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Petty Officer 2nd Class Gabriel Young, seated, talks with Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Kpulun at the Naval Support Activity Personnel Support Detachment in Naples, Italy. Both work in the customer service section as personnel specialists, but, until a recent rating merger, they had different jobs. Young used to be a personnelman and Kpulun used to be a disbursing clerk. The ratings were combined in October.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Gabriel Young, seated, talks with Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Kpulun at the Naval Support Activity Personnel Support Detachment in Naples, Italy. Both work in the customer service section as personnel specialists, but, until a recent rating merger, they had different jobs. Young used to be a personnelman and Kpulun used to be a disbursing clerk. The ratings were combined in October. (Jason Chudy / S&S)

About 13,000 sailors in a variety of job specialties — from draftsman to dental technician — have recently had, or soon will have, to change their ratings.

Navy job specialties are known as ratings, and sailors use these ratings, along with a rank designator, to identify themselves in everything from correspondence to conversation. For example, a petty officer first class boatswain’s mate might be referred to as a BM1.

The Navy recently changed ratings for about 2,800 sailors alone when they merged dental technicians into the hospital corpsman rating.

The changes were brought on, officials say, because many of the sailors in those ratings have common job characteristics.

“We’re aligning like skills,” said Lt. Cmdr. Bill Kramer of the Navy’s Bureau of Personnel.

Kramer, an enlisted community manager for cryptologic technicians, said Navy leaders are always looking at ways to save money and reduce redundancies between ratings.

The concept of merging ratings isn’t new.

In 1990, for example, there were 86 ratings for those in E-6 and below. In late 2004, the number was down to about 70. As of Jan. 1, it was down to 65, and by the end of this year the number might be down to 63.

But while some sailors are being absorbed into existing ratings, others with unique job specialties are being given their own ratings. Navy divers and explosive ordnance disposal technicians, which were separate specialties under a number of different shipboard or aviation ratings, will now become their own specialized ratings.

In the past, for example, a Navy diver or EOD technician may have been a machinist’s mate with the diver or EOD specialty. For advancement, those sailors would compete with all other machinist’s mates, rather than those with the EOD or diving specialties.

Now, with one rating, all divers and EOD technicians will be competing against each other in their respective ratings.

The EOD and Navy diver ratings will both officially be established on June 1, and a mass communication specialist rating beginning July 1. While the diver and EOD ratings will take people from existing ratings, those becoming mass communication specialists will be taken from four different ratings — journalist, photographer’s mate, draftsman and lithographer.

While the Navy touts a commonality in functions between the jobs, it’s sometimes a tough road for those involved.

Chief Petty Officer Scott George of the Naples, Italy-based Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Europe Central was part of the merging of ocean systems technicians and sonar technicians in the mid- to late-1990s.

“[Navy officials] thought they’re anti-submarine warfare rates, so put them together,” he said.

On paper, each rating hunted submarines for a living, but George said the change meant a large learning curve for both communities.

“For both there was a lot to learn,” he said, “new and different equipment and new ways of doing the job. It was an uphill climb for everybody.”

George has since changed ratings again, this time voluntarily, to information systems technician.

But rating mergers haven’t been difficult for all.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Gabriel Young, a personnel specialist with Personnel Support Detachment Naples, came from independent duty in Washington, D.C., where he did work as both a disbursing clerk — his rating at the time — and that of a personnelman.

The Navy merged the personnelman and disbursing clerk ratings on Oct. 1, 2005.

“It wasn’t a big change,” he said. “Instead of a personnelman just doing admin (paperwork) and a disbursing clerk just doing finances, one person can do finance and admin items.”

Young and Petty Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Kpulun work in the customer service section of PSD. Kpulun, a former personnelman, began his Navy career as an unrated seaman in the disbursing office of the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill.

“The thing for me is I came from a small ship,” he said. “But I took the personnelman test even though I was working in disbursing.”

Also, scheduled to merge or change is cryptologic technician (communications) into information systems technician, beginning March 1, with about 1,415 CTOs to become ITs.

Other administrative ratings are also being considered for merger, Kramer said, but no details have been finalized. Also being looked at is the possibility of merging specific engineering ratings into broader ratings.

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