Paying homage to his hometown’s history as the birthplace of the U.S. Coast Guard, Newburyport native Benjamin Atwood returned home yesterday to celebrate his advancement to the rank of chief petty officer.
Atwood and a small group of family, friends and fellow Coast Guardsmen gathered in the Coast Guard Room of the Custom House Maritime Museum on Water Street yesterday morning for a brief ceremony, where he was officially advanced to his new rank by senior members of the service.
“I can’t think of a better venue to do this,” Capt. John O’Connor, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Boston sector, said. “The Custom House Museum in the Coast Guard Room, this is absolutely wonderful.”
Chief petty officer is the seventh enlisted rank in the Coast Guard and advancement to the rank from petty officer first class is considered a major career accomplishment. Chiefs serve as the day-to-day leaders of the enlisted workforce and have access to special mess halls for senior noncommissioned officers.
In order to become a chief petty officer, a guardsman must meet certain requirements for time in service, superior evaluation scores and specialty examinations, while also earning a good peer review.
Once Atwood met all of those criteria, he decided the best venue to mark his advancement was the place where both he and the Coast Guard itself got its start.
“My whole family is from Newburyport and West Newbury. I went to Newburyport High School and my father lives out on Plum Island,” said Atwood, who has served in the Coast Guard for nearly 16 years. “Growing up here, we have a boat that went out and I’d always see the Coast Guard, and that was one of the things that made me want to join the Coast Guard.”
After O’Connor read a letter making Atwood’s advancement official, the Coast Guard’s newest chief petty officer received his new collar devices from his two children, Jonathan and Emily, as his wife, Jill, looked on.
Atwood also received a letter of congratulations from Michael Leavitt, master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard and the highest-ranking enlisted guardsman in the service.
“I’m slowly starting to realize the significance as I go along,” Atwood said at the conclusion of the ceremony. “I’m looking forward to the responsibilities and challenges ahead.”