U.S. Navy Plans Thorough Review of Enlisted Ratings

Sailors on the carrier USS Carl Vinson reenlist (file image courtesy USN)

By MarEx 2016-06-14 21:20:04

Since January, the U.S. Navy's civilian and military leadership have been planning for a new set of titles for enlisted ratings that are intended to reflect inclusion of women in previously closed positions. The service said in an announcement Tuesday that it would be taking this as an opportunity for a more thorough review of titles to improve staffing practices and to better communicate Navy responsibilities to civilian employers post-service.

"As we move to achieve full integration of the force, mirroring more closely the nation that we defend, this is an opportunity to update position titles and descriptions to be more inclusive and better translate occupation and skill sets to prospective employers when sailors and marines leave the service," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

In January, Mabus called for an "update of position titles and descriptions to demonstrate through this language that women are included in these positions," specifically by removing the pronoun "man" from all titles containing it, like "fire controlman" or "yeoman."

The changes come as part of the service's Sailor 2025 program, and senior leaders say that in addition to gender neutrality, they expect the new titles will allow flexibility in detailing sailors, provide greater training and credentialing opportunities, and help sailors become more marketable to civilian employers when they leave the service. 

The Navy will next review how changes to titles could affect personnel policies, and the results are expected in the fall. 

"We envision a point where some combinations of today's rates, with similar training and experience, can quickly and easily cross into the occupations of [others] with a limited amount of additional training or experience," said spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, speaking to Military.com. "This has the potential to enhance career flexibility and detailing options for our sailors, while also improving 'fit' – our ability to get the right sailors with the right skills into the right billets across the fleet."

The Navy noted in a statement Tuesday that such changes were not unprecedented, and that more than 700 enlisted rating titles had been modified or eliminated over the span of the last two centuries. The gender neutrality change is controversial in some quarters – especially any potential change to "midshipman," the title for students at the U.S. Naval Academy. 

The Marine Corps is conducting a parallel review of its enlisted ranks.