It could spell the end of the time-honored Navy titles like fireman and seaman. could be the end of seaman as we know it —  or at least the job title.

The Navy secretary has ordered the service to review all job titles and consider removing any reference to "man" in them, a move that could force name-changes to nearly two dozen specialties, from airman to yeoman. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ordered the scrub as the force prepares to open the last remaining billets to women sailors, in Marine ground combat elements and the Navy SEALs.

Is this move about time, or an unnecessary change to tradition? Tell us at 

"Lastly, as we achieve full integration of the force, … this is an opportunity to update the position titles and descriptions themselves to demonstrate through this language that women are included in these positions," Mabus wrote, according to sources who quoted directly from the letter. "Ensure they are gender-integrated as well, removing "man" from their titles, and provide a report to me as soon as is practicable and no later than April 1, 2016."

Mabus sent the directive to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, in a Jan. 1 memo to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. , asking him to report back within three  has ordered the service to review job descriptions and remove any reference to "man" in them — and report back to him in three months with plans for doing it. A similar memo and mandate was also sent to the Marine Corps commandant, too asking for the same job title review. 

"Ensure they are gender-integrated as well, removing "man" from their titles, and provide a report to me as soon as is practicable and no later than April 1, 2016."

Some hallowed titles like seaman could be tough to replace, but others could be swapped with gender neutral descriptors as the service has done before. In 2005, for example, officials changed personnelman, a rating where many women had served, to personnel specialist.

There are at least 20 job titles that include the word "man." that Currently, there’s 20 Navy job titles that fall under this mandate, in seven of the 12 enlisted communities. Aviation has the most to review, with five of their 12 enlisted rating descriptions ending with "man." Surface engineering includes eight. second with three of eight needing review. 

Seabees and Surface Warfare and Operations both have two apiece with Supply and Medical having one.

But Those don’t include the traditional entry-level designations for non-rated sailors as well as designated strikers. How the Navy will finds gender neutral titles for airman, seaman and fireman is likely to prove a challenging, as well as Same goes for the Seabee and medical titles of This goes for the Seabee and Medical titles of constructionman and hospitalman for non-rated sailors., used used as titles for non-rated sailors in those communities. 

According to a source familiar with the memo, Mabus hasn’t mandated, yet, that any titles go away, according to a source familiar with the memo. He simply wants to see options for making titles as gender neutral, as part of persuading more women to make the Navy a career. enas possible and as soon as possible.

If it's too tough to make a change, the source said, he's willing to listen to the reasons.

"This isn’t a isn’t a draconian edict to get rid of all references to the word 'man,' " said the official, the source, who asked not to be identified publicly while internal deliberations continue. because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the issue. "But it is an opportunity to look at position descriptions and change them where it makes sense."

Nearly all of the Navy’s jobs with "man" in the title part of title have been opened to women for decades, and without interruption since the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, a was enacted in on June 12, 1948.

Women were allowed on active duty briefly during and after World War I as "yeomanettes" and again in a greater number of enlisted ratings as Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service or (WAVES) during World War II. 

But since the the 1948 change in law, women have serveed permanently in the armed forces, and have been serving in nearly all enlisted ratings ever since. also women have been serving in nearly most of the Navy’s non-gender neutral enlisted ratings ever since -- burt for many years, they only served ashore.  

The job of coming up with these options — or justifications to keep things unchanged they are — will likely fall to Chief of Naval Personnel, Vice Adm. Bill Moran and the enlisted community managers he oversees. He’ll most likely delegate the job to his enlisted community managers.

"We are in the beginning stages of this review and are working to comply with the Secretary's direction," said Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, spokesman for CNP told Navy Times on Jan. 7.CNP spokesmen were unable to immediately address the proposed review on Thursday Jan. 7Queries to CNP about the memo and their plans for complying with Mabus' request had not been answered as of press time. 

Over the years, As the Navy has merged or created new ratings, it has opted for gender neutral titles. In 1999, the radioman rating was merged into information systems technician. , gender neutral titles have emerged. 

For example personnelman, long considered a "traditional" rating for women, was merged  in 2005 with disbursing clerk and the new title was personnel specialist. The same happened in 1999 when radioman was merged into information systems technician.

This could be the model for upcoming changes, too.

Take fire controlman. This surface fleet specialty could be renamed to match their counterparts in the submarine force, the fire control technicians. Here, the example is Fire Controllman which is a surface only rating that’s now under review. The submarine force has a similar rating — Fire Control Technician that does essentially the same job. 

Barring unforeseen technical reasons, adopting the sub designation Navy-wide could be an easy solution, sources say.

"Simply removing 'man' and replacing it with technician or specialist works in many cases," said the source familiar with the memo.

But the toughest to alter will be long-standing titles like seaman and airman, both practically and culturally, according to senior enlisted leaders familiar with the review. But it could be the long-standing titles of seaman and airman, that some senior enlisted sources familiar with the now ongoing process  say will be the toughest to change, both practically and culturally. 

Fireman, could be easily changed to engineer, the sources say, which is technically a better description today anyway with fires less common than that before., with steam-powered boilers on the wane in the Navy anyway.

Up to now, the title seaman has applied to men and women in the Navy. But the usage situation is more confusing elsewhere. The Merriam-Webster dictionary says it applies to any of the three ranks below petty officer, but also specifies it for "an enlisted man in the navy or coast guard." The WebstersAccording to Websters online dictionary, a seaman is initially defined as already gender neutral, saying "a sailor in the U.S. or British Navy or the U.S. Coast Guard who is not an officer."

But under the full definition, it also says "an enlisted man in the navy or coast guard ranking above a seaman apprentice and below a petty officer"


The Navy has 21 rating designations that could get changed as a result of Navy Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus’ mandated review of Navy job descriptions. The job titles include "man" in the title and could be removed: Fifteen of them relate to rated junior sailors petty officer and chief petty officer descriptions. Four are junior, non-rated designations for E-1 to E-3. 

Apprentice, non-rate designations:

  • Airman
  • Constructionman
  • Fireman
  • Hospitalman
  • Seaman

General and compression Ratings:


  • Yeoman
  • Legalman


  • Aircrew Survival Equipmentman
  • Aviation Ordnanceman
  • Aviation Support Equipmentman
  • Aviation Maintenance Administrationman Equipmentman
  • Master Chief Constructionman

Surface Engineering

  • Damage Controlman
  • Engineman
  • Machinery Repairman


  • Utilitiesman
  • Master/Senior Chief Constructionman

Surface Warfare/Ops

  • Fire Controlman
  • Mineman


  • Hospital Corpsman


  • Ships Serviceman


Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.

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