The 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.
“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.”