Navy drops enlisted job titles and leaves sailor's individual identity behind

U.S. Navy officials announced that effectively immediately all job titles for enlisted personnel are no longer relevant. The extreme shift and change come after a Navy working group completed a review earlier this year that included identifying required changes to recruiting, training, and personnel.

The enlisted rating modernization plan comes during a year of changes and evolution for the U.S. Navy. Secretary of the Navy (SENAV), Ray Mabus believes that this will give “Sailors increased opportunities within the Navy, such as a higher level of flexibility in training and detailing, but also increasing their opportunities when they transition out of the service. In aligning the descriptions of the work our Sailors do with their counterparts in the civilian world, we more closely reflect the nation we protect while also making it easier for our Sailors to obtain the credentials they’ll need to be successful in the private sector.”

There is no denying that there is an issue when Navy personnel transition from military life back to civilian life. Life is inherently different from the moment you no longer refer yourself as your rank/rate. Civilian and military life are on two different spectrums. I, personally, had it easier than some because I was an Electrician’s Mate. Transferring all those skills in my resume for employers to read was relatively simple. Others were not as lucky.

From the inception of the Navy in 1775, the service has had job titles or “rates.” Some were still existent till yesterday. Others were changed or adjusted through the centuries. This time last week, we still had airman, fireman, and seaman – today, we are left with seaman.

NavyTimes reports that this began “by a directive from Mabus to find gender-neutral rating titles that stripped them of the word “man,” in an effort to be more inclusive to women sailors who make up an increasing size of the force.”

What is in a name? And how does this actually help the Navy be more inclusive? While the benefits of the Navy’s actions are clear, current sailors will be the ones dealing with the growing pains of an evolutionary society that is deeply affecting the roots of the Navy. On that note, hopefully, the future Navy will be what it craves to be: an inclusive, open culture that accepts all sailors as they choose to be.

The thing to remember and as Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, Steven S. Giordano put it nicely in a Navy release is that “We are all Sailors and changing our rating titles does not affect that. While we certainly understand that this represents a significant cultural shift for the Navy and will take time to become fully adapted throughout the Fleet, this is about giving Sailors more choice and flexibility and ultimately providing the Navy opportunities to get the right Sailors with the right training and experience in the right billets.”

“Significant culture shift” is putting it lightly. Navy sailors used to have an identity. Rank and rate were your first name. With those rates gone, we are now part of the group, the unit, the Navy. Even in an establishment that bolsters unity, there was a bit of individuality in it. It’s a nostalgic moment for me and it’s a hard decision for the Navy.

Navy officials also state “This change will also allow the Navy to more accurately identify Sailors’ skills by creating ‘Navy Occupational Specialty’ (NOS) codes that allow greater assignment flexibility for Sailors throughout their career and will be matched with similar civilian occupations to enable the Navy to identify credentials and certifications recognized and valued within the civilian workforce.”

The give and take of being in the military is to understand that the group is more important than the individual. The numbers and letters used to create a code that will identify the sailor is almost a metaphorical move from the individual to the collective.

The Army and Air Force have similar guidelines, if not the same, to the way the Navy is now representing sailor’s jobs. This is only a huge shock to the Navy because they lived and breathed it. Some would say that this isn’t a big deal as we are making it out to be. What is in a name? Only the meaning we assign it. The Air Force has its own way of identifying job titles, but they are addressed only by rank and last name. It’s not an issue or a concern; it’s a way of life.