Home » Military Personnel » Navy to Restore Enlisted Rating Titles After Months of Criticism

Navy to Restore Enlisted Rating Titles After Months of Criticism

30f1516986e31ebbd9ef6647e19bfcd9The Navy is performing a brisk about-face on a controversial plan that shelved ratings titles for enlisted sailors, according to a message Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson that was set for release on Wednesday morning but was leaked on social media on Tuesday night.

The NAVADMIN message cancels a late September decision in which service leadership announced it would no longer address sailors by their rating – a more than 200-year-old tradition in which enlisted were known by their job title – and instead refer to enlisted sailors with the generic titles of Seaman (E-1 to E-3) or Petty Officer (E-4 to E-6).

The unpopular title change was the most visible part of an enlisted rank modernization effort spearheaded by former Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael D. Stevens.

In the message, Richardson said Navy leadership had heard the criticism.

“We have learned from you, and so effective immediately, all rating names are restored,” Richardson wrote in the message.
“The feedback from current and former sailors has been consistent that there is wide support for the flexibility that the plan offers, but the removal of rating titles detracted from accomplishing our major goals.”

Richardson had signaled leadership was considering reverting back to the old rating naming system earlier this month after talking to thousands of sailors.

“I underestimated how fiercely loyal people were to their rating,” Richardson said on Dec. 6 during an all hands call, Navy Times reported.
“I’ve gotten a fair amount of feedback on that.”

The look at the revamp for the enlisted system was born from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus’ push to create gender-neutral terms for the Navy and the Marine Corps, leadership said in September. Instead of tweaking rating titles like Damage Controlman or Hospital Corpsman, the Navy instead moved to refer to junior enlisted sailors by a generic title and adopt a series of Navy Occupational Specialty codes. The NOS codes are similar to the Military Occupational Specialty used by the Army and Marines and the Air Force Specialty Codes system.

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

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

“Our goals for modernizing the enlisted career development program – rating modernization – are to provide greater choice and flexibility for our sailors with respect to detailing and training, to provide greater flexibility for the Navy in assigning highly trained personnel, and to increase professional alignment with civilian employers,” Richardson wrote.
“We strongly believe that providing this flexibility will make us a more capable Navy.”

The reintroduction of ratings is by no mean the end of how the Navy will continue to reshape enlisted career paths or planned changes to titles in the service, Richardson said in the message.

“This course correction doesn’t mean our work is done – rating modernization will continue for all the right reasons. Modernizing our industrial-age personnel system in order to provide sailors choice and flexibility still remains a priority for us,” Richardson wrote.
“As we execute the rating modernization plan, more sailors will have multiple occupational skill sets or ratings. We will need to tackle the issue of managing rating names. We will continue to involve sailors throughout the fleet.”

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Categories: Military Personnel, News & Analysis, U.S. Navy
Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.

  • airider

    Two thumbs up!!!


    More Coffee…

  • Bruzilla

    Glad to see someone FINALLY admit this was all about being gender neutral and not about anything dealing with improving the Navy!

  • NavySubNuke

    I have to say between the new ship building plan and the restoration of ratings it has been a great week for the Navy.
    I’m not sure who on the trump transition team is directing this stuff – or if it just Mabus trying to salvage something from an otherwise awful legacy – but i like it!

    • Herodoti

      It has nothing to do with the transition team, that will take a year to come forward. He is worrying about much different things right now.

      • Curtis Conway

        There is ALWAYS a bow wave. Of all the services the US Navy is one of the most ‘steeped in tradition’, and we can’t loose it all, or we no longer have the Proud & True United States Navy!

        • John Best

          Agreed! The Golf Delta PC ( not postal clerk) government has screwed up and ruined enough of our great traditions. I am glad I was able to experience the unique, educational and very enlightening experiences that our August traditions provided. I realize the damage done by the pencil neck geek PC civilians cannot be repaired, but hopefully the few traditions that remain will not be ruined going forward.

