UPDATED: Navy Eliminating 241-Year-Old Rating System in New Enlisted Rank Overhaul

September 29, 2016 11:49 AM - Updated: September 30, 2016 9:01 AM
Five sailors in 2006. US Navy Photo
Five sailors in 2006. US Navy Photo

This post has been updated with additional information from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson.

After more than 200 years, the Navy is making a fundamental change in how it will address its enlisted sailors, according to a notification on the new policy obtained by USNI News.

Starting today, the service will shelve the rating system it adopted from the U.K. Royal Navy, stop referring to sailors by their job titles and adopt a job classification in line with the Army, Marine Corps and the Air Force.

For example, under the new rules The Hunt for Red October character Sonar Technician Second Class Ronald “Jonesy” Jones – ST2 Jones for short – would be Petty Officer Second Class Jones or Petty Officer Jones. Machinist’s Mate First Class Jake Holman – MM1 Holman– from the novel and film The Sand Pebbles would be Petty Officer First Class Holman or Petty Officer Holman.

The change comes as Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has pushed the Department of the Navy to create gender-neutral titles for positions like rifleman and motorman.

Mabus’ request – examining how changing ratings like Yeoman, Legalman and Damage Controlman could better reflect the diversity of the service – was the genesis of the new policy, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said during a Thursday all-hands call explaining the changes.

The initial question was, “do [the ratings] capture that inclusivity with the respect to diversity,” Richardson said.

During the review, the team — led by recently retired Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Steven — “saw an opportunity that went beyond the initial tasking,” Richardson said.

Now with the change, a sailor’s skills and primary job will be cataloged in their personnel record via a Navy Occupational Specialty code similar to the Military Occupational Specialty, used by the Army and Marines, and the Air Force Specialty Codes system. (Petty Officer Jones’ NOS code would be C230 while Petty Officer Holman’s code would be B130).

For lower pay grades E-1 to E-3, ‘”there will no longer be a distinction between ‘Airman, Fireman and Seaman’,” reads a statement from the service.
“They will all be, ‘Seaman’.”

Senior enlisted ranks E-7 to E-9 will still be referred to as Chief, Senior Chief and Master Chief respectively.

The Navy said the change would allow more flexibility in the enlisted promotion and job assignments.

Arating badge, worn by a newly minted Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class in 2006. Enlisted sailors are classified by their unique rates with their jobs worn on their sleeves. US Navy photo
A rating badge, worn by a newly minted Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class in 2006. Enlisted sailors are classified by their unique rates with their jobs worn on their sleeves. US Navy photo

“Sailors may hold more than one NOS, which will give them a broader range of professional experience and expertise opportunities,” reads a statement from the service provided to USNI News.

The codes “will be grouped under career fields that will enable flexibility to move between occupational specialties within the fields and will be tied to training and qualifications.”

A spokesman for the Chief of Navy Personnel told USNI News the move to shed the rating system was part of a review that began in June.

The goal was to “develop a new approach to enlisted ratings that would provide greater detailing flexibility, training and credentialing opportunities, and ultimately translate Navy occupations more clearly to the American public,” Cmdr. Jason Schofield, a spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel, told USNI News.
“We believe that modernizing all rating titles for sailors and establishing a new classification system is the first step of a multi-phased approach to do just that. This transformation will occur in phases over a multi-year period.”

The Navy’s enlisted classification system was arguably the most dense and difficult to understand of the U.S. services and was rooted in the traditions of the Royal Navy of the 18th century. In both navies it was rare for a sailor to change ships, and knowing what job a sailor performed aboard was the most important identifier.

However, the ratings system became more complicated as the pace of technology quickened, creating churn in the jobs in the service.

Ratings would be created, merge and become obsolete sometimes in the span of only a few years.

In addition to clarifying jobs for the wider public, the service said it would also pair with other moves to ease the transition to into civilian life.

“Our intent in making this change is to transform our personnel business processes so that we maximize career flexibility, while arming our sailors with superior training and widely recognized credentials that will convey to the civilian workforce,” reads the statement.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
Follow @samlagrone

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