A Navy administrative message published on Thursday announced that the naming system for rates would change to a four-digit alphanumeric Naval Occupational Specialty. The changes are the result of an eight-month investigation originally intended to make Navy rates more gender inclusive.
Sailors from E-1 to E-3 will be given the title ‘Seamen,’ E-4 through E-6 will be Petty Officer Third Class, Petty Officer Second Class, and Petty Officer First class Respectively, while E-7 to E-9 will be Chief, Senior Chief, and Master Chief Petty Officer, keeping in accordance with their paygrade.
The only difference is that the job title will be categorized under a numerical system instead of through phrases like ‘Airmen’ or ‘Firemen.’ For example, the rates of Navy Diver, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Specialist, and Special Warfare Operator will be classified as NOS E100, E200, and E300 respectively.
The system is hardly new, taking inspiration from those already in place in the other branches of the service. What is so interesting about the one being instituted in the Navy is the ability to hold more than one job title at once. Commander John Schofield said that the shift would enable sailors to gain more professional expertise, making it possible to “enable the Navy to identify credentials and certifications recognized and valued within the civilian workforce.”
It is worth noting that titles of ‘midshipman’ and ‘seaman’ are remaining unaltered as they are not ranks. When the investigation was announced, however, an alternative name to ‘midshipman’ was at the forefront, inciting backlash from Academy Graduates.
Anthony Papandrea, a 76-year-old graduate of the Class of 1961, called the initiative “political correctness run amok.”
“Does it increase our military capability to do the mission, to kill our enemies?” he said. “If it doesn’t, then stop playing around.”
Some have gone so far to say that changing the names will only further alienate the growing population of females in the Navy. Elizabeth Rowe, the first female Naval Academy graduate, said that by changing the names to something more gender neutral, it would be doing just that. “For me, there’s a balance between women’s rights and tradition,” she said.
Others are embracing the changes as a step in the right direction. Roger Lunde, a 1964 Academy Graduate noted that change has been long “overdue.”
“Tradition isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” said Lunde, who lives in Rockville. “But slavery was a tradition. There aren’t very many people who think that was a good one.”
Kyleanne Hunter, a former Marine Corps pilot and founder of the Think Broader Foundation said that the rate changes were an important step to show that the Navy is serious about integration.
“It makes a difference to have a gender neutral title because it doesn’t create an institutional barrier to you doing your job,” she said. “Language subconsciously shapes our values and culture.”
The Navy is expecting opposition from those who have grown accustomed to the rages and may see the change as an unnecessary inconvenience placed on them by social justice warriors. “Changes to personnel management processes, policies, programs and systems will proceed in deliberate and thoughtful phases that will enable transitions that are seamless and largely transparent to the fleet,” the message states.
Ultimately, what is most important is that the Navy is taking actions towards equality among the sexes. “What they’re doing now, allowing women to do any job in the Navy, those are the changes that make a difference,” Rowe said. “And time.”