recruits with sensitive feet to wear tennis shoes in boot camp instead of the hard sole shoes traditionally required. He pushed for policies in “A” school that gave sailors a second chance or an alternative choice of another “A” school if they were not making passing grades.
Improved training and leadership was the panel’s recommendation for reducing the attrition rate.
“Attrition and retention are affected very, very much by how good the leadership is, how responsive leadership is to people,” Bushey pointed out. “Leadership is something we need to work on.”
By the time the 1990 Spring CNO MCPO Advisory Panel convened, the Navy Leader Development Program (NAVLEAD) had replaced the Leading Petty Officer and Chief Petty Officer Leadership and Management Education and Training courses. One-week courses replaced the two-week LPO and CPO LMET curriculum and attendance was made mandatory for advancement to E‑7 and E‑8.
To revitalize enlisted leader development at every level of professional development, indoctrination courses were included for petty officers and chief petty officers.
Also covered by the NAVLEAD umbrella were a command indoctrination program and for the first time, a command master chief course. The student’s source book for the C M/C course was written by a number of contributors, including the MCPON, MMCM(SS) Jerry Rose, MMCM(SS) Larry Warthen, ETCM Daryl Johnson, AKCS(AW) Edward Kyle, all active duty members, and DPCM Garfield Anderson and YNC Ronnie McElroy, Naval Reserve.
For the first time since formal leadership development courses were introduced in 1974, the Navy had a comprehensive training program institutionalizing all leadership courses under one sponsor, the Command Excellence and Leadership Development Division in BUPERS (Bureau of Naval Personnel).
Aviation Storekeeper Senior Chief Ted Kyle, head of Enlisted Program Development for the division, praised MCPON Bushey for his concerted effort in getting NAVLEAD off the ground.
“He spent a lot of time reading the material, writing changes, and chopping the final product,” Kyle said. “He really pushed it through. It was his recommendation that the curriculum for the CPO course be written by chiefs.”
Assisting in the project were EMCM(SS) Winston 0. Posey, MMCS(SS) John E. Smith, ATC Gary R. Justice, ETC(SS) Warren C. Scott, YNC Connie S. Terrell, ATC Michael J. Terry, Lt. Wallace H. Lloyd III, and Senior Chief Kyle.
Bushey praised NAVLEAD as a “quantum leap forward” in leadership training.
“I think one of the biggest things I came into town thinking about was that the Navy needed to focus on leadership,” he said. “I felt like we had outstanding people in the Navy, but sometimes our focus and directions weren’t in the right arena.”
Bushey also views NAVLEAD as a positive step in lowering attrition rates.
“One of the things that has really helped drive the whole leadership development movement is the attrition,” he said, adding that the CNO Master Chief Panel had made many of the recommendations upon which NAVLEAD is based.
“A lot of us feel that good, sensitive leadership can solve some of the attrition problem,” he said. “In this technical Navy, we’ve concentrated so much on teaching people how to be technicians, we forgot that the most complicated equipment we have is people. If I’m having trouble getting you to perform, I can’t open a manual and it says, ‘OK, to get you to do this, this is what I’ve got to do.’ I can’t do that. I’ve got to learn how to interpret what you’re telling me.”
Bushey’s schedule in Washington and on the road earned him respect and a reputation as a workaholic. A typical workday in Washington begins at 6 a.m., and ends 12 to 14 hours later. On the road, he likes doing “Fun Runs” with Sailors for PRT. He has rappelled with the Fleet Marine Force corpsmen at Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C., and given blood for Red Cross drives around the world. At Key West, he swam with dolphins in training to help with Navy missions. At Quantico, he drove heavy equipment with Reserve Seabees, and at Naval Air Facility, Washington, he flew second seat on a sentimental flight in one of the Navy’s few remaining A‑3s just prior to its retirement.
During one stop on his travelling schedule, Bushey told Sailors that he enjoyed getting out of Washington.
“I’m here to get my common sense back,” he said. “The longer you spend in Washington, D.C., the salt leaves your veins.”
In the early months of 1990, Bushey played a key role in controlling the rumors and fears that were created by news reports of impending defense budget cutbacks, changes in homeporting, and reductions in force. His message to sailors was that their leaders in Washington were doing everything they could to protect the quality of life programs in existence and to manage cutbacks in end strength without having to tell career minded sailors to go home.
Bushey warned sailors that if they chose to leave the Navy, they should “make sure that is what you want to do.
“We can’t afford to take you back in,” he said. But he reassured those who wanted to stay in that “normal attrition” and a recruiting decrease would “handle manpower cuts.”
New CNO and a Quick Test
In July 1990, Admiral Trost was relieved as CNO by Admiral Frank B. Kelso II, former Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. As a participant in the ceremony held at the Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, Bushey presented the flag to the outgoing CNO.
On August 2, 1990, the all‑volunteer force was handed its first major test. Iraqi troops and tanks invaded Kuwait and threatened to move into Saudi Arabia. Eight U.S. Navy Middle East Force ships were present in the Persian Gulf. On August 6, the Secretary of Defense received permission to send U.S. warships through the Suez Canal. Within days, the Navy began providing the ships, aircraft, and sailors that, along with the other U.S. and allied armed services, would become the task force for Desert Shield. By January 16, 1991, when Desert Shield became Desert Storm, the Navy had 108 ships and 60,000 personnel in the area.
