A WhiteHouse.gov petition asking the Navy to reverse the decision to get rid of its time-honored job ratings system has reached 100,000 signatures, guaranteering it will receive a direct response from the White House.
The Navy's announcement in late September that it was doing away with all job ratings in favor of alphanumeric codes caused consternation among many sailors, who argued that the traditional job titles and fields were part of their identity in the fleet.
Still others are worried about decisions the service has yet to make, such as how to redesign traditional uniform ratings badges, and what to call the sailors formerly known as corpsmen, yeomen and firemen, to name three titles.
The move, Navy officials said, is designed to create more opportunities for professional advancement and allow sailors to hold multiple specialties, while doing away with gender-specific titles. But some allege the service went too far in trying to accomplish these objectives.
The petition itself was created by Robert D. Weeks, a retired Navy operations specialist who said the decision to overhaul the ratings system had caused dismay within a Facebook group he maintains for other former operations specialists.
"A lot of people like myself really loved their job, and the title that went along with it was part of your Navy identity," he told Military.com in early October. "And besides that, when people start off in the Navy and strike into a rating, it is a huge sense of pride for them to be able to put on a rank badge that has a rating symbol on it."
The petition made it almost halfway to its goal in just four days, accruing 46,000 signatures with viral speed.
The news that the petition had reached the 100,000-signature goal, two days ahead of the Oct. 30 deadline to do so, was first reported Friday by Navy Times.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson downplayed the backlash to the job title changes, telling Military.com in early October that the negative response was not as strong as some alleged. Traditional monikers, such as 'Doc' for corpsman and 'captain' for the commanding officer of a ship, would persist, he said.
While Navy brass have given no indication they intend to reverse the ratings overhaul, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke did solicit the feedback of sailors as the service redesigns career fields and training paths in a series of phases over the next three years.
"As we go forward, your feedback matters and we want to hear from you during each phase of the transformation," he said in an open letter to sailors. "You can expect lots of discussion on this as we learn and adapt the plan to make it deliver on the objectives."