          • bass_man86

            Oh this baloney has been going on for a while. I was around when the Pentagon Navy decided to make warfare qualifications mandatory – the result of that is warfare qualification have been relegated to the status of check in the box and we now have the Computer Geek warfare pin! The Pentagon Navy decided to away with time in rate/service requirements – greatly increasing promotion opportunities for brown nosers, and finally the Pentagon Navy did away with the CPO initiation with the result that we now 15 year CMCs that get fired for failures of leadership. Mike Stephens, one of the real culprits in this debacle has retired, and good riddance to him, but there are plenty more just like him out there.

        • old guy

          Tradition is fine. Equity is better.

          • Curtis Conway

            Equity I don’t mind, but accommodation and favoritism at risk of mission accomplishment is madness. That is exactly what has happened to SOF (Rangers) and the US Marine Corp training/qualification programs. The nation will suffer for it.

          • old guy

            You are right on. I just hope it is not too far down the road to correct the course. I lost a gunny son-in-law in the non-war in El Salvador and have suffered from the P.C.that exposed him without adequate support. The only thing I credit Clinton with is that at the behest of a marine general friend of mine, he declared that we were in armed conflict which got my sion-in-law status as,”Killed in action” with the consequent upgrade of my daughter’s and their 2 children improved support.

    • Richard Wadzinski Jr

      missedthebus needs to be fired !

  • Yobing Tecson

    MCPON Michael D. Stevens & Ray Mabus should be relieved of their duties from causing hate & discontent within both active & retired Sailors.

    • Herodoti

      Sooo they should be fired because your feelings got hurt…. okay. PC police.

      • CaptainParker

        They will be replaced in due course. The Master Chief really got his schwanz stepped on on this matter – hopefully he has learned that slavish obeisance to PC comes with a price.

        • Herodoti

          It wasn’t PC that’s the thing it was a bringing inline with the rest of DoD. It was prompted by a call for equal titles which isn’t politically correct it is considerate and is what the commercial world works as.

          But calling for his head because you didn’t like it is literally why anti pc rails against. He hurt our feelings, that’s isn’t grounds for removal.

          • Herodoti

            My exact position

          • Dennis

            Is that HERO in front of your name? What did you to earn that? All you did here is squeeze in on something about which you know nothing. Please go back to your cool aid and be still when adults are talking.

          • Herodoti

            If you dont know who Herodotus is or conjugate latin then you should go back to the playground.

          • Dennis

            Once again, you are using a name which is not yours. You are trying to become someone. Be advised, butting in on adult conversations will not help. I suggest professional help.

          • Herodoti

            again, its not a name. It’s an antiquated title of a student of history. Can you know more before you launch into accusations.

          • Dennis

            Why can’t you PC left wingers fly your own flags? Your version of the Greek historian is female. Your candidate lost. Get over your depression and rage. Your world is on its way out. Things will be better. You shouldn’t strike out at things with which you aren’t comfortable, or knowledgeable!

          • Factory Working Orphan

            A student of history probably should know better than to piss all over it like you did in this thread.

          • Donald Carey

            I know who Herodotus was, and you are NOT him!

          • Herodoti

            uh thats where the part of congregation comes in….
            It means of Herodotus not an actual person. Damn if you are going to be so accusatory know what you are talking about.

          • Dennis

            Not Latin – Greek. Who doesn’t know?

          • Kala

            Heroditus was a fake news supplier.

          • Kala

            Mabus is that you?

          • Richard Wadzinski Jr

            again we are not the fkin civilian world, we are the military so i take it your a civilian trying to talk about military matters go crawl under your pc rock….

      • Sons of Liberty

        No they should be kicked to the curb along with SecAF James for their performance in office.

        • Herodoti

          Literally wanting pc enforcement about pc issues. Hey dthey hurt my tradition and that makes them bad at their job. Fire them I disagree with them.

