Navy's personnel chief addresses promotion issues while visiting Okinawa
By MATTHEW M. BURKE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 21, 2014
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Changes to the promotion system were necessary to ensure the Navy was taking care of its top sailors, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Bill Moran told troops in Okinawa on Wednesday.
Moran, who has held the post since August, met with various commands including the Seabees, corpsmen and hospital staff.
The Navy’s point man on personnel issues said that while it may be getting tougher to advance now — following a focus on staffing unfilled sea billets — the promotion process was stabilizing for future years and the methods of testing sailors’ proficiency were improving. He also said that programs such as tuition assistance would remain fully funded, and the size of the Navy would remain relatively unchanged for at least the next five years.
“We’re not getting smaller,” Moran told the audience of a couple hundred sailors in the Foster Fieldhouse gymnasium. “I don’t see significant changes in any ratings.”
Moran kicked off the town hall by acknowledging the large number of sailors in the audience who had deployed down range in support of Marine units in recent years. He said that while those assignments would be drying up as the United States prepares to leave Afghanistan, they will never completely evaporate as long as corpsmen serve hand in hand with America’s fighting force, the U.S. Marine Corps.
He explained that the medical community’s rate of advancement was in step with the Navy’s overall rate, and had decreased by about 4 percent since the last cycle. He said more high quality sailors are staying in making it tougher to advance. However, he said that the Navy is looking at ways to improve the process, by constantly reviewing advancement exams to ensure the most important things are being tested for, reducing the values of certain tests, coupled with giving leadership more sway in the advancement process, and also possibly crediting points towards advancement for exceptional physical fitness scores in the future.
“We’re making it very clear performance matters,” Moran said. “We want to keep the best sailors and we want to promote the best sailors.”
Fleet Master Chief April Beldo, Moran’s senior enlisted adviser, has been telling sailors on the admiral’s tour of Japan bases that they will have to be exceptional to advance and that they will no longer be able to just “hang around” to make rate.
Moran also explained fresh opportunities to leave the Navy early that are being afforded to specific ratings like combat engineers and certain aviation positions.
When Moran and Beldo turned the floor over to sailors, they heard a range of concerns including length of tour disparities, criticisms of the current system that rewards sailors who marry and have families with increased benefits but not single sailors, questions about Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Michael Barrett’s comments regarding pay reductions, the situation with martial law being declared in Thailand and even the apparent loophole where maternity leave is authorized for married male sailors but not single fathers.
Moran took note of the issues and promised to not only look at them more closely but to also advocate for the fleet in Washington. He said the biggest thing he took away from his meetings with various commands across Japan, including Sasebo Naval Base earlier this week, regarded frustrations in the overseas screening process for sailors and families assigned to forward deployed naval forces as well as processing delays.
“I don’t think we’re being as efficient as we might want to be or that we could be,” Moran told Stars and Stripes. “We need to look at our process and make sure we’re doing everything we can.”
Moran also pledged to supplement Sasebo Naval Base’s small medical presence and to address shortages of senior enlisted female sailors on its ships.
For the future, Moran said his focus would be on decreasing administrative burdens and empowering command triads so that they have more time to train for deployments.
“I think most commanding officers that I talked to say, ‘Hey, I don’t have enough time to do what I need to do to train my unit to get ready to deploy. I need time back,’” Moran said. “So we’re making a concerted effort on the [General Military Training] front, on a lot of the recording requirements, to try and reduce that so they have more time to focus on what they’re out here to do. So my lens is looking at it through the commanding officer’s field of view to make sure that when we do policy and we try and make changes its to empower them more and not make it harder for them.”
Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Bill Moran talks to Lt. j.g. Nathaniel Davis of U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa after addressing sailors on May 21, 2014. Moran is on a tour of Japan to hear sailors' concerns and to discuss everything from retention and advancement to benefits.
MATTHEW M. BURKE/STARS AND STRIPES