Consisting of six Master Chief Petty Officers and four Senior Chief Petty Officers who led the way for future generations of Chief Petty Officers to attend the Coast Guard's premier enlisted leadership institution. Graduating on November 19th, 1982, their memento plaque read,
"We Came With The Hope That Others Might Follow."
Front row, left to right: DTCS Billie Powers, HSCS Richard "Rip" Rippert, EMCM Lou Maher. Back row, left to right: MKCS James Midgett, DCCM Charles Bosdell (Class President), ATCM Larry Brown, YNCM Herbert "Windy" Walker, YNCM Frank Love, MKCM David Isherwood, ETCS James Holmes
Prior to the 1950's, the enlisted workforce received virtually no standard leadership and management training. However, world events and technological progress forced changes in the Nation's conventional thinking and political strategies. The end of the Second World War brought significant budget and manpower cuts without subsequent reductions in global threats. Both the Asian and European Theater remained active in the face of Communism's global spread while both continents relied upon the economic stability of the United States. Responsibility for leadership and knowledge of sensitive information expanded from the officer corps into the enlisted workforce as result of global operational theaters, advanced technology, and smaller fighting forces.
Confronted with the potential for weapon technology falling into enemy hands and foreign force's use of captured soldiers as propaganda tools, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established The Code of Conduct on 17 August, 1955 with the issuance of Executive Order 10631. This not only established a universal philosophy for personal conduct, but also required the military to train its workforce to the code. Since the military had no service-wide enlisted leadership training after indoctrination, each service set out to implement new programs
Along with the spread of communism, significant retention issues plagued the military in the late 1940's and early 1950's. Increased technical responsibility and an advancement system with a plateau at E-7 caused significant problems in electronic, mechanical, aviation, and rocket technology fields as E-7's supervised E-7's. Facing the inability to advance or increase their quality of life, many enlisted members sought opportunity in a growing national economy. Public Law 85-422 was enacted May 20th, 1958 creating the E-8 and E-9 pay grades specifically to combat this trend. Each branch of the service was left to develop and train the new roles as they are not described within the law.
While informal leadership training occurred throughout the districts, the Coast Guard's first attempt at enlisted leadership training occurred in 1959 with the convening of Petty Officer Leadership School in Alameda, California. The course focused extensively on national pride, military bearing and the inherent threat of communism as dictated by the political climate in the country. A majority of the course was spent on the history of American Government, history of Communism, Military Drill, the Code of Conduct and Applied Leadership. Initially seen as a great opportunity for personal development, attitudes toward the course diminished as attendees shifted from rewarded high performers to punished poor attitudes. The program was eliminated in 1966.
Between 1966 and 1976 enlisted leadership training fell to the whims of the districts and local commands. In 1976, Senior Petty Officer Leadership and Management School (SPOLAM) convened in Yorktown after a needs-analysis recommended senior petty officer and junior officers attend leadership training. Shortly afterwards, a second location started in Petaluma, California. Predictably, split command roles and course locations caused conflicts within the professional development program and initiated a debate regarding the roles of training and education within the developmental system. As training and education responsibilities of Senior and Master Chiefs expanded, a new course was conceived to bridge the gap between expectations and performance.
Master Chief Glenn Lambert was the first Coast Guardsman to attend the Army Sergeant's Major Academy in Fort Bliss, Texas, graduating in 1982. His mission was to gather lessons learned from the Army Sergeant's Major Academy's (USASMA) 10 year history. Armed with information from modern business management courses, SPOLAM and USASMA, class one met in1982 and designed a Coast Guard senior enlisted academy. Following societal trends, the course focused on military requirements leaning heavily on modern leadership and management philosophies. Unlike the original POLS which focused on selfless service in a Nation facing communism, the new leadership classes focused predominately on self-awareness and personal development.
The U.S. Coast Guard's Chief Petty Officer Academy graduated its first class in November, 1982 from Coast Guard Reserve Training Center Yorktown, Virginia. Class I consisted of ten students, six Master Chief Petty Officers and four Senior Chief Petty Officers of various ratings. The first school chief was Master Chief Glenn Lambert and his staff was Senior Chief Bill Brown, whom he borrowed from the Leadership and Management School. Since their time was spent between class and evaluating material for future use, the course was ten weeks long.
With almost one and a half years between classes spent re-writing course material, Class II graduated on June 24, 1984. Class II consisted of 25 Chief, Senior Chief, and Master Chief Petty Officers.
