FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Navy chief induction season is at full steam ahead, while navigating an unusual route this year.

Induction kicked off with an Expectations Conference for spouses Aug. 7 at the Navy Operational Support Center and an Army Soldier has joined the chief selectees for the process; both firsts for Sailors at Fort Sam Houston.

Navy Command Master Chief Vernon Gardner, command master chief for the NOSC, held the conference, "so spouses can be aware of the expectations of the process and be supportive of the selectees," he said.

The season concludes Sep. 16 with a pinning ceremony.

"I've got a lot of respect for Navy chiefs," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Alan Butler, who is participating in the induction process with 23 selectees.

"They're a lot closer and tight knit - they use each other. They lean on each other a lot to get things done."

Butler is the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Combat Casualty Care Course at Camp Bullis. He said he worked with Navy chiefs and decided to go through the process to better serve the Sailors in his command.

"It's just a different way that you raise Navy Sailors than you do Army Soldiers - so what better way than to get the actual training; going through induction with individuals that are about to be pinned Navy chiefs."

"This is one of the first times in my experience, we're bringing a sergeant first class through induction to the mess," Gardner said, adding that Butler aims to be a stronger leader and mentor through experiencing what the chief selectees go through during induction.

Induction is an intense six-week training period. "We do some formal classroom training. We give them scenarios about leading and developing Sailors in different environments. We mentally and physically train and develop with them for positions of increased responsibilities," Gardner said.

He explained induction activities emphasize leadership, teamwork, Navy tradition, pride and professionalism, while challenging the selectee on a daily basis.

Chiefs are the cornerstone - the first echelon of the senior enlisted ranking structure in the Navy. Selection for chief is a significant milestone in a Sailor's career.

"Once you become chief in the United States Navy, it's not just an advancement or promotion. It's a career change, a way-of-life change," Gardner said.

Established April 1, 1893, the rank formalized a tradition of rating the senior, most experienced Sailor aboard ship as the "chief" Sailor - an individual designated by the captain of the ship as the one in charge of the enlisted crew.

As the Navy evolved, the chief became more than just the Sailor selected to be in charge.
"A good chief can see potential that a Sailor will never see within him or herself. The chief can pull that potential out by inspiring and motivating that Sailor," Gardner said.

Gardner said he didn't come into the Navy to make it a career until he saw the effectiveness of the chief's mess.

"At my first command I had the opportunity to be mentored by a chief and saw the chief's mess in full operation. Then, I knew that I wanted to be the chief - and not only the chief but a command master chief in the Navy."

Induction is very unique process Gardner said. "It's a heritage of pride and professionalism that goes into training Navy chiefs.