By Heidi Welte:
29 September 2016, a day which will go down in infamous naval history. On this day the Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus decided to remove all ratings from the Navy while in the process, making what is without a doubt the most moronic and short sighted decision in naval history. In an epic attempt to backpedal in the face of the tremendous backlash that Navy officials really should have seen coming but somehow did not, the Chief of Naval Operations asserted that this will make it easier for sailors to transition out of the Navy and into civilian jobs. Many of these jobs do not translate into civilian jobs at all such as my rate, Sonar Technician (Surface) or STG. Civilians generally do not need people who are good at waiting for nothing to happen and who know how to operate sonar equipment and search for enemy submarines. In reality this was done was to make Navy ratings gender neutral. There are other more pressing issues facing today’s sailors, yet this is what the top brass chose to focus on. Bravo Zulu, Mabus.
I am, and will always be, STG3 Heidi Welte. I am proud of my rating. As soon as I graduated from “A” school, I got a new personal email address to reflect my rating. I have a large pin featuring my rating symbol that I wear proudly on my blazer. Before I moved from Virginia to Philadelphia and found the cost of a personalized license plate in Pennsylvania to be cost prohibitive for me at this time, my license plate featured my rate. When I joined the Navy out of high school, I wanted to be a sonar tech and specifically asked for it at MEPS. I freely admit that it was Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October which initially fueled my interest in anti-submarine warfare and brought forth a lifelong fascination with and study of submarine warfare history, and military history in general. Now it is gone, and for the most idiotic reason imaginable.
I am not the only one that is proud of my job in the Navy, countless others are as well and can be found on social media. Some have tattoos of their rating symbol, others have their rating on their license plates as I did. The best sign of the tremendous disapproval of this poor excuse of a decision can be found in form of the whitehouse.gov petition started on the very day of the decision and has, as of 12 October 2016, garnered over 71,000 signatures of the needed 100,000, and with good reason. Some of these ratings are as old as the Navy itself. Some of them even predate the US as a nation. Many of our naval traditions were borrowed from the British Navy, including ratings and the separation of officers from enlisted personnel. It greatly saddens and angers me that naval history is so thoroughly disrespected and has been discarded like yesterday’s garbage. It angers me that, of all the issues facing the military, this is what Mabus chose to focus on. People are not going to stop telling me I do not look like a veteran because Mabus changed my rating from a title with a proud history to a sad alphanumeric code. It is not going to help my sister veterans’ medical issues, both physical and mental, be taken more seriously by the department of Veteran’s Affairs. It is not going to help sexual assault survivors be taken more seriously by the military, and it will not end sexual harassment, a problem not only in the civilian world but in the military as well. It is not going to make daycare more affordable for my shipmates who have children, where both parents work or where they are the only parent. It is the exact sort of non-issue that can be dealt with for the sake of being able to say they have accomplished something which sounds important, but does little to no good and is, overall, less useful than putting a band aid on something. This was done with an all-consuming desire to make it into the history books at any cost. If Ray Mabus was hoping for a place among our glorious naval annals, he has certainly gotten it. It will not be the place of respect or reverence that he was probably hoping for and thought it would be. Instead, he will be remembered by historians and contemporaries alike as the man who thoughtlessly defecated upon 241 years of naval tradition, who is deserving of the same respect he has for naval history: none whatsoever. It would have been better for him to have remained as a footnote to history rather than to be remembered in such an infamous way.
Heidi Welte is an OpsLens Contributor and U.S. Navy veteran.