In the summer of 1985, the Chief Petty Officer Academy moved from Yorktown to Training Center Petaluma, California. This move was part of the consolidation of the Leadership and Management Schools to the West coast. When the Academy moved to Training Center Petaluma, Master Chief Billie L. Powers, a graduate of Class I, took the helm. Class V was the first class to graduate from Petaluma on December 13, 1985.
Master Chief Billie Powers was transferred in the summer of 1986 and Master Chief Raymond E. Gage oversaw academy activities until Master Chief Donald E. Robertson arrived with class VIII in March, 1987.
The Coast Guard Reserves became involved in the program in Class IX with Chief Petty Officer James W. Roder.
During 1987, BMCS James R. Caldwell joined the Leadership and Management staff to establish the Coast Guard's Officer-in-Charge School. This school was affiliated with the Academy until 1991, with the two schools sharing staff members.
The next significant event in the Academy's history occurred in 1988 when a panel met and completed a new task analysis. The course length was reduced from eight to six weeks and Master Chief Petty Officers would be required to attend the Academy.
A gap of one year appeared between classes and Class XI ushered in the new era of six week classes. The Coast Guard and the Chief Petty Officer Academy realized that graduating all new Master Chiefs would be an overwhelming task with only two classes a year. Therefore, a decision was made requiring completion of the Chief Petty Officer Academy before taking the Service Wide Exam for Master Chief. This requirement was phased in over a four year period. Class dates were also increased to a total of four in 1992, five in 1994, and six in 1995.
To support the increase in classes, the Academy acquired its own staff billets rather than borrow personnel from the Leadership and Management School. In 1990, the first Academy staff senior chief billet was established and ASMCS Errol A. Kubicki arrived to fill it. In 1991, the remaining billets were established and SKC Richard Wagner arrived in the spring, followed by BMCM Gary Wilhelm and SKCS Marv Pugh in the summer.
During the graduation of Class XV in April, 1991, Master Chief Doug Robertson passed the mantle of School Chief of the Chief Petty Officer Academy to Master Chief Larry K. Marshall.
The CPO Academy student body grew steadily in size and variety. Class XV brought the first international student, CPOSY Shane Kneale, Royal Australian Navy and Class XXIII brought CPO Pepito A. Hilario, Philippine Navy. Class XXV was the first class to graduate thirty-two students.
The U.S. Air Force sent the first inter-service student to Class XV, Senior Master Sergeant Kevin Brown and the U.S. Navy sent its first student to Class XVI, Senior Chief Paul J. Westhoff.
In the summer of 1993, YNCS Patricia Stolle joined the staff and in July advanced to YNCM. She was the first active duty female to be advanced to Master Chief Petty officer in the Coast Guard.
The Academy graduated the first class of Reserve Chief Petty Officers in December, 1993. Twenty eight Senior Chiefs and one Master Chief representing 27 different reserve units completed 120 hours of programmed study in 12 days, covering 33 topics and activities. Those attending were required to successfully complete prerequisite non-resident training requirements and the new CPO correspondence course prior to attending the resident training portion.
During the graduation of Class XXVII in May, 1994, Master Chief Larry K. Marshall passed the mantle of School Chief of the Chief Petty Officer Academy to Master Chief Gary A. Wilhelm.
In 1995, the curriculum was again revised to meet the evolving needs of the Chief Petty Officer corps. Video-conferencing introduced technology into the classroom and the "ropes course" added a new dimension to experiential learning. Also introduced were several new initiatives with organizations such as DEOMI (Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute) and IGE (Institute for Global Ethics).
While giving the 1996 State of the Coast Guard Address, Admiral Robert Kramek referred to the Chief Petty Officer Academy as "the educational capstone of the enlisted corps." By this time, the program had graduated over one thousand students.
In 1996, the active duty staff grew to six with two additional reserve staff members during the two week Reserve course. In the spirit of Team Coast Guard, both courses ran concurrently.
During the graduation of Class XLIII in July, 1997, Master Chief Gary A. Wilhelm passed the mantle of School Chief of the Chief Petty Officer Academy to Master Chief Franklin A. Welch.
1997 also marked the beginning of future changes for the Chief Petty Officer Academy. Four years before, the Coast Guard's Office of Personnel chartered a leadership study (Leadership Workgroup One) that identified the advancement of an enlisted member from E-6 to E-7 as the most critical transition in an enlisted person's career. Other leadership initiatives led to the creation of the Coast Guard's Leadership Development Program and the establishment of the Leadership Development Center (LDC) on the grounds of the Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT in May 1998.
