Chief Petty Officer Duties, Responsibilities and Authority

Here you can find our group's public policies concerning various issues.

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A duty is something you must do by virtue of your position and is a legal or moral obligation. For example, it is the supply chief duty to issue equipment and keep records of the unit's supplies. It is a stations MCPO’s duty to hold formations, instruct the enlisted and assist the station commander in supervising unit operations. It is the duty of the boat/aircraft commander to account for his/her/her guardians and ensure that they receive necessary instructions and are properly trained to perform their jobs.

A Chief Petty Officer's duties are numerous and must be taken seriously. An CPO's duty includes taking care of guardians, which is your priority. Chiefs do this by developing a genuine concern for their guardians' well-being. Leaders must know and understand their guardians well enough to train them as individuals and teams to operate proficiently. This will give them confidence in their ability to perform well under the difficult and demanding conditions of duty. Individual training is the principle duty and responsibility of Chiefs. No one in the SL Coast Guard has more to do with training guardians than Chiefs. Well trained guardians will likely succeed and survive while on duty. Well trained guardians properly do the tasks their Chiefs give them. A good leader executes the boss's decisions with energy and enthusiasm; looking at their leader, guardians will believe the leader thinks it's absolutely the best possible solution.

There may be situations you must think carefully about what you're told to do. For example, duty requires that you refuse to obey illegal orders. This is not a privilege you can claim, but a duty you must perform. You have no choice but to do what's ethically and legally correct. Making the right choice and acting on it when faced with an ethical question can be difficult. Sometimes, it means standing your ground and telling your supervisor you think their wrong. If you think an order is illegal, first be sure that you understand both the details of the order and its original intent. Seek clarification from the person who gave the order. This takes moral courage, but the question will be straightforward: Did you really mean for me to... steal the part... submit a false report... shoot the prisoners?

If the question is complex and time permits, seek advice from higher authority. However, if you must decide immediately, make the best judgment possible based on the SLCG values and attributes, your experience and your previous study and reflection. You take a risk when you disobey what you perceive to be an illegal order. Talk to your superiors, particularly those who have done what you aspire to do or what you think you'll be called on to do; providing counsel of this/her sort is an important part of leadership. Obviously, you need to make time to do this/her before you're faced with a tough call. This could possibly be the most difficult decision you'll ever make, but that's what leaders do.

Chief Petty Officers have three types of duties: Specified duties, Directed duties and Implied duties.

Specified duties are those related to jobs and positions. Directives such as station regulations, SL Coast Guard general orders, the uniform policy’s, guardian manuals, group training publications and job descriptions specify the duties. For example, SLCG policy may say that Chiefs must ensure that their guardians get proper individual training and maintain personal appearance and cleanliness.

Directed duties are not specified as part of a job position or other directive. A superior gives them orally or in writing. Directed duties include being in charge of quarters (CQ) or serving as watch officer, staff duty officer, station training chiefs, where these duties are not found in the unit's organization charts.

Implied duties often support specified duties, but in some cases they may not be related to the job position. These duties may not be written but implied in the instructions. They're duties that improve the quality of the job and help keep the unit functioning at an optimum level. In most cases, these duties depend on individual initiative. They improve the work environment and motivate guardians to perform because they want to, not because they have to. For example, while not specifically directed to do so, you hold in-ranks inspections daily to ensure your guardians' appearance and equipment are up to standards.


Responsibility is being accountable for what you do or fail to do. Chiefs are responsible to fulfill not only their individual duties, but also to ensure their teams and units are successful. Any duty, because of the position you hold in the unit, includes a responsibility to execute that duty. As an CPO, you are accountable for your personal conduct and that of your guardians. Also, each guardian is individually responsible for his/her own personal conduct and that responsibility cannot be delegated. A guardian is accountable for his/her actions to fellow guardians, leaders, unit and the SL Coast Guard.

As a leader you must ensure that your guardians clearly understand their responsibilities as members of the team and as representative of the SL Coast Guard. The SLCG Commandant sets overall policies and standards, but all leaders must provide the guidance, resources, assistance and supervision necessary for guardians to perform their duties. Mission accomplishment demands that officers and chiefs work together to advise, assist and learn from each other.

Responsibilities fall into two categories: Command and Individual.

Command responsibility refers to collective or organizational accountability and includes how well the unit performs their missions. For example, a station commander is responsible for all the tasks and missions assigned to the station; his/her superiors hold him/her accountable for completing them. Commanding Officers give those in their command the responsibility for what their sections, units, or organizations do or fail to do. Chiefs are therefore responsible to fulfill not only their individual duties, but also to ensure that their team and unit are successful. The amount of responsibility delegated to you depends on your mission, the position you hold and your own willingness to accept responsibility.

One point you need to get straight is that although a list of duties can be drawn up describing what is expected of you, it will not tell you how to do your job. For example, one of an chief's duties is to enforce standards of military appearance. This means you are responsible for correcting guardians who wear the uniform improperly and for teaching them the correct standards of appearance. It also means that you should inspect for proper clothing and equipment of your guardians. Remember that you must set the example first and your guardians will follow in your footsteps.