Three months after the beginning of Desert Storm, with the number of sailors involved in the operation increasing daily, MCPON Bushey flew to the Persian Gulf area to visit with sailors aboard ships, at personnel staging areas, in fleet hospitals set up in the desert, and with the Marines on the front lines. He heard problems about pay, supplies, the mail, advancement exams, and the lack of recreational outlets. But he also saw high morale everywhere he visited, sailors adapting to longer working hours and a difficult environment, and a heightened state of readiness. By the time he returned to Washington, the problems that he had reported back to his office by phone were well on their way to solutions or were already fixed. Some problems, however, like slow mail delivery would take time and were never completely resolved. But his visit reassured Sailors in the area that someone in Washington was listening.
Throughout the force buildup and the hostilities, Bushey continued to travel around the fleet, telling sailors at Submarine Base Bangor, Washington, on the eve of Desert Storm, that he had considered cancelling his trip due to the war, but that he had decided it was important to “come out and talk to sailors about continuing to work on the future.” He carried reassurances from Washington that as soon as possible, operations tempo would return to six-month maximum deployments, that quality of life programs would receive increased attention from legislators in the wake of Desert Storm, and that pending force reductions did not mean good sailors would be told to go home.
“There are a lot of good things that come out of getting smaller,” he was quoted in the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station newspaper, The Booster.
“We’re fortunate that we don’t have to take the cuts right now that some of the services are going to have to take. We’ve been able to program out into the future, so we’re going to be able to do it without hurting people. We’re not going to be using severance pay, because we’re not going to RIF people.”
When the war ended, Bushey sent a congratulatory message to those who participated and to those who supported the effort.
“You validated our principles of training and leadership, and our tradition of pride and professionalism,” he said. “As part of the combined effort by the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, both Active and Reserve, you set new standards in cooperation, mutual respect and commitment. Well done.”
Going for Four
In November 1990, prior to his trip to the Gulf area, Bushey announced via Navy Editor Service his decision to stay an extra year at the request of the CNO. His decision marked the first time in over ten years that a MCPON would do a four year tour.
“I needed the CNO to want me to work for him and he asked me to do that,” Bushey said. “I also needed the support of the fleet and force master chiefs.” He also consulted with each of the former MCPONs before making his decision.
“They supported me 100 percent and thought I was doing a good job,” he said. “However, they thought I was crazy. Physically, it’s a killer to do four years. Bob Walker, the last guy to do four years, talked to me quite a bit about how tired he was that last year and how difficult it was at times.”
He cited the support he was receiving from the CNO, CNP and “all of OPNAV and NMPC” as a factor in his decision.
“It just makes my job less stressful…to have policy makers who care,” he said. “Not that all ideas I come up with or suggestions I make work or even fit, it’s the way they’re handled and treated— kind of a fearless environment.”
Under CNO Admiral Kelso, a “fearless environment” became the goal of the future as the Navy moved toward Total Quality Leadership (TQL).
“It’s the ability to create an atmosphere where the employee doesn’t fear being part of the solution,” Bushey explained, “where the individuals all the way from the bottom to the top can work jointly on trying to make things a little bit better—no fear of ideas, no fear of trying things. It’s really just listening and doing what is right.”
Although the advent of TQL and the support he was receiving all gave Bushey good reasons to stay for an extra year, he admitted that he had to undergo “self evaluation” before reaching his final decision.
“I was a little bit scared that I had or would change,” he said. “I want to make sure that I can still live with who I am. I think it could be very, very easy to sit in this job and lose your sense of humor and start thinking you know all the answers to get caught up in yourself. My job is to represent the deck plate sailor. I would quit today if I thought Duane Bushey is ever going to forget he’s Duane Bushey. He’s a farmer from Maryland and a guy that likes ships, going to sea, airplanes, and sailors, and if he ever got caught up in the royalty end of it I guess I’d hope somebody would say, ‘Hey, you’re out of here.’”
Bushey continues to push for the quality of life programs he came into office hoping to improve. Adequate housing for married and single sailors is still a priority, along with fair and equal treatment for all sailors. He is at the forefront of an effort to convince Congress to give Filipino sailors citizenship after a 12-year period of good and honorable service. He advocates increased opportunities for advancement for women in the Navy and continues to stress the need for mutual respect among men and women in the workplace. He continues to be vocal in his support of the Navy’s policy on child care, while maintaining that parents, single or married, should shoulder the responsibility of child rearing.
After three years in office, Bushey can look back and see things that have changed for the better. He was successful in getting evaluations of E‑9s reinstituted and in getting the authority for signing evaluations extended to CPOs. He is proud of his role in establishing a “make up” board for qualified sailors who were inadvertently overlooked by the chief’s selection board. He was also instrumental in paring down the CNO MCPO Advisory Panel by eliminating the CNET (Chief of Naval Education and Training) fleet master chief position and reducing some force billets to a CNO-directed command master chief. Another area of change has been in the traditional rite of passage to chief petty officer. Based on recommendations from the advisory panel, Bushey issued stricter guidelines on the conduct of chief initiations by limiting the preparation time and restricting harassment to off-duty hours and the CPO mess.
Bushey is disappointed in other areas, however. Variable Housing Allowance (VHA) problems still persist, sailors on tenders are still not receiving sea pay, and shipboard habitability is still a negative in quality of life initiatives. Like his predecessors, he has learned that major changes and improvements take a great deal of work, attention, and patience. Overall, he said, things have gone better than he anticipated.
“I guess I’ve been kind of surprised with how easy it’s been at times to make changes. I thought it would be tougher. I think that’s a part of the system that’s in now; I don’t think it’s always been that way. I’m not sure all of my predecessors could say that.”
As he entered his fourth and final year, Bushey remained upbeat and positive.
“I get up in the morning and I’m still excited about coming to work. I still wake up in the middle of the night thinking about things, wanting to do things. I think I still have a lot to contribute and we’ve got a lot of good things started and going and I’d just love to see them through.”