The LDC was formed by moving the CPO Academy, OIC School, LAMS, OCS, and the Leadership Quality Institute to New London while merging program management for all leadership schools under G-WTL. The Chief Petty Officer Academy (East) was started at the Leadership Development Center, holding concurrent classes with the academy located in Petaluma (West). Master Chief Sandy O'Toole was selected as the school chief and was joined by AMCS Mark Thomas, DCCS Gordy Yowell, and YNCS Angela McShan as staff members. With the LDC's creation, the CPO Academy's management, funding, and chain of command were consolidated with CPO Academy East while CPO Academy West remained a tenant command at TRACEN Petaluma. The MCPOCG remained a stakeholder and principle advocate for the CPO Academy.
The Coast Guard completed its enlisted career development study and the Chief Petty Officer Needs Assessment in1998. The target audience of the CPO Academy shifted from E-7's and E-8's to E-6 and E-7's. With the intended direction of the course changing, the analysis focused on surveys conducted by senior E-6's. The study identified 117 optimals, divided into four major themes: professionalism, leadership, communications, and systems thinking required of Chief Petty Officers. Of these optimals, 22 of them were identified as best resolved through resident training. The CPO Needs Assessment results became the foundation used to create a four and a half week course designed for newly advanced Chief Petty Officers.
ALDIST 173/98 announced these changes to the Coast Guard in July 1998. The ALDIST made attendance a requirement for all regular members advanced to E-7 on or after Jan 1, 1999, made Reserve E-7s eligible for the active-duty course, and cancelled a previous requirement for all Coast Guard E-8s to complete the Chief Petty Officer Academy prior to advancement to E-9. Although the gaps in performance were indentified in the E-6 population, the determination was made that no E-6's would be trained until the backlog of existing Chief's had the opportunity to attend.
Subsequent administrative changes were announced in ALDIST 219/99 in June, 1999. All active-duty and Reserve E-7s advanced on or after Jan 1, 1999 were now required to successfully complete the Chief Petty Officer Academy or a DOD Senior Enlisted Academy in order to be eligible to participate in the E-8 advancement process.
Because of the change in student focus to newly advanced E-7s, and the fact that the Navy's Senior Enlisted Academy was primarily designed for E-8's and above (no reciprocal attendance quotas for CG E-7's), the Navy discontinued its participation in 1999. Selected international and Air Force students continued to attend the Chief Petty Officer Academy.
These changes affected the Coast Guard Reserve as well. Beginning in the summer of 1999, two clasess convened at the Chief Petty Officer Academy East in addition to the four classes that convened for active duty chiefs.
The first class to graduate from Chief Petty Officer Academy East was Class LI on December 2, 1998. Chief Petty Officer Academy West graduated its first class of the new curriculum on February 17, 1999, and continued to graduate nine additional active duty classes that year.
In October 1999, Master Sergeant Eris J. Mackey, United States Air Force, joined the staff of Chief Petty Officer Academy East to serve as a permanent member and the first USAF exchange instructor to the CPO Academy.
In April 2000, Master Chief Franklin A. Welch departed and Senior Chief Brad Steigleder served as the intern school chief until he passed the mantle of leadership to Master Chief Timothy M. Bensley on July 15, 2000.
On November 1, 2000, CPO Academy East instructor, YNCS Angela McShan advanced to the rank of Master Chief Yeoman earning her a place in Coast Guard history. By her advancement, she became the first female African-American to attain the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer in the Coast Guard. Tragically, the next month on December 29, 2000, her life was cut short after she lost a battle with cancer. At the age of 39, she passed away surrounded by members of her family. She was buried with full military honors in her home town of Tuscaloosa, AL. Staff from both East and West Coast academies attended her funeral. The Office of Leadership and Professional Development released ALCOAST 552/01 announcing the establishment of an inspirational leadership award in her name. This award is presented annually to the deserving Chief Petty Officer who exemplifies the ideals of our core values, displays a keen sense of ethical conduct, and has a high degree of personal integrity.
On October 30, 2002, the 100th active duty class (Class C), graduated from Chief Petty Officer Academy East in New London, CT.
