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Navy Begins Temporary Senior and Master Chief Promotions for Critical Billets

Senior Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) Brady Carmack instructs Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57) during engineer training drills, Oct. 3, 2017. US Navy photo.

Senior Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) Brady Carmack instructs Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG-57) during engineer training drills, Oct. 3, 2017. US Navy photo.

In an attempt to retain vital enlisted personnel expertise in engineering, training and aircraft maintenance, the Navy is starting a pilot program that temporarily promotes sailors to senior and master chief ranks.

Called the Fiscal Year 2019 Enlisted Advancement-to-Vacancy Selection Board, the pilot program allows senior enlisted sailors to apply for specific priority-fill billets. If selected, they are temporarily promoted by one pay grade to either senior chief petty officer (E-8) or master chief petty officer (E-9). As long as the selected sailors are working in the priority billets, they will wear the higher rank and receive the higher pay rate.

“This program will give motivated sailors an opportunity to take on positions of greater responsibility, while at the same time helping the Navy to better align our senior enlisted leaders to the places we need them to be,” Capt. Rick Cheeseman, director of the Career Management Department at the Navy Personnel Command, said in a statement.

The Navy has an immediate need for senior enlisted leaders in four areas the Navy considers critical: aviation maintenance master chiefs, engineering department leaders, combat systems maintenance managers and afloat training group training and maintenance managers.

Any sailor participating in the program who wants to permanently be promoted to the higher rank must still go through the regular board selection process. However, while not guaranteed promotion, sailors in the program will go before their promotion boards with the advantage of having already performed at a higher level.

“Personnel who perform well in a spot-promoted billet will be given favorable consideration for permanent advancement,” Cullen James, a Navy Personnel Command spokesman, told USNI News in an email.

This is the second time in two weeks the Navy has launched an accelerated advancement program geared at enticing enlisted personnel with critical needs to remain in the service by offering a quicker path to leadership positions. Earlier this month the Navy announced that, after a four-decade absence, the rank of warrant officer-1 was returning as a means of encouraging enlisted personnel with highly coveted cyber skills to remain in the Navy.

With the warrant officer-1 program, Navy officials conceded that offering enlisted personnel a quicker path to leadership positions was necessary for the cyber community because the Navy cannot keep pace with the pay offered by the private sector.

With many of the skills associated with the senior and master chief program, while the Navy is offering a quicker path to leadership than what might be available in the private sector, the gap between pay in the private sector and what the Navy offers is also relatively small.

For example, the annual median income for aviation technicians in the private sector is about $61,200, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. A master chief, with the minimum number of years of service required to attain this rank, currently earns $62,000, according to the Defense Financing and Accounting Service.

The engineering and training billets included in the new senior and master chief advancement program are located at naval air stations and aboard a variety of naval platforms, including guided-missile cruisers and destroyers, amphibious warships and aircraft carriers.

About 1,100 sailors, or 4 percent the Navy’s roughly 27,026 active duty senior and master chiefs, are eligible for the program, according to the Navy. Currently, the Navy has about 8,990 senior and master chiefs, according to the April tally of Navy personnel, the most recent available from the Department of Defense.