Safely guarded in a wooden box with the USN Insignia burned onto the front, Shelby sets the box down on the table, charge book inside. “We were charged to build these boxes and engrave them with rate, rank, and name,” she says.
Neha stands to get a better angle and as Shelby opens it, we all see the glimmer of the navy velvet lining the inside.
“The inside is all up to you; that’s where you put in personal stuff,” she tells Neha. She then points to the uniform pocket on the outside of the book. “This pocket was given to me by a Senior Chief that was one of my mentors.”
She opens the book, turning the many pages of handwritten notes, advice, and stickers, many flagged with little neon stickies. “You meet and learn of folks along the way,” she explains of the inside of the book. “People will sign other people’s pages and use it as a way to communicate. It’s a brotherhood and sisterhood, the world’s finest fraternity.”
Neha asks Shelby if there are one or two charges that stand out to her in particular. She pauses, then responds. “The process of becoming a Chief was something that really impacted my husband and I, the late nights, early mornings… they ask for your significant other to write something about why you want to be Chief,” she says as she looks onto the page.
She goes on to mention another important charge, “One of my first charges was from Chief Lyons, he was the hardest Leading Petty Officer I’ve had… When got back from deployment, he asked me to be in his retirement and I thought, ‘Why would I get all dressed up and do this for you?’ But I didn’t want to burn a bridge and I’m glad I didn’t. He told me, ‘Fireman Feather [Shelby’s maiden name], I just want to let you know that you changed my view of women in the military.’ That was pretty badass. I was floored and very humbled at that point. I still to this day call and talk to him.”