Navy restores traditional job titles for sailors

Navy restores traditional job titles for sailors

By Loree Lewis   
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson attends the 2016 National Capital Region chief petty officer pinning ceremony at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 16. (1st Class Nathan Laird/U.S. Navy)

WASHINGTON – The United States Navy restored traditional job rating titles for enlisted sailors Wednesday, after tens of thousands of people protested the September decision to scrap the titles in favor of calling enlisted service members by their rank, as is done in the other military branches.

“Our Navy needs to be a fast-learning organization – that includes Navy leadership… We have learned from you, and so effective immediately, all rating names are restored,” Navy Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, said in a statement.

“… The removal of rating titles was unnecessary and detracted from accomplishing our major goals.”

The September decision did away with hundreds of years of tradition, removing the practice of an enlisted sailor’s title consisting of both an occupational rating and a pay rate. The September decision made it so all enlisted sailors with the same pay rate would go by the same title.

In announcing the change in September, Navy leadership said that the change would give sailors more career flexibility and training opportunities. The idea was partially to make the titles more understandable to the public, and thus also to future employers.

Efforts to change titles that ended in “man” also were in response to the Pentagon decision to open all combat jobs to women.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in June that he wanted titles to better convey the job a sailor does. For example, a hospital corpsman could be called a medic or an emergency medical technician, he said.

Sailors and veterans immediately objected to the decision, spawning a petition. The petition garnered 103,760 signatures, more than the 100,000 needed to solicit an official White House response. The White House said in the response that it supported the name change.

“The Navy’s recent announcement about Navy Occupational Specialties has garnered attention from many veterans and supporters like you who cherish naval tradition,” the White House said. “Organizational changes that require a cultural shift can cause friction during transition periods, but the president has confidence in the decisions made by U.S. Navy leaders and agrees that the benefits in future years will outweigh growing pains in the next several months.”

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) cheered Wednesday’s decision, and said the initial decision “defied basic common sense and distracted from the real challenges confronting the men and women serving in our Navy.”

“Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident of pointless policy tinkering. A number of other recent policy changes also appear to have been made with shallow analysis and unnecessary urgency,” McCain said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the next Secretary of Defense and service secretaries to review these personnel policy changes and roll them back where necessary and appropriate.”

While the job rating titles has been scrapped, other changes announced in September will proceed, according to the Navy statement, including increased specialty flexibility, expanding promotion opportunities and giving sailors more opportunities to build credentials that can translate into the civilian workforce.


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