Since 1967, the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) has been the voice of enlisted Sailors, bringing their concerns and needs to the officers serving at the highest levels of the U.S. Navy’s chain of command. When Congress meets to decide on changes in Naval policy or funding that directly affect enlisted Sailors in areas such as housing, pay, job safety, or family support, the MCPON is there to testify about what he has seen and heard during his extensive travels and meetings with Sailors across the globe.

This type of representation was unknown before the establishment of the MCPON rate—and a look at the status of Navy morale, productivity, and performance prior to the introduction of this billet makes it clear why it was so desperately needed.

The early 1960s was a challenging time for the Navy. By 1964, on the heels of the crises in Cuba and Berlin and with the beginning of the buildup for U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, the Navy was in desperate need of experienced Sailors. But retention rates were reaching levels that were downright alarming: Only about ten percent of “first-timers” were re-enlisting. These levels not only increased the pressure on gaining new recruits, they also entailed the subsequent expenses involved in training new Sailors—expenses that would be avoided if veterans would choose to stay in service.

Paul H. Nitze, the Secretary of the Navy, commissioned a task force to find methods to substantially improve the abysmal retention rates. Organized under the supervision of the Chief of Naval Personnel, the task force was headed by Rear Admiral John Alford and its findings were sent directly to Nitze. In a somewhat startling move, the task force encouraged Sailors to bypass the chain of command and send their complaints and suggestions directly to Admiral Alford. The effort to get as much input as possible even extended to All Hands magazine, which created a “Four Star Forum” where Sailors could tell what changes they’d implement if they were able to sit in the chair of the Chief of Naval Operations for just one hour.

In February of 1966, the task force published its finding, which it said represented the perspectives and opinions of a cross-section of more than 100,000 Navy personnel. Over 100 items were approved for implementation, covering areas such as pay, education, sea/shore rotations, advancement opportunities, medical care, and obviously much more. In a category concerning recognition of professional achievements, special attention was paid to increasing the prestige associated with achieving petty officer status; one of the recommendations was to “establish a billet for the ‘Leading Chief Petty Officer of the Navy’” and “provide a ‘direct dialogue channel’ between enlisted personnel and the LCPO.”

The recommendation was approved, and after naming Master Chief Gunner’s Mate Delbert Black as the “Senior Enlisted Advisor of the Navy” in January of 1967, the title was changed to its current designation of Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy. Since that time, 13 enlisted men have served in that billet. The current MCPON, Michael D. Stevens, began his Naval career as an Aviation Structural Mechanic.

The MCPON rating badge we offer reflects the honor and prestige associated with the rate, with an eagle crafted from silver bullion on a white gabardine material and gold lace chevrons.
Large (Male)
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Good Conduct

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