By USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) Public Affairs

While conducting Hurricane Irma relief efforts, the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) held a pinning ceremony in honor of 18 first class petty officers who were promoted to the rank of chief petty officer (CPO) on Sept. 16.

As the 18 Sailors marched from the flight deck to the hangar bay singing "Anchors Aweigh," all hands stood by to watch them receive their new collar devices and covers. 

Even on their special day, the actions of the ship and crew during the humanitarian relief efforts were still on the mind of the newly-pinned CPOs.

"We are here conducting an important mission that is helping out the Key West community," said Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Randy James.  "To be allowed to have this ceremony during this time was something I'll never forget."

An added bonus for James is that this is the sixth promotion he's received as a member of the Iwo Jima crew.  James was previously stationed onboard Iwo Jima from August 2007 to July 2013 and returned this past April.

"I think it was pretty fitting that I made chief here," said James.  "It was something I first thought of while I was at this command as a junior Sailor, and now it's a reality." 

Iwo Jima's Commanding Officer Capt. James R. Midkiff and Iwo Jima's Command Master Chief Ervin H. Byrd III presided over the ceremony for the 18 new chiefs.

 "I'm confident you have the skill set to achieve anything we are required to do," said Midkiff. "You are extremely capable of receiving the plan, executing the plan, while also taking the best possible care of our most valuable resource, our Sailors. So congratulations on your promotions. I look forward to serving with you all for many years to come. Be the chief."

As each new chief was introduced, they were pinned to the rank of chief by their friends and mentors, instilling a memory Byrd hopes they never forget.

 "'By becoming a chief, you're changing much than just your uniform," said Byrd. "You're doing much more than just pinning on anchors, and you're doing much more than just transitioning to a different cover. Your whole way of life is about to change. Your whole way of life has changed. In fact, your whole way of life, as stated in the Chief Petty Officer's Creed, the easy part, the easy part is over. Now the hard part, the real challenge begins."