By Heidi Welte:
The Chief of Naval Operations recently announced the restoration of Navy ratings! This comes after months of the Navy’s top brass telling enlisted sailors and veterans alike that they were taking away all ratings and replacing them with a sad knockoff of the Army’s and Marine Corps’ MOS system. They said we had to accept it and stop protesting.
What caused them to change their minds so suddenly? Perhaps the newly elected president who will be taking office this January did it, or perhaps the nomination of the Warrior Monk General Mattis as Secretary of Defense did the trick. There are several other factors that likely could have influenced the decision. There was the petition asking that our ratings be returned to us and our naval history be respected that garnered over one hundred thousand signatures in thirty days. There was the nonstop complaining and outcry on social media. There were countless unhappy emails, including one from me, that were sent to the email address the Navy set up asking what people thought of the new changes far later than they should have. There was also Mabus’ slow realization that his legacy would be one of deep hatred and resentment as he became aware of the fact that he ought to have listened to his sailors. The superstitious football fan in me likes to believe that the historic loss to the Army recently had something to do with it.
Whatever the reason, the top brass seems to have seen the error in their ways and they made the appropriate changes, restoring all ratings effective immediately. I must say, I have never seen anybody backpedal as quickly as the top brass is doing at the moment. It is nice to see Navy leadership admit, albeit in their own way, to their mistakes and make proper restitution, but this could have been prevented.
All of the good leaders of history, military and civilian alike, had one thing in common and that was their willingness to listen. You cannot be a good leader if you are not a good listener. The good leaders I have served under were all good listeners, and the bad ones were all bad listeners. This rating fiasco is a prime example of this, and it represents a failure to listen. The Navy’s leadership attempted to enact sweeping changes without so much as even asking how many of them were truly necessary, and they went about it in secrecy. They ought not to have been surprised when their actions effected massive outrage from active duty and veterans alike.
There will still be modernizations made to the current system to more accurately reflect the Navy of today, but those changes will now be made while keeping the beloved rating system firmly in place, as it should be. For example, the Navy no longer has Boiler Technician (BT) as a rating anymore than they still have sailmaker. Naval technology has changed over the centuries, and ships are no longer powered by boilers or wind, thus these ratings are not needed anymore. Navies that do not change with the times are doomed to eventual obsolescence. But such changes can and should be made without nuking morale, as the Navy’s top leadership has now learned.
Heidi Welte is an OpsLens Contributor and U.S. Navy Veteran.