Individual responsibility as a Chief, it means you are accountable for your personal conduct. Guardians in the SLCG have their own responsibilities. For example, if you write a check at the base exchange, it is your responsibility to have sufficient funds in the bank account to cover the check. Individual responsibility cannot be delegated; it belongs to the guardian that wrote the check. Guardians are accountable for their actions, to their fellow guardians, to their leaders, to their unit and to the SL Coast Guard. As a leader you must ensure that your guardians understand clearly their responsibilities as members of the team and as representatives of the SLCG.


As a Chief Petty officer, you must know what authority you have and where it comes from. You are also expected to use good judgment when exercising your authority.

Authority is defined as the right to direct guardians to do certain things. Authority is the legitimate power of leaders to direct guardians or to take action within the scope of their position. In the SLCG, authority begins with the Commandant, who has the final say on what happen with the SLCG. The authority of the Commandant extends through the chain of command, with the assistance of the officers and chiefs to the individual chiefs who then directs and supervises the actions of individual guardians. When you say, "Petty Officer Lee, you and Seaman Johnson start filling fuel tanks; Seaman Garcia and Petty Officer Smith will provide safety watch," you are turning into action the orders of the entire chain of command.

In the SL Coast Guard there are two basic types of authority: Command authority and General authority.

Command authority is the authority leaders have over guardians by virtue of rank or assignment. Command authority originates with the Commandant. Even though it is called "command" authority, it is not limited to officers - you have command authority inherent in your leadership position as a boat commander or dive master, for example. Chiefs command authority is inherent with the job by virtue of position to direct or control guardians.

Leading guardians includes the authority to organize, direct and control your assigned guardians so that they accomplish assigned missions. It also includes authority to use assigned equipment and resources to accomplish your missions. Remember that this only applies to guardians and facilities in your unit. For example, if the chief petty officer of your boat goes on leave and a petty officer is put in charge, that petty officer has command authority over only that boat crew, until he is relieved from the responsibility. The guardians on that boat will obey the petty officers orders due to his/her position. However, the petty officer does not have command authority over another boat.

General military authority is authority extended to all guardians to take action and act in the absence of a unit leader or other designated authority. It originates in oaths of office, law, rank structure, traditions and regulations. This broad-based authority also allows leaders to take appropriate corrective actions whenever a member of the SLCG, anywhere, commits an act involving a breach of good order or discipline. For example, if you see guardians in a brawl, you have the general authority (and the obligation) to stop the fight. This authority applies even if none of the guardians are in your unit.

General authority exists whether you are on duty or not, in uniform or in civilian attire and regardless of location. For example, you are off duty, in civilian clothes and in club and you see a guardian in uniform with his/her headgear on and trousers unbloused. You stop the guardian immediately, identify yourself and ensure the guardian understands and makes the necessary corrections. If he/she refuses, saying you don't have the authority to tell him/her what to do because he's not in your chief’s chain of command, the guardian is wrong.

You as a chief have both general authority and the duty to enforce uniform standards. Your authority to enforce those regulations is by virtue of your rank and if you neglect your duty, you can be held accountable. If the guardian refuses to obey you, what can you do? For starters, you can explain that you have authority regardless of your location, your unit, or whether you are in uniform or civilian attire. You may decide to settle for the soldier's name and unit. If so, a note card to his/her station MCPO should be more than enough to ensure that such an incident does not recur.

Delegation of authority.

Just as the SLCG Commandant cannot participate in every aspect of the group’s operations, most leaders cannot handle every action directly. To meet the organization's goals, officers delegate authority to Chiefs who, in turn, may further delegate that authority. Unless restricted by a superior, leaders may delegate any or all of their authority to their subordinate leaders. However, such delegation must fall within the leader's scope of authority. Leaders cannot delegate authority they do not have and subordinate leaders may not assume authority that superiors do not have, cannot delegate, or have retained. The task or duty to be performed limits the authority of the leader to whom it is assigned.

Both command and general authority originate with the SLCG Commandant.

You don't need to read or remember all SLCG regulations and/or policies but study those that pertain to your job. If necessary, ask other Chiefs to help you find out what regulations pertain to you, where they can be found and how to interpret them.

Authority of the Chief Petty Officer is part of the equation in discipline.

Your authority also stems from the combination of the chain of command. Orders and policies that pass through the chain of command automatically provide the authority necessary to get the job done. With such broad authority given to all commissioned officers and Chief Petty Officers, the responsibility to use mature, sound judgment is critical. The chain of command backs up the chiefs by punishing those who challenge the Chief's authority. But it does so only if the Chief Petty officer's actions and orders are sound, intelligent and based on proper authority. To be a good leader, you should learn what types of authority you have and where it comes from. Whenever in doubt, ask. Once you're confident that you know the extent of your authority, use sound judgment in applying it. Then you will be a leader respected by both your guardians and superiors.

It should be noted that NO Area, District, Station, Aircraft, Boat commander nor staff officer has the right to act as a King/Queen holding court in his/her own personal fiefdom. If this is discovered to be occurring, the person guilty may not only lose the billet but may also lose rank and maybe even membership with the group.

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