Navy chiefs help out — Chief petty officers’ association keeps watch over gates at county fair

Selectee Ernesto Oliveros, of Naval Hospital Bremerton, stamps the hand of Katherine Robbins Friday at the Kitsap County Fair, as Derrick Robbins Marilyn Venable look on. - Tom James/staff photo
Selectee Ernesto Oliveros, of Naval Hospital Bremerton, stamps the hand of Katherine Robbins Friday at the Kitsap County Fair, as Derrick Robbins Marilyn Venable look on.
— image credit: Tom James/staff photo

It’s not just any county fair where you hear a call over the radio confirmed with a brisk ‘aye’ – but attentive fair goers might have heard just that this past weekend, as the Pacific Northwest Chief Petty Officers’ Association manned the gates at the annual Kitsap County Fair and Stampede.

For the past eleven years the organization – yellow shirts are full chiefs, while the blues are selectees, or soon-to-be chiefs – has been awarded the contract for selling tickets and handling admissions at the county event.

The association represents all the Chief Petty Officers’ Associations in the region, including those for Bangor, Naval Hospital Bremerton, and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

For the organization, it’s a chance to get out and be seen in the community and train soon-to-be chiefs in the spirit of community service and pride that goes with the rank, said Master Chief Tony Collins, one of the supervisors for association staff at the event,

“We all volunteer because we love being in public, and we like getting the chance to represent Navy chiefs,” He said. “We may not be wearing the uniform, but the t-shirt represents the uniform.”

Danise Barnes, admissions director for the fair, said the organization had been a good partner during the six years she has worked with the chiefs at the fair. Specifically, Barnes praised their dependability and punctuality.

“They stick to a watch bill, and they’re so regimented, it makes my job a lot easier,” said Barnes.

The event is also a chance for the organization, which is paid by the fair, to gain much-needed funds, said Collins. The staff is all volunteer, all of the money raised goes to the group, which then parcels it out to its member branches, said.

Collins said it is typical for each command to have its own association, and that it’s only the smallest commands, such as Keyport, that typically do not.

The money is usually spent on various CPOA events throughout the year, including farewell and welcome events for members whose ships are leaving or arriving Naval Base Kitsap, who are transferring off the facility, or who are retiring from the service, Collins said. When necessary the association’s funds have also in the past gone to help members in need, and Collins said that his branch, at PSNS, makes a yearly donation to a local charity, as well, he said.

While the associations from each command frequently help out with events on their own, the fair is the one yearly event that draws petty officers from the all the regional commands. Selectee Jennifer Clem said that makes it a good chance to meet both other selectees and other chiefs.

“We work pretty closely with these guys throughout the night,” said Clem, “so we get to know them.”

Collins said the event is also an opportunity for older chiefs to make an impression on enlisted personnel, called selectees, who’ve been selected to become chiefs but not yet promoted. That means communicating the spirit of service, he said, along with the pride in the uniform – and a little bit of friendly razzing, too.

“I do like to use a bit of sarcasm,” said Collins with a grin. Later he added that even older Navy vets like to get in on it, giving the selectees a bit of what he called a hassle.

At the end of the day, though, Collins said, it’s about volunteering, raising money for the association, which covered 52 watches every day during the five-day event, and representing the Navy and the rank to the public.

“Showing our anchors, if you would,” said Collins.

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