          A mirror would be very useful

  • Great move. What was the former Master Chief of the Navy thinking, and SECNAV for that matter. And, do me a favor … don’t even think about changing Seaman to Seaperson or other silly term. The term “sailor” is just fine for being gender neutral and politically correct.

    • kaigun2

      My biggest disappointments in this whole Charlie Foxtrot were the senior enlisted. How could MCPON be so totally clueless? I expect idiocy from the current SECNAV, but man…

    • Ron Henning

      Nice to hear from you Cdr!

  • OneWire

    ICCS to CWO3, 69-89, but ICman forever!

  • TokyoTengu

    241 years of tradition restored before the idiocy got out of hand. I’ll take that for a win. Cynical me, however, notes that the decision just happened to come a day after the EC vote made Trump’s presidency a certainty, and thus the appointment of Gen. Mattis as SecDef inevitable. Marines like tradition, do not like Chairbone Rangers, and hate PC crap. This was a no brainer.

    • Herodoti

      that is a BS PC answer.

      The Navy spoke loudly with one unified voice and the waves came crashing down on the Admiralty

  • Emilius

    This is Great, But remember Anyone Can Make a Rate, But Only God Can Make a Boatswain Mate. Sail On, Fear the Goat’

    • Ed L

      Amen to that

  • Marcd30319

    So much for fundamental change.

  • FourWarVet

    Good decision!

  • Ed L

    When I was a Boatswain Mate, I always wanted to go to engineman school and learn how to take care of Diesels while retaining my BM rating. And Radioman/electronics repair. The ET’s were amazed that I could repair a circuit board on a PRC-77 when no replacements were available.. I use to build radios and work on Car Engines before I join the Navy in 72. When I was a 3nd class I put in for engineman school but was told that I could not retain my Boatswain Mate Rating. so I withdrew my request. while on my First ship, I was able to work along side the Engineman and ET’s on equipment for the Boats. On my next ship I was told by the Chief engineer that if I touch a boat engine He would bust down. Seems he and my 1st LT. were always at odds. But I did fix an engine once. when we broke down 3 miles from the ship coming back from a beach landing. The engineman assigned to my boat did not know anything about a 671 diesel or electrical system. It was either that or get washed up onto the rocks at Vieques No one said a thing about it. with exception of the XO who was on the boat at the time. The Cheng looked like he could chew nails.

    • Marjus Plaku

      that’s for sharing the great stories with us!

    • gro

      Good story Boats…I was a Radioman and have been saying if I wanted to be a specialist or someone with a stripe or two on the arm, would have joined the AF or waited to get drafted in the Army. I think one of the ‘worst’ results of the foolishness was dropping AN and FN etc.
      Maybe ok to let the E3’s work on deck or in the engine room to get familiar but…
      ‘Back in the ‘OLD NAVY” we allowed miscreants to work in other departments…hence SN cleans the bilges, FN holystone or clean radio insulators etc etc etc
      People griped BUT it was a better alternate than going to mast…
      Sort of in house justice/policing.
      An ‘old Sparks’…

  • vincedc

    I guess that is what happens when the thousands of sailors you talk to are all in the Pentagon.

  • PappyStu

    Old Traditions are hard to break… As they should be… Pappy MMC(SS)

    • Curtis Conway

      Some of those traditions were developed over time (millennia), stand not only on tradition, but HiStory and practicality on the water.

  • BiggerHorn

    This sounds like another snap decision for establishing a lost legacy. 241 years of Navy tradition flushed?
    What’s next. Renaming the Navy?
    Call them the Rubber Ducky’s?

  • TankFac

    I think this may have had something to do with stopping this dumbassery-

    Mattis: I think that today very few Americans are alive who remember seeing American soldiers and Marines surrendering on Corregidor, Bataan, Guam, Wake Island. There is a sense that we can do what we wish with the Petri dish called the military and there is no consequence, whereas, to those of us who have some experience – when 85% of your combat arms NCOs say “don’t do something,” I would fire on the spot any lieutenant who thought he should override 85% of his NCOs.

