May 5, 2021 —
Our deckplate leader of the week is Chief Petty Officer Christopher Valdes, a boatswains mate aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk.
Valdes is the deck department chief overseeing two petty officers and 13 non-rates. In addition to overseeing deck department, which receives a new department head annually, Valdes is also a qualified deck watch officer, helicopter landing signals officer, pursuit coxswain, boarding officer, and is a member of the damage control training team and navigational and seamanship training team. Routinely in front of the crew, whether debriefing a damage control drill, conducting a pre-port call brief, outlining new Coast Guard policies, or providing annual training, Valdes fulfills any role Mohawk asks of him with candid assessments, easy to understand instructions, and a dash of charisma. Regardless of the evolution, Valdes plays a pivotal role in the daily operation of Mohawk, exemplifying exemplifies our core value of 'Devotion to Duty'.
As the unit command chief, Valdes brings the concerns of the crew and Chiefs Mess to the command's attention. He provides continuous feedback to the command about unit morale, enlisted concerns, and demonstrates the fortitude required to have tough conversations up and down the chain.
Chief goes above and beyond to mentor, develop, and assist junior personnel, and is the epitome of someone who leads from the front. As a personable and empathetic leader, he is found throughout the ship imparting wisdom and developing our most junior members. His leadership style prioritizes being even-keeled and coolheaded. Personnel consistently seek him out for guidance as evidenced by the attached photo. Hours before the start of the workday while awaiting small-boat training, Valdes noted a tear in a 70lbs rucksack used in the Mohawk’s gym. Sitting on the flight-deck sewing the rucksack, a four petty officers of different ratings naturally gathered around him as he transitioned the repair into an impromptu mentoring session with members from three different departments.
In your opinion, what makes a “good” Chief? I had a friend once tell me that every man is the hero of his own story and that is exactly what we should strive to be as a chief. The chief who every day looks in the mirror and knows they earn and wear their anchors with pride so the crew can always look up to them. The chief who is relied upon when things hit the fan and can get the job done. The chief who is still needed when they transfer and remembered when they are long gone. The Chief who inspires personnel to be the best version of themselves through hard work, dedication, and perseverance.
What advice do you have for junior members? To the junior members I would say work hard and earn your recognition, use your time wisely by continuing to grow every day, and learn from your environment. My uncle taught me when I got to a new unit to find the person that knows what they are doing and stick by their side. He called it the good ones. Every day is an opportunity to squeeze every ounce of training and knowledge from them before they transfer. You will know who the good ones are. They are our shipmates who are constantly being looked for when a job needs to get done and the shipmates that you would go to war with or want in your life raft. Don’t forget to learn from the bad ones as well. They will teach you what to not become. You have the power every day to inspire someone, becomes someone's friend, or a shoulder to lean on, and most importantly, become a better version of yourself than you were yesterday.