NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. —
It was a sunny morning with a slight breeze causing the tree tops to dance against the blue skies. A combination of brass, woodwind and percussion instruments played patriotic music. Participants of the City of Portsmouth 135th Annual Memorial Day Parade drove, marched and danced their way through a gauntlet of people on High Street in Portsmouth. People sported their red, white and blue clothing, waved American flags, and shouted praises to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
“Of the 28 years I been serving in the U.S. Navy, this was the first time I marched in a parade,” said Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s (NNSY) Command Master Chief, CMDCM (SW/AW/IW) Gene Garland. “And for it to be a parade to honor those who put on the uniform and never took it off made it all the more special.”
There was one Sailor in particular Garland thought about that day. A Sailor whose picture he carries around on his cellphone.
Draftsman Second Class Michael A. Noeth was assigned to the Pentagon and perished when a hijacked passenger airliner crashed into the government building.
“When I heard Noeth was killed, I felt guilty because as his Navy career counselor, I helped him get those orders to the Pentagon,” said Garland. “I quickly knocked that guilt away because I remember how happy he was to receive those orders. We had no idea what the future would bring, but at that point in time, he was happy.”
Throughout Garland’s career, he has strived to ensure his Sailors achieve the happiness they deserve. The knowledge he gained over the years he has passed it on to others, whether it be how to do a particular tasking that was more efficient, how to write an evaluation with a “wow factor,” how to study for an advancement exam, and any other information he had that would help improve the lives of his Sailors and how they too can achieve happiness.
“Essentially I am preparing those who one day might be performing my job as Command Master Chief of America’s Shipyard," he said.
The Fayetteville, North Carolina native considers himself fortunate with his upbringing in a loving household. However, he knows that not all people had the opportunity for that. Working with all walks of life, his passion for people helps him to get to know the person wearing the uniform.
“The better I know my Sailors, the better I can help them with providing the resources that they might require at any given time,” said Garland. “My passion for people drives me to ensure everyone is taken care of.”
Garland became NNSY’s Command Master Chief on May 21, following Command Master Chief CMDCM (SW/AW) Michael Reese who retired after 30 years of service. On his first day at the shipyard, Garland learned about NNSY’s C.O.R.E. Values (Care, Ownership, Respect, Excellence) and he knew right away that his beliefs and work ethic would fit in nicely with C.O.R.E.
“It’s all about the way we do business. It is my job to go out on the deckplates and provide feedback to the shipyard commander and executive officer so that the shipyard becomes efficient at meeting goals of fixing ships and submarines.”
Garland, who is happy to be stationed at NNSY, will do his part in helping the shipyard achieve its mission. In addition, he will do what it takes to see Sailors get promoted and achieve education that will make them a higher caliber Sailor. With Jesus Christ as his mentor and his belief that God puts him where he can help others, he is ready to be the stick and rudder to carry out his role as Command Master Chief.