Coast Guard personnel who have reached the paygrade of E-7 or higher have a unique blend of knowledge, experience, and leadership skills that makes them ideally suited to serve as the intermediary between the enlisted workforce and the officers leading them. The Command Senior Enlisted Leader (CSEL) program gives Chiefs, Senior Chiefs, and Master Chiefs the authority to bring the issues that concern enlisted personnel directly to the attention of Coast Guard leadership, while at the same time working to keep enlisted Coast Guardsmen informed not only of changes in policy or procedure, but also helping them understand why such changes are being implemented.

When it was originally introduced, the CSEL program was implemented at various levels throughout the Coast Guard’s command structure. A Senior CPO designated as the CSEL for a unit, for instance, is known as a Command Senior Chief (Unit) and reports directly to the unit commander; a Master CPO selected as the CSEL for the Pacific Area Command is the Command Master Chief, Coast Guard Pacific Area and is the direct representative of the Commander, Pacific Area. Consequently, Coast Guard personnel serving as the CSEL at a particular command level are often referred to simply as “Command Chiefs” regardless of their paygrade.

Prior to 2012, the Coast Guard issued silver identification badges for Command Chiefs serving at the Sector level. Established in 2004, the Sector system consolidated the multiple field operations like Vessel Traffic Services, Marine Safety, and Search and Rescue under one the command and control of a single operational authority. Sector Command Chief badges displayed the rate insignia of the CSEL—CPO, Senior CPO, or Master CPO—with the word “SECTOR” emblazoned below it.

COMDTINST M1020.6G revised the Command Chief insignia system, eliminating the Sector badge. Command Chiefs at the Sector level now wear the Silver Badge Command badge; originally issued only to Master and Senior Chiefs, the Silver Badge is now authorized to be awarded to E7 Chiefs who serve as the CSEL reporting to a Sector Commander (although the likelihood of an E7 being selected as a Sector Command Chief is very small).

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