Command Master Chief Ken Ellenburg from Navy Personnel Command gives career advice to senior enlisted sailors during a career management symposium Tuesday at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.

Command Master Chief Ken Ellenburg from Navy Personnel Command gives career advice to senior enlisted sailors during a career management symposium Tuesday at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan. (Tim Wightmanl / S&S)

In today’s ocean of Navy job ratings, riding the wrong wave could mean a career-ending crash.

Thus, the career-advice message of the Navy Personnel Command to sailors at recent base symposiums has been twofold: Keep working to excel in your rating, but be ready to switch jobs if necessary.

Twenty detailers representing multiple Navy ratings joined Center of Career Development Command Master Chief Ken Ellenburg in bringing that message Tuesday to sailors at Naval Air Facility Atsugi.

The advice comes on the heels of a new Navy instruction effective Feb. 1 that will require enlisted sailors with six to 10 years of service in overmanned ratings to apply for the "Perform to Serve" program if they want to remain in that rating.

The PTS program is the Navy’s method of controlling manning numbers by weeding out underperforming sailors serving in overmanned ratings, Navy officials say. Areas looked at in PTS packages include evaluations, exam results and physical readiness. It was previously geared only toward sailors with less than six years of service.

"If you are in an overmanned rating, you’re not going to stay in an overmanned rating," Ellenburg said. "You definitely need to be thinking about converting to another rating to stay in the Navy if that’s what you want to do."

According to Ellenburg, last year the program helped 88 percent of sailors stay in their rating. The rest either changed ratings or separated from the Navy. He said the new instruction should prompt more sailors to keep updated on their current rating’s status, but he cautions against sailors in overmanned ratings resigning themselves to switching.

"They still have to study," Ellenburg said. "You have to continue to study and not just wait for something to happen. You have to do your best on that exam."

He added that being active in the community and taking on additional duties in the command can separate sailors from their peers in overmanned ratings.

Sailor’s opinions vary on the prospect of changing ratings.

"My biggest fear about cross rating is the reenlistment," said Seaman Lavonia Moody. "It’s usually way longer than it would be if I just did a regular reenlistment, so I don’t know if I really want to give that much time to something I’ve never tried and might not like."

Petty Officer 3rd Class Arlan Capati is an aviation boatswain’s mate, one of the 32 ratings currently overmanned. He says changing jobs doesn’t concern him.

"I really want to stay in the Navy. I’ve gotten used to the Navy attitude," Capati said. "Besides, they’re going to train you. They’re not going to leave you alone doing something that you don’t know."

Ellenburg said the many first and second class petty officers who will be affected by the new instruction shouldn’t concern themselves with having to learn a new job when considering cross rating. He said their skills as petty officers are more valuable.

"I’m not asking them to go in there and learn another technical skill, I’m asking them to lead," he said. "What helps them at the very beginning for a foundation is that they’re successful leaders, and that’s what we need to get the undermanned rate up to speed."

Ellenburg said sailors can find out their rating manning status by asking their career counselors.

The Navy Personnel Command was scheduled to conduct career management symposiums Wednesday at Naval Air Facility Kadena, Thursday at Naval Air Facility Misawa and Friday at Yokosuka Naval Base.

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