Face of Defense: Brothers Find Sharing Promotions Commonplace
By Navy Chief Petty Officer Aaron Arendes
Submarine Group 9
BANGOR, Wash., May 7, 2014 When siblings join the Navy, many go on separate career paths and see each other only during the holidays.
Brothers Chris, left, and Jeremy Konopka pin Master chief petty officer anchors on each other during a pinning ceremony in Bangor, Wash., May 2, 2014. It was the third time the brothers had advanced at the same time in their Navy careers. U.S. Navy photo by Command Master Chief Petty Officer Rusty Staub
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Two brothers stationed in the Pacific Northwest submarine force, however, have shared several milestones in their careers, including pinning on the rank of master chief petty officer together May 2.
Master Chief Petty Officer Chris Konopka, the elder of the two, is the engineering department master chief on board USS Kentucky, and Master Chief Petty Officer Jeremy Konopka is the USS Henry M. Jackson Blue Crew chief of the boat.
When they pinned on their rank in a ceremony at Deterrent Park here, it was the third time they’ve been able to share in a new rank.
“I can’t even describe it. It was just awesome to see us both on the list,” Jeremy said. “We were both up for it last year, and neither of us made it. I’m so happy everything worked out the way it did. It’s probably one of the best moments, I think, brothers can have.”
The brothers grew up in a family that moved frequently due to their mother’s Navy career -- she was a chief hospital corpsman -- and they consider Pensacola, Florida, to be their home.
Both joined the Navy in 1995. Jeremy, having joined 11 months before Chris, convinced his brother to join the submarine force, and they ended up being stationed together at their first duty station, USS Boston. During that tour, they both advanced to petty officer 2nd class on the same advancement cycle.
In 2009, Chris and Jeremy were both chief petty officers stationed at different locations, and when the senior chief petty officer advancement results came out, Jeremy saw he and his brother had made rank together a second time. This time, though, Chris was in the middle of a move and didn’t have access to the selection board results. Jeremy gave him a call to tell him they made it, but just as a brother would, he teased him with the results.
“Jeremy calls me up to tell me he made it, so I asked him if I made it,” Chris said. “Then he asks me, ‘Are you sure you want to know? Are you really, sure you want to know? Yeah, you made it.’ Then, my wife and I were doing the happy dance.”
Eventually, the Konopka brothers ended up being stationed in the same geographical area, serving on ballistic missile submarines, and when the master chief selection board results came out May 1, history had repeated itself. This time, they said, they wanted to do something special, so during the ceremony, they decided to pin an anchor on each other at the same time.
“This is only the second time our career paths have crossed since both of us joined,” Jeremy said. “We’ve followed each other in our careers, and it’s great to be stationed close to him, but this is just the icing on the cake that we could be pinned together.”
When the brothers joined the Navy, they said their goodbyes to each other and never expected to see each other in the fleet, much less be able to share three important career milestones.
“I never would have thought, looking back when we were both on our first boat together, that we would be putting on master chief at the same time, much less pinning each other,” Jeremy said.
Chris said he feels very lucky to have had things work out the way they did.
“It’s just awesome,” he said. “We not only got to make 2nd class, senior chief and master chief at the same time, but neither of us was at sea when the results came out. I should buy a lottery ticket!”