    • Sons of Liberty

      My hero greatest marine leader of his generation and soon to be greatest Secretary of War.

  • Sub Sailor

    But the article says they are still going screw with it.
    They will try again by the back door since they got burned going in the front.
    Send all these idiots to sea.

    About the photo and the dolphin group—- Since when does the National Defense Service Medal out rank the Good Conduct? This rack; should be Navy Marine Corp medal, Good Conduct, National Service Defense and then Desert Storm. Someone really screwed this up.;

    • Dennis Brown

      That is the Navy and Marine Corps ACHIEVEMENT Medal and National Defense Service Medal Sup Sailor. Also, the Navy and Marine Corps medal is not shown, and is next higher in precedence to the Bronze Star. It is also order of precedence, not a “rank”. The Chief corrects the sub guy..

      • William E. Shaw

        It’s an NAC… but the National Defense medal is out of precedence with the Good Conduct medal (which should be 2nd on the row).

  • arebel1

    No wonder the Navy has been in trouble, with the shortfalls in manning and parts, they address the problem by erasing ratings.

    • Aubrey

      Soylent Green is sailors!

      Sorry…couldn’t stop myself.

  • publius_maximus_III

    Wonderful news. Looking forward to a future USNI News article, “Navy to Restore SecNav after Years of Feckless Leadership…”

  • Beau West

    Now…….IF they would throw those horrible blue and gray utilities, or what ever they are called, overboard, and get back into dungarees and blue chambray shirts, it would be great………

    • Lacombe57 .


    • Herodoti

      No thanks.

  • Duane

    The notion of modernizing the ratings system is not bad … but the way it was done was bad, with insufficient input from those most affected. There may be ways to address some of the problems experienced with the current selection of ratings, such as advancement exams that really don’t test the sailor’s actual job knowledge. That would be a worthwhile process.

    When I served decades ago as a nuke Electronics Technician, for advancement I was tested on my knowledge of radars, though I never so much as spent one minute of time in the Navy working on radars. Conversely, I was never tested on my knowledge of reactor control systems, on which I spent all of my time beyond ships drills and field day. There ought to be a way to fix that kind of problem – which is only going to become more prevalent as technology is changing far faster than military administration systems can keep up – without “tossing the baby out with the bathwater”.

    • That is more a matter of modernizing the testing and not the rating system itself.

      • Aubrey

        Why fix something when you can be….wait for it…TRANSFORMATIONAL! RAWR!!

      • Duane

        I think it’s both.

        Also, the ratings system in place today has been continually evolving, with numerous ratings either discontinued or merged with other ratings and with brand new ratings created over recent decades. So it’s not as if we still have the rating system we had 200 years ago, or even 40 years ago, that has to be defended to the death.

        Obviously there’s a helluva lot more history and custom involved with Boatswains Mates or Gunners Mates than there is with Mass Communications Mates. And the past dis-establishments and mergers of some ratings such as Torpedoman’s Mate and Radioman no doubt caused a lot of resentment amongst those affected at the time … but because those changes happened on a micro scale rather than macro scale, it did not cause the huge hoo haw that we saw this year with the attempted mass disestablishment of all ratings.

        So change is always around the corner. Massive change, however, is always massively disruptive and should be avoided, period.

        • I don’t disagree with what you said however, I should have been more clear.

          You stated, “I was tested on my knowledge of radars, though I never so much as spent one minute of time in the Navy working on radars.”

          That is what I meant in modernizing the testing. That issue is not modernizing the whole system but rather just the testing.

          I almost went with the ET nuke route but I liked the idea of Electronic Warfare just bit more.

  • RTColorado

    Who knew a bunch of rust picking swabbies could be so sensitive ? It could have been worse…they could have been called….Airman !

    • William E. Shaw

      As an E-3 (AN), many are.

