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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Feb. 18, 2021

Special Edition of Chief of the Week

By From Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard’s Facebook page

We have a very special deckplate leader shoutout this week. This recognition is not one chief petty officer, but a team of 16 chiefs serving aboard the nation’s sole heavy icebreaker, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star. 

Selecting one standout deckplate leader from the fleet’s largest afloat chief’s mess is not possible. The chiefs aboard Polar Star collectively serve with complementing leadership styles to best support the icebreaker’s 140-person crew and unique mission

The Polar Star is currently underway for a winder Arctic deployment to project power and support national security objectives throughout Alaskan waters and into the arctic.

On December 25, the Polar Star traversed farther north in the winter than any U.S. surface ship in history. Certainly a prideful feat for the crew, but navigating the harsh, dark, frigid, and remote Arctic environment for a months-long patrol poses an unusual challenge to the chief’s mess, who work day-by-day to safeguard the well-being and assurance of every member of Polar Star’s crew – including each other in the mess. 

Chief Petty Officer Jason Billings, the cutter’s command chief, said there is not a chief serving aboard the Polar Star who has not given his or her blood, sweat, and tears in support of the icebreaker’s crew and mission, and is proud to be doing so. 

What makes a good chief’s mess?

Open lines of communication is a chief’s mess key component. A chief’s mess is a family, and it’s important to understand every member will inevitably have differing ideas on how to get a job done, but no chief’s opinion is more important than another’s. Speaking openly, frankly, and respectfully among each other in the mess is the first step to success. 

What advice can the chief’s mess offer to junior members?

Trust a chief’s mess is looking out for the best interest of not only the unit, but serving as a link to connect each unit member with purpose and realization of their potential. Chief strive to ensure every person at a unit, regardless of rank, knows they play a vital role in the unit’s mission success.

There will be times you won’t understand or don’t agree with a chief’s decision, but know your chief made a thoughtful decision best for the crew, the cutter, and the mission. A well-functioning chief’s mess is critical to mission success, but a highly-functioning chief’s mess is an unstoppable force. 

THANK YOU to this Chief’s Mess. I am proud to serve along side every single one of you.
~Petty Officer 1st Class Cynthia Oldham. 

Do you know a chief who deserves to be recognized as Chief of the Week? Please contact