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Navy to Poll Fleet for Input on Ditching 'Seaman' Title, Among Others

Sailors stand watch on the bridge of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) as the ship departs Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. (U.S. Navy photo: Justin Yarborough)
Sailors stand watch on the bridge of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) as the ship departs Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. (U.S. Navy photo: Justin Yarborough)

The master chief petty officer of the Navy is preparing to bring 10 other master chiefs to Washington, D.C., to assist in a whirlwind mission to make ratings and titles more gender-neutral and relevant, he said this week.

In an interview published by the Navy on Feb. 7, MCPON Mike Stevens said he was recruiting eight force master chiefs and two from current source ratings to help him bring in feedback from the fleet on how to best implement the January mandate from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

Mabus' order comes as the service awaits approval of its plan to open previously closed jobs in the Navy Special Warfare community -- including the elite SEALs -- to women.

Some venerable titles that might not pass the gender-neutral test include yeoman, fire controlman, hospitalman, and even seaman.

"So [the master chiefs are] responsible to go out to the fleet, to conduct all-hands calls, to solicit email input and other mediums of communications ... to find out what sailors think, what they're talking about," Stevens said. "I would tell you that what's most important is that these recommendations again come from our sailors in the fleet, that these master chiefs are simply the deliverers of that information."

The review, which is due to be completed by April 1, will also give the Navy the opportunity to do away with archaic or irrelevant job titles in favor of new ones, Stevens said.

"There's some ratings out there where the title of the rating doesn't necessarily align or match very well with the job that [the sailors] do," he said. "It doesn't always have to be about the 'man' or 'men' portion of the title change; it can be a title change because it makes more sense."

Stevens noted that Navy ratings have been added, altered or disposed of between 700 and 750 times in the history of the service. A comprehensive review like the current one, however, has not been attempted since the end of World War II, he said.

He called on sailors from across the fleet to seek out opportunities to participate in the surveys and all-hands calls and make sure their ideas were heard.

"I know that out there somewhere the answer exists, we just need to go mine for that gold," Stevens said. "Our sailors are going to deliver to us what I believe to be remarkable input and recommendations."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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