U.S. NAVY SENIOR CHIEF PETTY OFFICER (E8) SOFT EPAULETS

There is considerable debate among Navy historians as to precisely when the rate of Chief Petty Officer (CPO) was established, with much of the argument revolving around semantics, pay rates, and perceived intentions. But two things are certain beyond the shadow of a doubt. First, the United States Navy established the pay grade of Chief Petty Officer on April 1, 1893 in nine ratings: Apothecary, Band Masters, Boatswain’s Mate, Carpenter’s Mate, Gunner’s Mate, Machinist, Master-at-Arms, Quartermaster, and Yeoman. Second, the rate of Chief Petty Officer would the highest rate that could be achieved by an enlisted Sailor for the next 63 years unless they were tapped to become Warrant Officers or Limited Duty Officers (the latter wasn't even established until 1948).

On June 1, 1958, the rates of Senior Chief Petty Officer and Master Chief Petty Officer were established at the respective paygrades of E8 and E9. Chief Petty Officers with a minimum of four years at that grade and a total of ten years of service were eligible for promotion to the Senior Chief Petty Officer rate. To make the jump from CPO (E7) to Master CPO required a minimum of six years of service as a CPO and 13 years of total service. Section 517 of Chapter 31 of Title 10 in the U.S. Code specifies that, in a given fiscal year, no more than 2.5 percent of the Navy’s enlisted personnel can be in pay grade E8 (there is some leeway for more if there are smaller numbers of Sailors in the E9 pay grade than allowed).

Two months later after the establishment of the two new rates, CPOs with records of outstanding service were allowed to take examinations to determine their eligibility for promotion, with those passing being promoted on November 16, 1958. Of the 1060 CPOs promoted, 146 were elevated to the rate of Master Chief Petty Officer, and 914 were named Senior Chief Petty Officers.

All Petty Officers. Senior Chiefs included, have a rate and rating, or job specialty, and each rating has an abbreviation. Because the Navy’s abbreviation standards list the rating and rank together with the rating appearing first, it actually is the reverse of how you would speak the title (or write it as you see here). For example, the abbreviation for a Senior Chief Petty Officer in the Aerographer’s Mate rating would be AGCS, which if you read it out loud precisely as it is written would be “Aerographer’s Mate Chief Senior.”

Until 2016, the Senior CPO rate was always in the rating from which the CPO came, for example, Chief Builder or Chief Boatswain’s Mate. But in January of that year, the Navy announced that Sailors who were promoted to the E8 paygrade in three ratings—Builders (BU), Engineering Aid (EA), and Steelworker (SW)—would merged into a new rate called Senior Chief Constructionman (CUCS). Before this change, the only other ratings that were "compressed" at the E8 pay grade were two service ratings in the overall rating of Aviation Structural Mechanic (AM): Sailors promoted to E8 from E7 in Safety Equipement (AME) and Hydraulics and Structures (AM) became Senior Chief Aviation Structural Mechanics (AMCS.)

two service ratings in the Aviation Structural Mechanic rating, Safety Equipment (AME) and Hydraulics and Structures (AM) to form the Senior Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic)


The design of the epaulettes for a Senior CPO is identical to that of a CPO except that a single, inverted star appears above the anchor.
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