AL ASAD, Iraq -- Hard work and dedication paid off for four Navy seamen here who were promoted to the rank of chief petty officer Sept. 17.
In a promotion ceremony held at the base theater here, the four Sailors were excited to achieve such a prestigious rank, especially while deployed to a war zone.
"This has been the highlight of my deployment," said newly promoted Chief Petty Officer Richard P. Bryan, field medical technician, Military Police Company B, Regimental Combat Team 7, 1st Marine Division. "Besides the birth of my children, it's the best day of my naval career."
According to those promoted, becoming a chief petty officer requires constant devotion to the job and unfailing loyalty to the unit you're assigned to
"It was a long journey to this rank," said 34-year-old Bryan. "I owe a lot of my success to the Marines I work with. They always pushed me to do better and try harder."
Bryan also mentioned that while being promoted during service in a war zone can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it can also have its drawbacks.
"How many people can say they got promoted in Iraq?" asked the native of Philadelphia. "My only regret is that my family can't be here to share the moment with me."
"Being promoted in a war zone is a unique opportunity," added 33-year-old Mount Pleasant, Texas, native Bobby D. Pilgrim, lab technician, Marine Wing Support Squadron 472, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. "This is an experience I'll never forget."
Despite being held in an unconventional environment, the ceremony was still conducted according to traditional Navy standards.
"Trying to organize an event like this while in (Iraq) presented quite a lot of challenges," said Senior Chef Petty Officer Henry F. Antonio, acting command master chief, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. "We couldn't get an actual bell or (whistle) for the ceremony, so instead we had to use a (compact disc)."
Nevertheless, the Sailors conducting the ceremony were determined to make the significant event run as seamless as possible.
"These guys deserve the best ceremony we can give them," said 44-year-old Antonio. "It's a big jump for them and they need all the support they can get."
According to Antonio, the freshly promoted chief petty officers need support because becoming a chief means taking on a lot of new responsibilities.
"It's a whole new perspective," offered the native of Baguio City, Philippines. "Now they're in charge of other troops and have to know how to lead them."
A major part of becoming a chief petty officer involves reconfiguring their priorities and learning to be flexible, explained Pilgrim.
"My new number one goal is to serve my Sailors and Marines as best as I can," he said. "As chief petty officers, we're expected to have the answers to questions from lower and senior personnel."
For many of the junior Sailors in attendance, watching such a significant promotion ceremony unfold was a source of inspiration.
"It's motivating to see these guys get promoted to such an important rank," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan R. Balsa, hospital corpsman, Marine Wing Support Squadron 472, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd MAW. "We all look up to the level of chief (petty officer) for their leadership."
A 37-year-old reservist, Balsa has moved slowly through the ranks of the Navy, yet is only two promotions away from becoming a chief petty officer himself.
"I'm striving hard to reach the rank (of chief petty officer)," said the native of Delano, Calif. "It's a great accomplishment that I'm determined to reach."