Navy Names Fleet Master Chief Russell Smith as New Top Enlisted Leader

  • An undated official file photo of Fleet Master Chief Russell Smith. Following a comprehensive review of potential candidates, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson selected Smith to be the 15th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Aug. 29, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo)
    An undated official file photo of Fleet Master Chief Russell Smith. Following a comprehensive review of potential candidates, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson selected Smith to be the 15th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Aug. 29, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo)
  • Fleet Master Chief Russell Smith listens as the crew of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Annapolis (SSN-760) provides feedback and input on various issues while visiting Naval Base San Diego and surrounding units. (U.S. Navy photo/Sarah Villegas)
    Fleet Master Chief Russell Smith listens as the crew of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Annapolis (SSN-760) provides feedback and input on various issues while visiting Naval Base San Diego and surrounding units. (U.S. Navy photo/Sarah Villegas)

Sailors have a new top enlisted leader after the master chief petty officer of the Navy abruptly stepped down in June amid reports of toxic leadership.

Fleet Master Chief Petty Officer Russell Smith will serve as the Navy's 15th MCPON, leaders announced Wednesday. Smith has been serving as acting MCPON, the senior adviser to the chief of naval operations, since June.

In a video message posted on Facebook from the Washington Navy Yard on Wednesday morning, Smith said he was humbled and awed at his selection to serve as MCPON.

"Even though I had a couple minutes' heads up, I'm still kind of speechless," he said. "But frankly, I can't imagine how tough the choice was because of the quality of the master chiefs that we have in our Navy, and I'm just excited to take this advocacy for sailors and for all of us to the next level."

Smith pledged not to let the Navy down.

CNO Adm. John Richardson said in the video that Smith embodies professionalism, expertise and humility in leadership.

"And I know you're going to make that spread throughout the whole [chiefs’] Mess," Richardson added.

Smith's selection was part of a thorough and deliberate review process, Richardson said. The former fleet master chief for manpower, personnel, training and education had stepped into the role of acting MCPON earlier this summer after Master Chief Steven Giordano put in his retirement request.

Giordano had served as the top enlisted sailor since September 2016, but was under investigation for allegedly mistreating subordinates. After Giordano left the position, Smith immediately began touring the Navy to talk with and get input from sailors and their families.

Smith joined the Navy in 1988 and has deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and counter-piracy missions in the Horn of Africa.

He was a weapons technician for three years before converting to be an intelligence specialist in 1993. From there, Smith served with Navy SEAL Team 4 and with the U.S. defense attaché office in Russia.

He served aboard the carriers Abraham Lincoln and Vinson. He also served as the senior enlisted leader aboard the guided-missile destroyer Momsen after being selected for the command master chief program in 2007.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

Show Full Article