* Privacy Notice: Names and locations have been changed in order to protect the privacy of parties involved.
It took him fifteen years to make the rank of chief. However it wasn’t a straight shot. As a junior sailor, he never had a problem with his shipmates but would always hear homophobic jokes and remarks that made him feel unsettled. “They were like my family but at the same time we aren’t blood related so I was sometimes uncomfortable.” Tanner describes himself as an authoritarian but he wasn’t always this way: “I learned that sometimes you got to be able to firmly put your foot down.… Being assertive when you know you are right is another great attribute that any chief or future chief should have.”
Within his first few months as a marine medic they teased him because they claimed he sounded too feminine. He recalled a time when the Marine Sargent of the Green Horn Unit tasked the unit to dig an “ungodly” sized trench. As the medic, he noticed that the marines were at risk of becoming unconscious due to heat exhaustion. He tried to explain to the Sargent that it was too hot to complete the task. The Sargent replied by saying, “Don’t worry about it. I don’t want them to be soft like you. It will build character”.
“I knew that this was wrong,” Tanner says, “that I had to do something otherwise someone would have gotten hurt”. He decided to overrule the Sargent’s authority and stop the drill exercise. “The Sergeant wasn’t too happy about my decision and the matter got taken to the division commander.” The end result was that the Sargent was ordered to be processed by a judicial board for poor judgment while in command. Tanner states that “a future chief has to always fight for what he believes is right. If you want to become one, practice that.” Due to his outstanding judgment, Tanner was awarded a Navy achievement medal. In 2013 Tanner was promoted to Chief Petty Officer and came out as gay during his acceptance speech. He was heavily applauded. That same month there were three other sailors who came out as gay saying that they felt inspired. As a chief he makes sure that the base no longer has a place for shipmates using homophobic jokes. He also provides training on what is appropriate to say and ask and how to carry out saying or asking questions about sexual preference. Chief is now an even busier man, constantly traveling and lecturing junior officers and sailors about inclusiveness.
Don’t ever let who others expect you to be stop you from becoming all you can be.
- Chief Tanner
-Contributed by Brisson Samedy