Billy C. Sanders

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Billy C. Sanders
MCPON Billy Sanders.jpg
5th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy
Born (1936-07-21) 21 July 1936 (age 77)
Montgomery, Alabama
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch USAF 1954–1957
USN 1958–1985
Years of service 1954–1985
Rank Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy
Commands held Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Meritorious Service Medal
Air Medal
Navy Commendation Medal,
Navy Achievement Medal
Combat Action Ribbon
Other work Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, Pensacola, Florida

Billy C. Sanders (born 21 July 1936) was the fifth Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy. After graduating from high school, he initially began his military career by joining the United States Air Force in February 1954. Upon being discharged in 1957, Master Chief Sanders joined the Air Force Reserve. He attended Huntington College in Montgomery from January to May 1958.

Master Chief Sanders enlisted in the United States Navy on 9 May 1958, and after receiving his clothing issue at Charleston, South Carolina, he was transferred to Naval Air Technical Training Center (NATTC) at NAS Memphis, Tennessee, to attend Aviation Electronics Technician "A" School. Upon graduation from "A" school at NATTC Glynco, Georgia, he reported for duty as an enlisted aircrewman on EC-121 type aircraft. He advanced to Petty Officer Third Class on 16 December 1959, and to Petty Officer Second Class on 16 November 1962.

Master Chief Sanders was transferred in March 1964 to attend an instructor training course at Memphis, and ultimately reported to Naval Air Maintenance Training Detachment (NAMTD) 1099 at NAS Key West, Florida, as an Anti-Submarine Warfare Systems Instructor. He returned to NATTC Memphis in June 1967 as a student, completing the avionics “B” school in February 1968. He advanced to Chief Petty Officer on 16 February 1968.

Reconnaissance and Maintenance Squadron One, homeported at Atsugi, Japan, was the Master Chief’s next assignment from May 1968 until June 1971. While serving as detachment CPO at Da Nang, Vietnam, Master Chief Sanders received two Air Medals and the Combat Action Ribbon. He advanced to Senior Chief Petty Officer on 1 March 1971.

In May 1971, Master Chief Sanders was transferred to Naval Air Maintenance Training Detachment 1002 at NAS Albany, Georgia, and later at NAS Key West. He served as an instructor on RA-5C aircraft and Leading CPO during this tour. The Master Chief advanced to Master Chief Avionics Technician in August 1974. Master Chief Sanders reported to Fighter Squadron 151 aboard USS Midway (CV-41) homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, in September 1974 where he served as maintenance chief on F-4N aircraft and as Command Master Chief. He was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal during this tour.

Master Chief Sanders was transferred to NAS Pensacola, Florida, in October 1977 where he served as Air Operations Maintenance Chief until March 1978. He then served as Command Master Chief for NAS Pensacola and Training Air Wing Six.

Sanders had been one of the six final candidates for selection as the fourth MCPON in 1979 but then-Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Thomas B. Hayward selected AFCM Thomas S. Crow for the job.

The Master Chief reported to Naval Air Facility Lajes, Azores, in February 1980 where he served as the maintenance chief and as Command Master Chief. During this tour, he received the Navy Commendation Medal. As he neared the end of his MCPON tour, Master Chief Crow suggested that Sanders apply again for selection as MCPON. Sanders declined but his Commanding Officer at Lajes nominated him anyway. Sanders transferred to the Naval Education and Training Program Development Center Saufley Field at Pensacola, Florida in February 1982 to serve as the Special Projects Division Officer, then on 16 July 1982, the new Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral James D. Watkins, announced that he had selected AFCM Billy Sanders as the fifth Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy. He was sworn in 1 October 1982.

During MCPON Sanders' tenure, the grooming standards for sailors made a major change, as males were no longer authorized to wear beards. The first modern Navy instruction governing physical readiness (OPNAVINST 6110.1) was written, the forerunner of the instruction still in use. Yearly physical readiness tests became mandatory, and body composition standards were introduced to the fleet. These tests late became bi-annual requirements. The Vietnam-era GI Bill had expired, and the modern GI Bill, which helps fund college educations for active duty military members and veterans, was created. MCPON Sanders made combating Navy voter apathy a top priority. In his travels around the fleet, Sanders encouraged sailors to get involved in the government they served. He advocated writing to their Congressional representatives to make their voice heard. He also stressed the role of senior enlisted leadership in the Navy chain of command.

MCPON Sanders was relieved by the sixth MCPON, William H. Plackett, on 4 October 1985, as Sanders retired from active duty. He serves today as the executive assistant to the executive vice president of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation in Pensacola, Florida. His wife, Mozelle, died in 1990.

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Military offices
Preceded by
Thomas S. Crow
5th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy
1 OCT 1982 – 4 OCT 1986
Succeeded by
William H. Plackett