      • RTColorado

        Doesn’t “Airdale” sound better ?

        • William E. Shaw

          No.. and that would include the entire Aviation branch of the Navy, Officer and Enlisted.

  • Curtis Conway

    Thank You! Sanity at last.

  • It is about time the Navy got back to it core missions and sh$tcanned all this social justice and environmental nonsense.

    • Donald Carey

      Some environmental “nonsense” actually makes sense – a ship that pollutes is more easily tracked, for instance.

      • Not at $424 a gallon for algae based biofuel. Sorry that make no sense.

        • Donald Carey

          Did I mention using biofuel? NO, I did not. Clean fuel, no matter the source, with a proper fuel/air mix can eliminate smoke, for instance. Also, not dumping garbage over the fantail, properly processing sewage, etc. was what I was talking about.

          • “Did I mention using biofuel? NO, I did not. ”

            However that is the environmental nonsense I was talking about in my original post.

          • Donald Carey

            I re-read your original post and the word biofuel just doesn’t seem to be there, you did say all,though, and I was pointing out that there are some environmental friendly things that it would benefit the Navy to do. (If I could read minds I’d be in Vegas getting rich.)

  • fusilier

    How much did this cluster-fark cost the taxpayer?

  • Ex GM3

    This is great News

  • Dennis

    Mabus wanted to make his mark and be noted. He is: as an idiot who changed tradition for no reason. Throw him out and bring back our history!!

  • Wil

    I hold no title. Citizen will do. I don’t understand the controversy or what propels it. Performance and competence is in the end what provides effect. A rose is a rose. Right?

  • Ron Henning

    Mass communication? Why in my day we were just called Journalists 😂. But seriously, even back in antiquity (the 80s), the pride was more in the rating than the rank. Any dipshit could be a 1st class bos’in mate. But to make E-6 or higher in a specialist rating means you have beat out some talented people to get promoted

    • old guy

      Agree. Specialty/wage inequity revues are long overdue. A good start on true rate values could be in re-up bonuses given.

    • William E. Shaw

      JO & PH were ‘merged’… and disparaging of BM’s indicates how little you know. I’m an AO, but a blue water sailor first.

  • C.C. Hiliner

    That “Master Chief” who concocted this “brilliant” idea should be busted back
    to E-1 swab, and finish out his career cleaning heads.

    So glad our Navy is back,

    Mabus is a clown and that Admiral Mullens and his stupid “blueberry” uniforms.

  • D.R. STRON

    A quick weigh-in; I served 24yrs in the Submarine Force, when the first tear-dropped hulls were being built for SSNs, and the first generation SSBNs (Boomers) came on line (598 class)…rode’em all – conventional, Nuc SSN, SSBN….retired in 1984 (RMCM(SS)). Not intending to publish a synopsis here, but I was completely unaware that all of this was going on; like everyone, I was greatly concerned with the obvious decimation of our military by the current administration……seems like you guys have had to contend with a whole lot more than my generation did. For the good of general morale (and professional expertise), I hope that all of this is satisfactorily resolved for all of you still serving. ‘RIG FOR DIVE”

  • DesertDoc

    I served as a CorpsMAN for 22 years and never saw a woMAN out in the mud and crud with me and my Marine Grunts as we humped up hill and dale forever on end with 80-100 pounds of kit on our back, nor any on the front combat lines. Met only a couple that could possibly had gone the whole nine yards in the field so don’t talk to me about equality. In a clinic, sure. In the hospital, most of the time unless heavy lifting or a combative patient was involved. It’s not a matter of fairness or whatever….it simply is!! That is reality.

  • Richard Wadzinski Jr

    when will these civilains learn to stay out of military traditions and customs, this was 241 years old, a no nothing idiot deciasion was made and gladly see it reversed. STOP comparing the military witht he civilain world, it just does not compare……………………..

  • Mike

    is Navy leadership soooo far out of touch that they didn’t know the pride enlisted people feel about their ratings?