Many senior enlisted members were initially skeptical of moving the CPO Academy out of Petaluma and to the grounds of the Coast Guard Academy. Rather than be seen as the senior course at a facility, it would be one of many leadership opportunities. Facing the potential of a watered down experience and presented with a political opportunity, a group of officers and enlisted members pushed to consolidate the CPO Academy in Petaluma, vice New London. Increased demands for space at the Coast Guard Academy and severe competition for resources caused a decision to close Chief Petty Officer Academy East. Chief Petty Officer Academy East was officially closed on July 1, 2003, after graduating 21 active duty and 10 reserve classes in their short 5-year history. While the CPO Academy remained a tenant command at TRACEN Petaluma, the LDC remained the operational command.
The summer of 2003 offered many new challenges for the Chief Petty Officer Academy and its staff. First, the staff grew from five instructors to seventeen. An additional Master Chief billet was added for the position of Assistant School Chief, and for the first time in academy history, a YN billet was permanently added to provide administrative support. The academy welcomed the second U. S. Air Force exchange instructor, SMSgt Brad Gildea, to the staff. A resolution made by the combined East and West Staffs in the fall of 2002 to include a formal graduation banquet.
Additionally, the decision was made that the newly consolidated academy would convene 10 classes per year with 64 students in each convening. This required the outfitting of an additional classroom in the Juliet Nichols building, the home of the Chief Petty Officer Academy, as well as 4 additional breakout rooms and increased berthing rooms. On November 19, 2003, Class CXII became the first class to graduate 64 students.
For the next two years, Master Chief Bensley and his staff continued their 47-week training year graduating 10 classes (9 Regular and one Reserve) per year. During the graduation of Class CXXV in June 2005, Master Chief Timothy M. Bensley passed the mantle of School Chief of the Chief Petty Officer Academy to Master Chief John F. Niece.
With a background as a graduate of both the USAF's SNCO Academy and U.S. Army Sergeant's Major Academy, Master Chief Niece's brought his passion for a "joint" professional military education (JPME) and began the course's move back to its roots. An in-depth module of JPME focusing on global strategies and perspectives was added to the already robust curriculum. Additionally, the academy welcomed its third U.S. Air Force exchange instructor, SMSgt Gayle Thomas to the staff in 2005.
Also in 2005, CG administrative policies were amended and subsequently, all three People Plans (HQ, LANT, PAC) now included the statement, "All active duty and reserve Chief, Senior Chief, and Master Chief Petty Officers are required to attend the Coast Guard CPO Academy, or an equivalent DoD senior enlisted academy. Only those chiefs (E-7, E-8 & E-9s) with an approved retirement letter on file are exempt. All others must submit the required electronic training request (ETR) to attend one of the approved senior enlisted leadership academies." By the end of 2005, the academy graduated over 600 senior enlisted leaders.
In 2006, the academy welcomed its first two Department of Homeland Security agency partners, Senior Border Patrol Agents Linwood Knowles and John Henry Lopez. They brought a unique presence as members of Class CXXXIV (134) convened on 22 April 2006 and graduated on 24 May 2006.
Due to increased demand for seats at the academy, the school increased class size from 64 students per class to 68 students per class. Also, in 2006, in an effort to alleviate a growing backlog of non-attendees, the academy offered two Reserve classes in addition to its active duty classes.
With the graduation of Reserve Class XXIII in June 2007, another era of leadership was ushered in at the academy as Master Chief John F. Niece passed the mantle of School Chief of the Chief Petty Officer Academy to Master Chief Mark A. Thomas.
2007 continued to be a busy year at the academy as student throughput increased from 68 students to 72 students per class. In February, the academy welcomed the attendance of the first member of the Transportation Security Administration. Supervisor-Transportation Security Officer Scott Sweetella became a proud member of Class CXL (140) and added tremendous value to his classmate's experience.
In November 2007, the CPO Academy celebrated its rich 25-year history and heritage during the graduation week of Class CXLVI (the 25th Anniversary class). The academy played host to eight of the original ten members of CPO Academy Class I. The academy also had the pleasure of hosting the first School Chief of the CPO Academy, RMCM Glenn Lambert and his wife Delene, as well as former School Chiefs, Larry Marshall, Tim Bensley, and John Niece. Two former Master Chief Petty Officer's of the CG also joined us that week. There were briefings for the students of Class I on the current state of the academy, panel discussions with the members of Class I and Class CXLVI (146), discussions with the former School Chiefs and Class CXLVI, a VIP breakfast and luncheon, and finally, the graduation of Class CXLVI on 28 November 2007. That evening, Class I was recognized for their steadfast efforts in living their class motto, "We came in the hope that others might follow." We were also very honored to have the first recipient of the Spirit of the Chief award from Class I, Master Chief Frank Love present the Spirit of the Chief award to the winner from Class CXLVI.
