YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Noncommissioned officers in overmanned ratings could soon be coaxed into different jobs — or retirement — as the Navy moves ahead with new "force shaping and stabilization" plans, according to an e-mail sent out to senior leaders this week.

In the e-mail sent Monday, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick West said the service would soon announce that it would conduct "a Senior Enlisted Continuation Board around September 2009 for overmanned ratings to reduce the overage we are experiencing among selected E7-E9s with greater than 20 years of service."

"The focus of this board will be on retaining the top performers serving in our most demanding billets," West added in the e-mail obtained by Stars and Stripes.

The message also included the following:

n Sailors with six to 10 years of experience will be part of the Perform to Serve program, which takes sailors in overmanned job ratings and switches them to undermanned areas. Previously, it included only sailors serving their first six years of duty.

n It referenced two Jan. 9 policies that limit short-term extensions for sailors due to leave the Navy and shorten the time frame in which sailors can apply for the selective re-enlistment bonus.

On Monday, Navy officials in Washington confirmed plans to limit the extensions and the re-enlistment bonus time frame. However, they could not yet confirm plans for the continuation board because it had not been formally released.

Out of 69 ratings, 62 are listed as overmanned among sailors with more than 20 years experience on active duty, according to Navy figures.

Among sailors with six to 10 years of service, 32 job ratings are overmanned.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Eladio Garcia, assigned to the USS Shiloh at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, says that although he understands what the Navy is trying to do, it’s tough for sailors E-6 and beyond to switch jobs in the middle or during the latter part of their careers.

"All the experience you’ve had is gone with a new rating," Garcia said. "Plus you’re competing with people who have been in that rating for years and years."

Limits on short-term extensions also could further affect senior NCOs.

Commanding officers can’t authorize short-term extensions in overmanned ratings without a waiver from the Navy Personnel Command, according to the Jan. 9 policy.

Previously, some sailors who faced mandatory retirement due to time in grade have been able to obtain short-term extensions to stay in the Navy, especially if they volunteered for unpopular billets.

Sailors serving as individual augmentees, who are often deployed to combat zones, are exempt from the new short-term extension limitations. So are those seeking maternity benefits and others in isolated cases, according to the policy.

Chief Petty Officer John Tredway, who has served in the Navy for 21 years, could be affected by the new force-shaping initiatives.

Nevertheless, he says he agrees with the idea of a continuation board. He’s seen some NCOs who have been merely hanging on until their mandatory retirement, and says it’s time to make room for high-performing enlisted sailors.

"I think it should be done on a regular basis in three- to five-year increments," said Tredway, a boatswain’s mate and instructor at the Center for Surface Combat Systems.

He concedes it may be difficult for sailors in overmanned ratings to change jobs, but noted that everyone knows the Navy’s needs can supersede personal needs.

"There’s never a good time for it, but sometimes you’ve got to dig down and dive into it," Tredway said.

Meanwhile, sailors who want to take advantage of the selective re-enlistment bonus must do so 90 days before their active-duty service expiration date, according to Chief of Naval Personnel spokeswoman Sharon Anderson.

Before, sailors could re-enlist at any time in the same fiscal year as their expiration date. The new policy helps the Navy project its year-end strength, officials said. Sailors receiving combat zone exclusions are currently exempt from the policy change.

The policy changes are all part of the Navy’s goal to keep its force at about 329,000 active-duty sailors by the end of this fiscal year.

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