(See complete list at end of story)

NAPLES, Italy — Nearly 3,700 sailors will pin on the chief petty officer rank next month, according to a Navywide message, fewer than 20 percent of eligible candidates.

Advancement to senior enlisted leadership positions is becoming more competitive and is at its lowest in about a decade, Navy spokeswoman Lt. Candice Tresch said last month.

“Now that the Navy has entered a period of stabilizing the force, we are closely monitoring the number of billets and advancement opportunity to ensure a balanced force in terms of skills, seniority and experience and to align advancement rates with the number of available billets,” she said.

Sailors in career specialties such as explosive ordnance disposal, electronics technicians specializing in submarine navigation equipment and machinists mates who maintain weapons systems fared the best — with advancement rates between 50 percent and 60 percent of those eligible for promotion, according to the Navy’s Bureau of Personnel.

On the other end of the spectrum were machinery repairmen and cryptologic technicians. Only one percent of all eligible maintenance crypto-techs were on the annual chiefs list, while no machinery repairmen made the cut.

The primary reason for the disparity in promotion rates can be attributed to the number of vacancies in each career field. If there was only one vacant E-7 slot in the EOD field, for example, then only one E-6 could be promoted.

Of the 19,000 petty officers first class who were eligible, just 19 percent will be promoted to chief in fiscal 2010, a small drop from the current fiscal year.

Since 2004, the Navy has reduced the size of its force, including a 10 percent reduction in E-7 (chief petty officer) billets, Tresch said.

Following the announcement, those eligible for promotion begin a six-week training period, which includes classroom instruction, naval history, physical fitness training and leadership mentoring. At the end of the six weeks, all 3,700 sailors will be “frocked,” meaning their pay will increase at various times throughout the year, but all will be considered equal in seniority.

The jump from E-6 to E-7 represents one of the biggest career milestones in the military.

Unlike other branches of the service, those who make it to the Navy’s senior enlisted ranks immediately begin a training regimen to prepare them for a new set of leadership roles, a new peer group, new expectations and even a new uniform.

“As a junior sailor, wet behind the ears, I saw that the chiefs ran the Navy,” said Chief Petty Officer Vince Griego, who was promoted to chief in 2003 and is currently based in Naples. “Any time you had a question, you went to the chief. I wanted to be that guy.

“The chiefs are successful because they work together. It’s not about individuals; it’s about having a successful team that networks and looks out for each other,” Griego said.

The complete list ..Personnel who have been selected for advancement to Chief Petty Officer by the FY-2010 active-duty Navy E7 selection board. The selection list is in alphabetical order by rate within competitive category. In each line, from left to right, are last four digits of of SSN, name, and numerical order of advancement.

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