A White House petition demanding the restoration of Navy job titles launched less than 96 hours ago has already garnered nearly half the 100,000 signatures needed to prompt a response from the Obama administration.
The petition launched within hours of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson's announcement Thursday that the Navy would do away with job titles and move to a system of job specialty codes. The plan is intended to give sailors greater career opportunities in areas that the previous system made difficult.
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But the announcement, made alongside new Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven Giordano and Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke, was presented with sparse details on how the system would be implemented or how the change will affect sailors' careers moving forward.
"For 241 Years Navy personnel have been identified by their Job specialty, known as a 'Rating,'" the petition reads. "The oldest rates such as Boatswain Mates, and Gunners Mate predate the founding of this country. Being known by your job title was a sense of pride. A sign of accomplishment. The Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations just senselessly erased this tradition."
Citing the intense backlash from sailors online, the petition asks President Obama to intervene directly to restore the job titles.
"One by one current leadership continues to erode the very things that set the Navy apart from the other services," it reads. "Mr. President, I and the others signing this petition request you use your authority to restore to our Sailors what they have earned."
Links to the White House petition have been circulating on Facebook sites popular among sailors and on closed Facebook groups, which are often dedicated to rates of veterans of particular commands.
Sailors even took to the Richardson’s personal Facebook page to defend their now stripped rating titles — "Respectfully this is the stupidest decision ever," one commenter wrote — and posted their rating badges in protest.
Even at the all-hands event, which took place in Naval Station Norfolk, sailors expressed concern and disappointment, as well as a desire to hear more details.
"It is very disappointing to me to not be a boatswain’s mate anymore," said Petty Officer 2nd Class (SW/AW) Amanda Svenson, who had asked CNO about the overhaul. "It’s traditional and we’re very proud of what we do and frankly, I’ll always be a boatswain’s mate and I won’t be afraid to call someone 'Boats,' either.
"But at the same time, I am interested in what I’m hearing and what they plan to do, and I’m willing to give it a chance and see how it works."
Staff Writer Mark Faram contributed to this report