YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Unwritten law of enlisted-Navy politics No. 1: Don’t tick off the chief.

Unwritten law No. 2: Become friends with the people who cook your food, run the laundry and handle your military pay and personnel records.

Law No. 1 is unchanged. But due to the Navy’s Pay and Personnel Ashore initiative, finding a friend on ship who handles your paycheck and military records might be more difficult.

Across the fleet, most of the Navy’s personnel specialists are being moved off ships and into shore facilities.

Since 2004, more than 200 ships have begun using PAPA detachments, including the six ships forward-deployed to Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, in September 2006.

Ships at Yokosuka Naval Base are next, starting with the USS Shiloh.

According to Lt. Marco Spivey, the executive officer of Yokosuka’s Personnel Support Activity, four Shiloh personnel specialists are to move to Personnel Support Detachment, Yokosuka, in the near future.

“It’s just a matter of time before they physically come to work with us at PSD,” said Spivey, adding that the target date for all of the Western Pacific’s 7th Fleet ships to comply is April 2008.

Under the PAPA model, Spivey said, some senior personnel specialists will remain at sea to work with their ship’s PAPA detachment ashore.

With most ships already using the system, he said, “we know it works,” but he added that with any new system there will be “challenges and obstacles” to work through.

So far, he said, feedback from commanding officers has been “mostly positive.” However, some sailors see the initiative as a setback for customer service.

“The bottom line is the crew suffers,” said Chief Petty Officer Bryan L. Williams, a personnel specialist aboard the Sasebo-based amphibious assault ship USS Essex.

In the past, if an entitlement payment was late or a paycheck was short, sailors could turn to a shipmate for help, Williams said.

But the new system has traded that face-to-face contact for shore-bound personnel who just “don’t have the same concern,” Williams said.

For the Navy, technology has been the key to enabling PAPA.

The credit card-based Navy Cash system has removed most of the currency transactions from the ships, and electronic service records have reduced the Navy’s dependence on paper service records, Spivey said.

But not everything will be completely online.

Chief Petty Officer Melanie Kinchen, officer in charge at Yokosuka’s Personnel Support Detachment, said each ship will retain a field record of each crewmember, and official service records will be retained and managed at its PAPA detachment ashore.

Kinchen said the goal of combining each area’s personnel and pay offices is to consolidate subject matter experts.

Experts have been stretched thin due in part to recent ratings mergers, she said.

Managing the Navy pay system and maintaining military service records used to be separate job descriptions. Dispersing clerks, who dealt with money and pay issues, and personnelmen, who handled enlisted service records, were combined into a single rating of personnel specialist.

That consolidation plus implementation of Navy Cash and other technology upgrades has decreased manpower needed aboard ships, Spivey said.

Spivey said that although he suspects shipboard connectivity will likely remain an issue, he is “very optimistic” about the change.

“I have an army of more than 60 experts, including chiefs and master chiefs, who are dedicated to handling complex pay and service record issues,” he said. “Once we bring everything online, I am exploring transitioning PSD toward a shift-work model to provide service around the clock.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Travis J. Tritten contributed to this report.

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