Coronado, California - Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Mike Stevens visited the crew of aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) July 17 for an all-hands call prior to the ship's upcoming deployment.
"First and foremost, I want to thank these Sailors for all the hard work and preparation they have invested in this deployment already," said Stevens. "I wish them and their families all the best and want them to know Theresa and I are thinking about them."
Carl Vinson completed pre-deployment training as part of Carrier Strike Group 1 (CSG 1) with elements of Destroyer Squadron 1 (DESRON 1) and Carrier Air Wing 17 (CVW 17) in June. Carl Vinson is scheduled to deploy for 10 months to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean areas.
"I believe I can speak for the Navy when I say that the performance of the Carl Vinson and its crew, along with the support that their families provide, has been unwavering and has allowed the United States the ability to ensure the Navy's forward presence is always where it matters, when it matters, as the Chief of Naval Operations often reminds us," said Stevens.
Because of the extended time Carl Vinson and the rest of CSG-1 will deploy, ships deploying afterwards will fall into timetables for the Navy's new Optimized Fleet Response Plan (O-FRP), said Stevens.
O-FRP is designed to provide Sailors and their families with more stability and predictability for when they will be at sea by standardizing the length of deployments to eight months. The changes are intended to help even out Sailors' home life and return a sense of normalcy to their schedules.
O-FRP comes with other benefits as well. MCPON outlined the Navy's plan for a "high deployment allowance" to Sailors, which will award Sailors an additional $17 a day, up to $500 a month, after 220 days deployed. The high deployment allowance is in the pipeline for approval by the Secretary of the Navy.
"The Navy recognizes the sacrifices that you and your families are making," Stevens said. "This initiative shows our Sailors and their families how much we value their commitment and sacrifice, and in some small way this helps compensate them for their time away."
MCPON also briefed the crew on his E-Sailor initiative to put tablets into the hands of Sailors, giving them ease of access to necessary training and command information while also providing them with a personal device with which to connect with family and friends.
"Smart devices are a part of our everyday culture. It's not a thing that we can avoid," Stevens said. "I believe it's something we have to embrace. Reliance on smart devices is increasing, and I want to make sure the Navy is ready to adapt."
MCPON envisions equipping every Sailor in the fleet with a smart device capable of cloud connectivity to act as a "personal companion" that would store medical records, orders, and other important information, as well as giving Sailors real-time updates on command activities and planning.
"Learning about the E-Sailor initiative made me excited for my future in the Navy. I also feel better about the deployment knowing we are helping to set the pace for the entire fleet," said Personnel Specialist Ernest Frame from Carl Vinson's Administration Department. "MCPON Stevens was very personable, and I really believe he cares about every Sailor in the fleet."
During the all hands call, Stevens also educated Sailors on a new change coming to the fleet Sept. 1. Each commanding officer will have the authority to authorize their unit to wear a command ball cap with the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) Type I, II and III.
"Sailors love their ball caps. Since we implemented the current NWU in 2009 when I was a Force Master Chief, and every time I would come out and do fleet engagements as the MCPON, Sailors would ask me about bringing back ball caps," Stevens said. After hearing the same message for five years, MCPON and CNO are making the change.
Stevens made it clear he is still listening to the fleet when he invited Carl Vinson Sailors on stage with him for questions.
"I'm here to hear from you, more than anything else, because I'm going to go back to Washington and they're going to ask me to make decisions that are going to impact you and your family, and I want to make sure that those decisions are made on your behalf," said Stevens.
Questions about potential Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) changes and the need for expanded capacity of child development centers were two concerns Sailors presented to MCPON during the open session.
One Carl Vinson Sailor received the MCPON's personal coin after asking for career advice.
"Number one, no matter what your job is, work hard every single day," said Stevens. "Whatever your job is, give it your best effort every day, and do it with a smile on your face and the energy and the passion that it deserves, because it is what the American people expect and demand of us.
"Number two, stay out of trouble. That means doing the right thing on and off duty. If you don't do the right thing, all of that hard work that you've been putting into your job can just go away.
"Number three is what I consider to be the most important thing: be a good and decent person to yourself, your shipmates, your family and your friends. We have many programs and training in place to deal with a lot of things that trouble our Navy, but if we were all good and decent people, we wouldn't need those programs - good and decent people do the right thing," said Stevens.
MCPON ended the all hands call by saying that when he looked out into the gathered crowd of Carl Vinson Sailors, he saw family.
"And I'm not embarrassed to say that I love my family," Stevens said. "Theresa and I love and care for all of you."
While on board, Stevens also met with CSG-1 Commander Rear Adm. Christopher Grady and Carl Vinson's Commanding Officer Capt. Kent Whalen.