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Op-ed: Top Enlisted Man Disposes Of Age-Old Military Rating I.D.

October 11, 2016

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United States Navy ratings were general enlisted occupations used by the U.S. Navy from the 18th century until September 2016. The ratings consisted of specific skills and abilities. Each naval rating had its own specialty badge, located on the rating chevron, which was worn on the left sleeve of the uniform by each enlisted person in that particular field. The chevron indicated the pay grade and the occupation specialty of the individual wearing it. Unfortunatley, sailors are being forced to bid farewell to these iconic ratings.

Master Chief Mike Stevens was MCPON (Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy) of our Navy for four years. His name will be remembered for ages to come, unfortunately, for the wrong reasons! Thanks to the efforts of Master Chief Mike Stevens these iconic ratings are being removed from Navy uniforms.

Master Chief Stevens was the “brainchild” for this totally unnecessary change to the Enlisted Rating System. Somehow, he was able to “charm” the Chief of Naval Operations (Admiral Richardson) and the Chief of Naval Personnel (Vice Admiral Burke) into accepting his proposal.

The draft of a proposed change of this magnitude, affecting all enlisted personnel on active duty in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Naval Reserves, should obviously have been sent to all Fleet and Shore Duty Stations for review by the entire enlisted cadre! Had this been done, quite possibly the order to implement the change would not have been given!

In my 20 years service in the Navy, I became acutely aware of the importance the specialty badge had regarding morale. Every sailor was extremely proud to let everyone know what he or she did in the Navy. Even non-rated personnel at the E-3 level proudly wore the specialty badge with their “Seaman, Airman, Fireman” diagonal stripe chevron colored “White, Green, Red” accordingly. Non-commissioned personnel wore chevrons (referred to as Crows) which consisted of an eagle, the specialty badge, and “V” shaped stripes (up to the E-6 level) indicating Third, Second, or First Class Petty Officer.

The Specialty Badge was located just above the V-Stripes. E-7 chevrons included a curved stripe which joined the top of the V-stripes. E-8 (Senior Chief) added a white star above the Eagle and E-9 (Master Chief) added two white stars above the Eagle Titles for Petty Officers E-4 through E-6 included their “Specialty.” For example an E-4 in the Yeoman Specialty was a Third Class Yeoman; a machinist was a Third Class Machinist’s Mate; a person who worked on the deck was a Third Class Boatswain’s Mate, etc.

The new rating system titles E-4s through E-6s are. simply, Petty Officer.

Based on the “red hot” negative feedback from fleet and shore stations thus far, the enlisted personnel are not “happy campers!” The Navy was unique to the other services by wearing our Specialty Badge on our sleeves. Now, one must ask a sailor what kind of work he does, if he needs or wants to know.

A lot of the enlisted personnel get cross-trained on occasion, but they don’t have to change their ratings in order to perform one or more jobs outside their rating! For example: Back-in-the-day, a Fire Control Man or a Fire Control Technician was cross-trained with the Gunners Mate rating so that if one of the gun mount crewmembers became injured/incapacitated, he/she could take over any position on the gun mount.

The feedback reported thus far, clearly discloses this change to be totally negative to the morale of the enlisted personnel in the Navy. The ability to show their “specialty” openly and proudly has been taken away from them!

As a Retired Senior Chief, I am appalled to learn that a fellow “chief” is responsible for this ludicrous idea. To make such a change without first determining what effect it would have on our sailors, was extremely ill-advised, inappropriate, and unnecessary. This change will not benefit the Navy one bit! It might, however, have long-term disastrous effects.


Brooks Outland is a Korean and Vietnam war veteran. He volunteered to serve in Vietnam because he was keen to help the people of South Vietnam keep their freedom and their country from communist takeover by the North. After retiring Brooks and his wife spent eight years volunteering aboard his old battleship, USS Missouri (BB-63), before returning to the mainland in Arkansas in 2015.