The U.S. Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Combination Cap is identical to the one worn by Chief Petty Officers except for the addition of a single silver star with one ray pointing up placed atop the CPO cap device—a gold “fouled anchor” with a silver shield affixed to its shank. This design is in contrast to the cap device worn by Senior Chief Petty Officers (SCPOs) in the Navy which orients the star with a single ray pointing downward.

Chief Petty Officer was established as the E-7 pay grade in the Coast Guard by Congressional legislation in 1920, and it would remain the highest grade enlisted personnel could reach without a commission until 1958. In 1922, the Coast Guard published both uniform guidelines and personnel requirements for the new grade. Among the benchmarks CPO candidates had to meet were to be at least 21 years in age, have at least a year of Coast Guard service to their credit, and, to quote an essay on the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association's Web site, display a record of “sobriety, rating proficiency and obedience.” Further, they had to be literate (able to read and write in English) and capable of performing common math functions, such changing decimal numbers into fractions and vice-versa.

The E-8 pay grade was established by Congress in 1958 and was designated as Senior Chief Petty Officer in both the Coast Guard and the Navy. Advancement from CPO to SCPO requires not only completion of the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Academy, but also above-average evaluations and exam grades and time spent both in grade (i.e., as a CPO) and in service (cumulative).

Although the SCPO rate deserves great respect in both the Navy and the Coast Guard, it’s generally recognized that E-8 Guardsmen are given greater responsibilities than their Navy counterparts out of necessity: the much-smaller Coast Guard must make the most out of their highly qualified and experienced. According to an article titled “Coast Guard Chiefs Got Later Start” published in Chiefs International in 1997, Coast Guard Chiefs are given command of boat stations and small ships—and the authority to administer discipline when they are in command, a responsibility handed only to commissioned officers in the United States Navy.

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