Pacific edition, Thursday, June 21, 2007

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Sometimes the best way to find out what is really going on is to go straight to the top.

That’s exactly what sailors at Yokosuka did Tuesday during an all-hands call that included a question-and-answer session with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen.

The first topic to be addressed was one that has put Mullen in the spotlight lately: Who’s going to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Just for the record, I have not been nominated … not yet. Secretary Gates has announced that he is recommending [me] for the job,” the four-star admiral said. “The president of the United States is the individual that does the nominating, and I am honored to have been recommended so far. So we’ll see where the process goes from there.”

Here’s a glance at other topics Mullen addressed:

Sailors as ambassadorsMullen reminded sailors of the importance of being ambassadors of the Navy and the United States.

“We are guests in their home and we need to handle ourselves accordingly,” Mullen said. “The strategic implications of not being here in this vital region are just huge, and so for the work you are doing here … I applaud you.”

Associate’s degreesThe Navy recently pulled the requirement of an associate’s degree for promotion to senior chief because too many were not meeting it.

“We did it because we got an awful lot of feedback … and when we ran the numbers,, about 35 percent of those that would be eligible would be greatly disadvantaged in terms of the time it would take and the ability to achieve that requirement,” he said.

Mullen said the change doesn’t “shut the door” on the requirement forever.

Strategic shiftMullen said to adequately meet future challenges in the region, the Navy already has begun the process of forward-deploying the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington to Yokosuka and “moving 60 percent of the U.S. submarine forces into the Pacific.”

Diversity in the ranks“I think that inside the United States over the next 20 to 30 years, the majority is going to be the minority,” Mullen said of the importance of diversity in the military. “To have a Navy that is not representative of our country, particularly at the leadership level, will cause us to drift away from the country, and for the mission that we have, we can’t do that. That is a big deal for national security.”

Chance to advanceA petty officer second class postal clerk asked Mullen what people should do in ratings where near perfect scores on exams don’t add up to a promotion.

“If you are betting on spending a career of 20 or 25 years in one job, then you are taking a risky bet,” Mullen said. The Navy is changing, he said, and “you need to be open to other opportunities that will allow you to move up in rank, even if that means moving to another rating.”

Quality of life

Mullen said he is pleased that the “Homeport Ashore” initiative is enabling sailors to move off the ships into apartment-style living quarters.

“[Commander, Naval Forces Japan Rear Adm. James D. Kelly] told me that so far in this area, about 1,700 sailors have moved off the ships,” Mullen said. “And we are going to keep working until we reach our goal of having 95 percent of sailors off the ships.”

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