By year's end, the academy had added 598 additional senior enlisted leaders to its list of graduates.
2008 ushered in an emphasis on sustained, maximum student throughput with a focus on content-rich and needs-based quality curriculum delivery. Due to the growing backlog of active duty non-attendees, the academy returned to offering only one Reserve academy class convening per year. With the retirement of SMSgt Gayle Thomas that summer, the academy welcomed its fourth USAF exchange instructor, SMSgt Terry J. Young. By year's end, the academy had added an additional 655 confident and competent senior enlisted leaders to its list of graduates.
In an agreement reached between then Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, MCPOCG Skip Bowen and the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, the U. S. Navy returned to the academy after an 11-year hiatus. This started with the arrival of SKCS Aundrey Moore, the CPO Academy's first exchange instructor from the U. S. Navy. SCPO Moore attended Class CLXIII in October that year and then assumed his official duties as liaison before year's end.
In 2010, the academy and its staff continued on its mission of providing a high-quality joint professional military experience. In February, four U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officers joined CPO Academy Class CLXVI (166), adding significantly to that class's experience.
In July at the beginning of Week 3 of CPO Academy Class CLXX's (170) experience, 24 members of the Senior Enlisted Leadership Course (SELC) - the New London based LDC enlisted capstone course, arrived in Petaluma for their class convening. They shared numerous experiences throughout the two week course. On August 4, 2010 (the 220th celebration of the Coast Guard's birth), the 70 members of CPO Academy Class CLXX (170) and the 24 members of SELC 04-10 graduated in a joint celebration of senior enlisted leadership excellence.
Additionally, Master Chief Mark A. Thomas passed the mantle of School Chief of the Chief Petty Officer Academy to Master Chief Edward F. Lewis. For Master Chief Thomas, this marked an end to his 12-year history with the CPO Academy. During Master Chief Lewis's speech, he announced that the two CPO Academy classrooms would be themed as Honor and Devotion to Duty. Master Chief Angela M. McShan was the first person posted in "Honor" and Master Chief Mark A. Thomas was posted to represent "Devotion to Duty".
MKCM Lewis spearheaded a full review of the course in the fall of 2010, including a full triennial review analysis, and launched the five-week course starting with class 174 in January 2011. The CPO Academy course was re-aligned for experienced CPO's vice those newly advanced due to the near three year average wait for orders after advancement to E-7.
MKCM Lewis brought a vision of a CPO Academy that resembled the original intent of POLS. The focus was intentionally shifted from predominately self awareness to selfless service; changes were based on exportable skill sets and leading the Chief's Mess. The course focused heavily on Coast Guard history, strategic policies, military bearing, and command cadre based case studies. Class 174 conducted the first layered defense Staff Ride at the Marin Headlands in January 2011. This process included preliminary research of coastal defense fortifications, experiential learning on site conducting presentations, and integration of lessons learned in current situations. While maintaining a strong focus on teamwork and participation in the Chief's Mess, the practice of avoiding rating specific titles was replaced as each member's rating must be acknowledge to understand the full scope of the Chief's Mess ability.
Further changes resulted in the use of portable electronic references, annually saving the Coast Guard $36,000 and reducing annual printed material by 1.2 million pages. The online JPME course was dropped and the material was added to existing lessons, further strengthening the tie between the role of a Chief and the organizations strategic goals. A majority of the onsite medical screening process was eliminated as was the CLEP/DSST test requirement, Institute educational assessment and Institute created degree plan in an effort to reduce logistical loads on the CPO Academy's supporting commands.
As a benefit of schedule and reference changes, the course throughput increased 10% while the re-occurring budget was reduced 50%. The funds were used to upgrade the ropes course, improve facilities, incorporate professional references, and conduct staff training. In an effort to bolster support from the Chief's Mess for the Commandant's Direction and advertise the senior command's support for the course, MKCM Lewis successfully scheduled the Commandant and all five Vice Admirals as graduation guest speakers over the course of 13 months. 2011's forty-nine continuous week schedule saw other mile stones as well: highest reserve throughput in a year (over 130) and the highest total graduates in a year (over 760). Finally, the CPO Academy saw a 66% reduction in cancelations and 70% decrease in fault disenrollment after implementation of new pre-screening procedures.