With Veterans Day coming up next week (Nov. 11), it’s important to remember those who gave their time and service to our country. A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed Watson Crumbie, who is a U.S. Marine veteran of the 2nd World War and the Korean War.
For this week, I interviewed Don Shields, a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, retiring as a Master Chief Petty Officer. The designation of Master Chief petty officer is the ninth, and highest, enlisted rank in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, just above that of Senior Chief Petty Officer. Master Chief Petty Officers are addressed as “Master Chief (last name)” and they constitute the top 1.25% of the enlisted members of the maritime forces.
Master Chief Shields is also a recognizable face in North Texas for his support of Republican candidates and his ubiquitous presence at the polls during early voting and on Election Day. For Flower Mound early voters, he’s the guy holding a large pole with the names of about 4 candidates, from the top of the ticket, down to those in local races. In the accompanying video, he talks about his navy career, his advocacy of GOP politics and some of the significant causes he supports in the Denton County area.
In the Navy, advancement to Master Chief petty officer carries requirements of time in service, superior evaluation scores, and selection by a board of master chiefs. Similarly, senior chief petty officers and chief petty officers are chosen by selection boards. In the Coast Guard, advancement to Master Chief petty officer is similar to other advancements consisting of competition with other advancement-eligible senior chief petty officers. Advancement-eligible senior chief petty officers are prioritized based on written examination scores, evaluations, award points, time in service, and time in grade. Master Chief petty officers are then selected monthly from this prioritization list as positions become available.
The rank insignia for a Master Chief is a white eagle with spread wings above three chevrons. The chevrons are topped by a rocker (arc) that goes behind the eagle. Two inverted silver stars (a reference to the stars used on the sleeves of line officers) are placed above the eagle. Between the arc and the top chevron is the specialty mark of the enlisted rating. Master Chief petty officers are generally considered to be the technical experts in their fields. They serve at sea and ashore in commands of all sizes. Many Master Chiefs choose to enter the command master chief petty officer program. If selected, a master chief receives additional leadership training and is assigned to a command as the Command Master Chief. The Command Master Chief is the senior enlisted person at a command and as such works as a liaison between the commanding officer and the enlisted ranks. In this capacity, he/she assists the commanding officer in issues of quality of life, discipline, training, and morale.
On submarines, he/she is called the chief of the boat or “COB.” The Command Master Chief insignia has a silver star in lieu of the enlisted rating between the arc and the top chevron. Although we may not remember the ranks or the corresponding insignias, let’s hope we never forget the sacrifices made by those who wore them and gave as much as they could in service to our country.
Bob Weir is a former NYPD officer, long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor.