June 17, 2014, PEARL HARBOR (NNS) – The senior hands of deck-plate leadership changed recently with the arrival of the 15th Force Master Chief to Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Force Master Chief Russ Mason relieved Force Master Chief Cash Caldwell in a time-honored change of office and retirement ceremony for Caldwell and Mason with family and friends gathered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, June 6.
“I am very excited about this responsibility and look forward to working with the finest men and women the United States has to offer,” said Mason.
A career submariner, Mason is from Mears, Michigan, and graduated Hart High School in 1984. He entered the Navy in July of that same year. After boot camp in Orlando, Florida, he attended Quartermaster “A” school followed by submarine school in Groton, Connetticut.
Mason’s first assignment was in December 1984 when he reported to USS Ulysses S. Grant (SSBN 631). While aboard Grant, Mason was advanced to the rank of petty officer second class.
After a strategic deterrent patrol aboard USS Alexander Hamilton (SSBN 617), Mason earned his enlisted submarine warfare qualification, his Silver “dolphins,” on Nov. 18, 1986.
Mason was selected as the 1997 Shore Sailor of the Year for Navy Region Northeast while stationed at Naval Education and Training Center (NETC) in Newport, Rhode Island. Prior to his tour of duty at NETC, he completed five strategic deterrent patrols and was advanced by his command to petty officer first class on board USS Florida (SSBN 728).
Mason earned the rank of chief petty officer and completed one western pacific deployment while on USS Key West (SSN 722) in Pearl Harbor, and then promoted to senior chief petty officer while serving as the ship’s assistant navigator on USS Tucson (SSN 770), having completed two more western pacific deployments.
Between May 2005 and May 2014, Mason served as the chief of the boat (COB) on board both USS West Virginia (SSBN 736) and USS Tennessee (SSBN 734) in Kings Bay, Georgia; and command master chief positions at Submarine Squadrons 6 and 8 in Norfolk, Virginia and Submarine Group 7 in Yokosuka, Japan.
In his new assignment as the Force Master Chief for the Pacific Submarine Force, Mason highlighted three key objectives.
“First, we need to get a better handle on the chief petty officer sea billet gaps in Guam and Hawaii,” said Mason. “Our chiefs run the submarine force, and we need to do a better job of filling gapped billets by getting reliefs on board at the periodic rotation dates (PRD) of those chiefs that have completed a full sea tour. We are doubling our efforts to notify chiefs and prospective chiefs of the boat at least one year prior to their PRD’s to allow them to prepare their families for the moves. We are doing too much just-in-time detailing, and that is not fair to the Sailor, their family, the submarine or the Navy. Sailors work hard while on sea duty and they deserve a full shore tour when the time comes; so we need to fix that.”
As a second key objective, Mason identified a need to create quality shore duty opportunities for our first-term Sailors. “We are looking at ways to provide more opportunities for petty officers that have completed their first sea tour to be able to go to shore duty in their field of expertise, to better prepare them for their second sea tour which is typically their leading petty officer tour.”
Third, Mason wants to increase the visibility of Sailors doing great deeds, and empower Sailors to be active by-standers to stop their shipmates before they make bad choices that reflect negatively on their shipmates and the submarine force.
Addressing the chief’s mess, Mason stressed leadership.
“Leading is easy when Sailors want to be led; it’s harder when they need to be coaxed,” said Mason. “It is the chief’s responsibility to focus our Sailors on teamwork, to ensure their Sailors have a quality experience in a professional environment, and to value their Sailors and families as individuals. I also want our submarine chiefs to focus on training their reliefs, to ensure the next generation of chief petty officer is ready to perform as “The Chief.”
Mason said the three most important decisions Sailors make in their lives are their decision for a personal relationship with God, whom they marry, and what they do for a career. He said it is the Sailor’s personal responsibility to determine how successful they will be in the Navy and in life.
“Most Sailors don’t have success without some setbacks, and the successful Sailors are always the ones who don’t let those setbacks define who they are,” added Mason. “Sailors will never go wrong if they remember Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens’ mantra of working hard, staying out of trouble, and being good and decent people.”
Mason would like every Sailor to ask themselves two questions every day.
“We are submarine warriors in the greatest Navy and submarine force the world has ever known,” said Mason. “Our legacy has been written throughout the past 114 years. In the morning, ask yourself, ‘How am I going to improve on the legacy already established.’ In the evening, ask yourself, ‘What did I do today to improve myself, my command and the Navy.’ When each Sailor can answer these questions positively and honestly, Sailors’ quality of life will improve exponentially and the submarine force and Navy will get better as a whole.”
Mason’s awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal (with two gold stars), Navy Commendation Medal (with one silver star and one gold star), Navy Achievement Medal (with two gold stars), Battle Efficiency “E” Ribbon (with three “E”s), and various other personal and campaign medals and ribbons.