Navy personnel chief committed to increasing avenues for sailor feedback
By CHRIS CHURCH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 1, 2016
MANAMA, Bahrain — The Navy’s brass heard “loud and clear” that sailors felt broadsided by the rollout a month ago of the enlisted modernization plan — which included the elimination of ratings titles — and they didn’t feel they were given enough say, the chief of naval personnel said Tuesday.
Since the Navy’s Enlisted Rating Modernization plan was announced in late September — to a lot of criticism across the fleet — Vice Adm. Robert Burke and fleet leadership have been soliciting feedback from sailors on how to implement these changes.
During a visit to U.S. 5th Fleet this week, Burke said feedback from sailors is being taken into account. One idea he is finding worth greater consideration is more closely tailoring advancement exams to a sailor’s specific skill sets — the Navy Enlisted Classifications — rather than the broader occupational specialty. Such a change could potentially improve sailors’ prospects for promotion.
“That’s kind of a fleet-borne idea that’s really starting to appeal to me and making a lot of sense to give us the flexibility that we want to advance people on their skills,” Burke said.
The change would also address a common criticism sailors have about advancement exams: they are broad and include things sailors don’t always do on a day-to-day basis.
“Right now when you are in a rating that has 10 NECs, and you have two of them, you are still getting tested on those other eight, right?” Burke asked sailors at an All Hands Call in Bahrain on Tuesday. “That’s kind of a pain... You have to learn a lot of out of your job extra skills just to cover the advancement exam.”
Burke said there is still a lot of work to do on formulating this and other initiatives, but that the Navy wants to keep sailors involved.
During the All Hands Call in Bahrain, Burke and Master Chief April Beldo, the Fleet Master Chief for Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education, discussed the Enlisted Rating Modernization Plan — the decision to drop the Navy’s unique rating system. They said the Navy is not attacking the service’s heritage and tradition as critics have suggested.
“First thing we need to do as deckplate leaders is not to have our sailors feel as though we do not respect the fact that they are Master at Arms, Yeoman or electronics technicians,” Beldo said.“That is still your profession. That is still your occupation. So that’s the conversation we need to have.”
Leadership also needs to continue providing more information so that sailors can see the future of this program going forward, Beldo said.
Responding to a questioner asking why sailors couldn’t continue to address each other according to their rates until all the planned changes are implemented, Burke said the Navy leadership understands it is going to take a lot of time and effort to change the culture.
“You may call each other MA2 (Master at Arms Petty Officer 2nd Class) and HM2 (Hospital Corpsman Petty Officer 2nd Class) for the rest of your careers,” Burke said, “and I don’t care, that’s fine.”
But for sailors entering the Navy now and 5 years from now, they will have come up in a different culture, he said.
Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke talks with E6 and below about new personnel initiatives like the Navy Enlisted Ratings Modernization Plan and Sailor 2025 at an All Hands Call at Naval Support Activity Bahrain on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016. One idea that is being considered for the future is basing advancement exams on Navy Enlisted Classifications, rather than broad Naval occupational specialties.
CHRIS CHURCH/STARS AND STRIPES