The U.S. Navy’s enlisted occupational system was the product of more than 200 years of careful evolution. In 1775, only a few different jobs above the ordinary level of seaman were offered. These included boatswain’s mate, quartermaster, gunner’s mate, master-at-arms, cook, armorer, and coxswain. Over the centuries, this list grew and adapted to accommodate change, and a sailor’s rating became an enormous source of pride.
In September, Secretary of the Navy (SecNav) Raymond “Ray” Mabus Jr. handed down a mandate that immediately and totally erased this entire system.
This announcement was met with widespread hostility, and a petition to the White House, demanding that the policy be reversed, garnered far more than the 100,000 signatures required to elicit a presidential response. Sailors are upset. Many suspect the SecNav’s actions are motivated by political correctness rather than by the needs of either the Navy or its sailors. Further, sailors clearly wonder what role uniformed leadership played in this perceived betrayal.