Air Force senior NCOs visit the Goat Locker

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- There comes a pivotal moment in becoming a leader when a chosen few Sailors face one of the biggest challenges of their career.

For over 100 years, the tradition of what is commonly known as Initiation, or most recently Acceptance, has separated the Navy and the Coast Guard’s E-7s from all other services. Acceptance is a six week rigorous course of sleep deprivation, physical training and over-tasking to prepare new E-7s for the role of chief.

“There is a very distinct difference between an E-7 and a chief,” explained Chief Petty Officer Shane T. Tuttle, Navy Information Warfare Training Command Goodfellow assistant officer in charge. “A chief has been accepted in the Mess and has a voice; every chief has a voice for every decision.”

Once a Sailor becomes a chief, they become a part of the Chief Petty Officer Mess. Tuttle described the Mess as a diverse, yet unified brotherhood with one voice.

To be welcomed into the brotherhood, Sailors must go through the entire six week phase of Acceptance.

“It is a very intense process,” said Tuttle. “Not everyone gets through it, but it is an opportunity to be a part of a very cool thing, and it’s not just exclusive to the Navy anymore. We are starting to extend the invite to other branches because we are so integrated.”

The 17th Training Wing command chief and First Sergeant Counsel members visited the Navy Center for Information Dominance Detachment Goat Locker, or CPO Mess, on April 7 to learn about the Acceptance process.

“It was eye opening in the sense that there is a very different welcoming into the rank of senior NCO in the Navy than there is in the Air Force,” said Master Sgt. Bryan M. Peel, 316th Training Squadron First Sergeant. “For us, you take the test, get a good board score, are selected to promote and finally attend the induction ceremony. But with the Navy, you then can be formally accepted into the Chief’s Mess, which offers a significant degree of separation between being an E-7 and being a Chief.”

The Navy chiefs showed the first sergeants a glimpse of what it’s like to experience the six week endeavor before becoming accepted into the Mess.

“This is what I took away from it: if you are not a humble person, you will learn humility when you’re going through those six weeks,” said Peel.

Peel shared more of what he learned from the Navy chiefs. He asked them, “What were the weaknesses you learned about yourself?”

One of the guys mentioned his struggle with anger. Every time someone yelled at him, he would start clenching up.

“Most of them said trust,” Peel added. “Trust was another one of the things they were weak at, and they had to learn to trust folks to get through that six weeks and to even be accepted.”

Peel mentioned that although right now he would simply not have time to commit himself to such a program due to his duties as a first sergeant, he strongly recommends other Air Force senior NCOs to join the Navy chiefs in their tradition.

“I was deeply deeply humbled and honored to have a glimpse into it,” said Peel. “It was an eye-opening thing to experience what the Navy does to further develop their chiefs. It was an absolute honor.”