Navy's top enlisted leader wraps up controversial job title review
By Mark D. Faram
160323-N-OT964-059 CAMP LEJEUNE (March 23, 2016) Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Mike Stevens speaks with Sailors during an all hands call as part of his visit to the area. Stevens is on a two-week trip visiting Sailors along the eastern shore, from Norfolk to Key West, Fla., to hear their thoughts and concerns. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin L. Carey/Released)
A week after announcing his retirement for this fall, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens hit the road again to find out what’s on sailor’s minds.
He says it's not his last ride as MCPON — not even close.
"It’s important to start well, but it’s also important to finish strong," Stevens said. "So whether I’ve got four years or five months left in the Navy, I owe our sailors and our Navy my very best, so I'm not going to slow down — I’m going to keep pushing right to the very end because they deserve that." and should expect. that from me.
Stevens spoke to Navy Times on March 25 from the road, on March 25th, somewhere between Jacksonville, Florida, and Cape Canaveral, where he was visiting the Naval Ordnance Test Unitexpected by the Naval Weapons Facility.
It’s all part of what he’s calling his East Coast fleet engagement swing of that would encompass 16Sixteendifferent commands visits spread over 11eleven days and over more than 2,000 miles, from of road starting with Yorktown Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Va., Virginia, to ending at Naval Air Station, Key West, Florida. Fla.
He aims to meet with thousands of rank-and-file sailors and hundreds of enlisted leaders. Over that time, he expected that he’d be able to speak and greet over 2,000 rank and file sailors and hundreds of enlisted fleet leaders.
One topic that's come up: the review he's leading that could strip the word "man" from rating titles, like corpsman, one of the 21 titles under scrutiny. This highly controversial topic came up at Camp Lejuene and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. Stevens says he enjoys hearing what’s on sailors minds and this trip, he said he’s fielded a number of questions about the Secretary of the Navy’s initiative to make rating titles gender-neutral, especially from sailors at Marine Corps bases Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point.
"They wanted to know how we were approaching it," he said. "I told them that I asked [the chief of naval operations]CNO for the opportunity to lead this working group because I believe leaders don’t run away from challenges."
"I tell them that what this boils down to is aligning their job titles with the work that they do — align it with industry while preserving as much history and tradition as possible," he said. "And oh, by the way, we'll look for the opportunity to replace the word 'man' with something else where it makes sense."
Many ratings titles have come and gone since the Navy's founding in 11775 and even since World War II, as technology has changed sailors jobs. Stevens gives them the background and some perspective from history on just how much rating hames have changed since the Navy started in 1775 and even since World War II, just how many ratings have come and gone, or changed their names due to changing technology.
"Once they have some context and something to compare it to, they realize that maybe it's not something they need to get too worked up about," Stevens said.
Stevens says the review is nearly over and that he plans to brief it to the Vice Adm. Bill Moran, the chief of naval personnel, in coming days. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ordered the review in January, which could dump age-old titles like seaman, fireman and hospital corpsman. told Navy Times that the effort is nearing completion and first on his docket once he returns from the trip is a March 31 visit with Vice Adm. Bill Moran, the chief of naval personnel and he’ll brief his proposal that he hopes will go then to Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson and then on to Secretary Mabus.
The fireworks from the gender-neutral review aside, Stevens says said he's hearing less complaints lately about family problems and pay that have often led the list of sailor gripes. in the time he’s been making the rounds as a fleet master chief and now as MCPON, he’s seen a growing contentment with many of the traditional issues of pay and family issues that he used to hear.
That's not to say they don't have anxieties about their benefits, such as the new retirement plan. MCPON says said they want information about whether they should opt into the new plan. Today sailors are concerned about a shit of a new retirement plan they’ll have the chance to opt into.
But they're not complaining, he said. Instead, they want to know what the Navy will do to prepare them to make their decisions on which plans to take.
"I share with them that's written in the law that we are supposed to put together comprehensive training for all service members to help them make the right decisions for themselves and their families," he said.
He's also fielded questions about the recent changes to the body composition rules,
"Some folks want to know if it's a lower standard or simply a change that gets us closer to a more fit Navy as a whole," he said.
He's also fielded questions and comments about the Navy's current evaluation system and rules on limited duty, too.
"And there's always questions about manning," he said. "I'm hearing it more from from shore commands, now, who feel that they've taken a good hit over the years in regards to manpower and want to know what can be done for them."
Stevens said the only way to measure sailors' feeling on the deckplates is to get out and visit them. "I will say all in all, what I get is probably more so than what I’ve seen in the last 10 years that there’s pretty good satisfaction and contentment across the fleet, but says it’s the only place he gets unfettered access to sailors and what they’re worried about and that’s not going to change for him, even as he prepares for retirement.
"When I was Adm.iral [John C.] Harvey’s fleet master chief, he used to always say that the only way to really and truly build trust with your people is to have face to face contact — to look them in the eye and have a conversation with them," Stevens said. "I want sailors to get to know me and I want to get to know them — so together we can build that trust which is so important to execute the mission." NWS Yorktown, Norfolk area CMC call, NRD Raleigh, MCAS Cherry Point, Camp Lejeune, JB Charleston Navy Hospital Beaufort, Jax/Mayport CMC call, NOTU Cape Canaveral, Tampa- SOCOM/SOCENT, Joint Communications,Support Element, Miami- NRD Miami and SOUTHCOM, JIATF South, NAS Key West.
About Mark D. Faram
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.