CHARLESTOWN, Mass.-- USS Constitution kicked off its 15th annual Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Heritage Weeks from the ship's berth in Charlestown, Mass., Aug. 14.
CPO Heritage Weeks is a weeklong training cycle held on successive weeks, in which Constitution's crew teaches CPO selectees time-honored maritime evolutions such as 18th century boarding pike drills, War of 1812-era gun drills using a 24-pound naval long gun, and line and sail handling.
The training runs through Aug. 25, and more than 150 selectees will go through the heritage training each week, with 25 mentor CPOs on board to assist Constitution's crew in conducting the training.
The training is designed to instill pride in naval heritage in the Navy's senior enlisted leaders.
"These events are something each chief will cherish for a lifetime, and the experiences are those which can be shared with their Sailors, fellow chiefs and family members," said Constitution Command Master Chief Roxanne Rhoades. "Also, as we celebrate the War of 1812 Bicentennial, this year's CPO Heritage Weeks is even more important. We turn full circle on why our forefathers developed a Navy; to keep the sea lanes of trade open and protect this great country of ours."
Additionally, selectees will support the local community by helping at the New England Homeless Veterans Center, Old Soldier's Home in Chelsea, Mass. and at Harvard-Kent Elementary School in Charlestown, Mass.
"Advancement to chief petty officer is a significant moment in my Navy experience," said Chief (select) Master-at-Arms (SW/EXW) Marina Chavez, Constitution's command master-at-arms. "Throughout the years, I've been fortunate enough to work for many good chiefs, senior chiefs and master chiefs that have mentored and trained me. Now, it's my turn to learn what I can here so I can pay it forward and provide sound leadership for the next generation."
A unique aspect of this year's training will be furling and unfurling sails. Constitution is scheduled to sail under its own power Aug. 19 for the first time since 1997, during an underway demonstration to commemorate Constitution's historic victory over HMS Guerriere during the War of 1812. The result of the battle was also how the ship earned her famous nickname "Old Ironsides."
"I cannot think of a better way to honor those who fought in the war as well as celebrate Constitution's successes during the War of 1812 than for the ship to be under sail," said Cmdr. Matt Bonner, Constitution's 72nd commanding officer. "The event also ties our past and present by having the ship not only crewed by the outstanding young men and women who make up her crew but also the 150 chief petty officer selects who join us for their Heritage Week."
Constitution is the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors per year. She defended the sea lanes against threat from 1797 to 1855, much like the mission of today's Navy. America's Navy: Keeping the sea free for more than 200 years.
Constitution's mission today is to offer community outreach and education about the ship's history. Currently, the crew is planning to commemorate bicentennial of the War of 1812 through public demonstrations and educational activities at eight Navy Weeks across the U.S. in 2012.