JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
An honorary Master Chief Petty Officer, also the wife of the first Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, highlighted the annual Chief Petty Officer Pride Day events hosted by the Joint Base San Antonio area CPOs at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 76 Sept. 7.
Honorary Master Chief Petty Officer, or MCPO, Ima Black, wife of retired Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Delbert Black was the guest speaker, addressing attending fiscal year 2020 CPO selects, and current and veteran CPOs.
CPO Pride Day, part of the JBSA area CPO initiation process, was filled with military heritage events, military skills demonstrations, and interaction between CPO selects and active duty, Reserve, retired and veteran CPOs, referred to as “genuine chiefs” by CPO selects. CPO Initiation, known as “the season,” is six weeks of leadership training, military knowledge and team-building skills.
Though a JBSA CPO event, participants traveled from as far as Dallas. JBSA Navy commands participating included Naval Technical Training Center Lackland; Navy Recruiting District San Antonio; Navy Operational Support Center San Antonio; Navy Medicine Training Support Center; Navy Medicine Education, Training and Logistics Command; and Navy Information Operations Command Texas.
Black enlisted in the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services) in 1943 and was named an honorary master chief in June 2007. She talked about the history of the MCPON and her husband’s problem-solving role.
“In 1967, the Navy had a problem,” Black said. “Enlistments were at an all-time low. Morale was low. A committee was appointed to assess the problem and to find a solution to the situation. From the committee came the recommendation that the Navy enlisted needed representation in Washington – a spokesperson, one of their own, someone who was familiar with the problems and could present them to the senior officials and to congress. It didn’t take long for the name GMCM Delbert D. Black to surface.”
Black said senior leadership initially didn’t feel the need for the position. But this was a committee that made improvement its business. Leadership and the congress came around.
Black continued, describing the MCPON’s humble beginnings.
“In spite of all this, Master Chief Black, with 25 years of experience, started with a staff of one – one telephone, one desk, one file cabinet,” she said. “He built an office that made us all proud.”
Black’s words resonated with Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jacob York, an NMTSC CPO select.
“MCPON Black laid the foundation that gave the enlisted ranks and chief’s mess representation at the highest level,” York said. “It is incumbent upon all of us to uphold the integrity of the office and his legacy.”
Black’s comments included words of advice and encouragement for York and his fellow CPO selects.
“Continue what you are doing,” she said. “Study hard. My husband would say you have to be a good listener. If you are doing all the talking, you aren’t learning.”
Army, Marine Corps and Air Force E-7 selects, current E-7 and above non-commissioned officers, and Coast Guard 1st class petty officers selected for E-7 and Coast Guard CPOs-MCPOs may request to participate in the Navy’s initiation program.
Air Force Master Sgt. Rosa Barringer from the 59th Medical Wing was approved to participate. She said Ima Black motivated her and her fellow CPO selects.
“I think having Mrs. Black speak to us before pride day was the best form of motivation any of us could have asked for,” Barringer said. “Her level of commitment and dedication to the Navy and the chief’s mess is unparalleled, so to have her speaking prior to our performance is an honor that few get to experience. Her actions teach us that our commitment to our people pays huge dividends. Her speech motivated all the selectees to perform at their maximum level."
Black's comments about CPO heritage also spoke to initiated CPOs like Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Arroyave.
Arroyave, assigned to NMTSC and lead for CPO Pride Day, said, “Mrs. Black represents decades of CPO heritage. Her presence in our CPO Pride Day regional event exemplifies the importance behind this process for our future CPOs and reminds our current chief’s mess why we must continue forging future leaders. The foundational building blocks for a chief petty officer are tradition, heritage and family. Mrs. Black is all in one. Her timing could not have been better as our selects prepare for their culminating event of acceptance.”
The culminating event was a Sept. 15 ceremony where the CPOs will be pinned with CPO anchors – two for their collars and one for their hats, or “covers.”
Ima Black is unable to attend the pinning ceremony, but she has the memories and experience of San Antonio’s CPO Pride Day, a day she described as meaningful and memorable for her as it was for the participants.
“It becomes more meaningful, and I am more appreciative of the Navy and what it has meant to me,” Black said. "It’s been my life and my husband’s life. This just brings back all those memories.”