A Curious Jacket

11-2 MCPON Black Uniform (2)What’s up with this jacket?  I came across it during an inventory of the NMAS uniform collection. The three stars above the rating insignia told me this was no ordinary Chief’s jacket. But then what is it?

A quick search taught me that three stars above the insignia are only worn by the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON), the senior most enlisted member of the U.S. Navy. Problem solved, right?  Not quite.

MCPON’s rating is a single inverted gold star. But this uniform has the insignia of a Gunner’s Mate. To solve this mystery, I decided to look up the men who have served as MCPON. I didn’t have to search too long: the very first MCPON, Delbert D. Black, had been a Gunner’s Mate. It wasn’t until after his tenure that the inverted gold star replaced the insignia of MCPON’s original rating.

Black enlisted in the Navy in 1941 and was aboard the USS Maryland during the attack on Pearl Harbor later that year. He continued to serve in the Navy following World War II, eventually achieving the rate of Master Chief Gunner’s Mate. In 1967, senior Naval leadership realized that the enlisted personnel in the Navy needed to have a representative to voice their concerns. They created the Senior Enlisted Advisor of the Navy (soon changed to Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy) and selected Black to serve a four-year term. MCPON serves as the spokesman for all enlisted personnel in the Navy and reports to the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Naval Personnel.

MCPON Stevens views MCPON Black’s uniform during a visit to NMAS. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin L. Carey/Released)

MCPON Stevens views MCPON Black’s uniform during a visit to NMAS. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin L. Carey/Released)

Black served as MCPON until his retirement in 1971. Since then, twelve other men have followed in his footsteps. The current MCPON, Michael D. Stevens, visited NMAS earlier this year. During the visit, he viewed unique artifacts in the collection – including the uniform jacket worn by the very first MCPON.

To learn more about MCPON, visit http://www.navy.mil/mcpon/index.asp.

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