As part of an ongoing effort to modernize officer career paths, the chief of naval personnel on Monday folded mustangs with surface ordnance designators into the ranks of surface electronics experts.

The change affects 601 personnel — commissioned limited duty officers from ensign to captain with 6180 and 6160 designators, plus all chief warrant officers with 7180 and 7160 designators.

All are being formed into a combined combat systems designator “to match against surface fleet billet requirements,” according to a naval message released Monday.

“This merger will create a single and more robust technical talent pool while streamlining the training pipeline requirements for a single combat systems-centric community,” said Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell in a prepared statement emailed to Navy Times.

“This will help mitigate imbalances between what were previously two separate designators without diluting technical leadership.”

Nowell’s move is designed to create what his command calls “a more robust and flexible personnel inventory to meet mission requirements” that will free detailers to “right-size” the talent pool by creating combat systems technicians from a stable of experienced personnel.

Officials also say it will allow a broader range of enlisted ratings — electronics technician, gunner’s mate, fire controlman, fire controlman AEGIS, interior communications electrician, mineman and sonar technician (surface) — to commission as surface electronic LDOs or CWOs.

The merger will unfurl in two phases.

Phase I began Monday with the immediate conversion of all 616X/716X billets to 618X/718X.

Phase II will re-designate all officers. It’s slated to kick off in early January.

Personnel who have submitted Fiscal Year 2021 applications for the LDO/CWO In-Service Procurement Board will be considered for selection to the 616X/618X or 716X/718X designators, according to Monday’s directive. Future announcement results and commissioning documents will reflect the 618X/718X designator.

Surface ordnance CWOs (716X) will continue to wear the current designator devices on the collars, sleeves, and shoulder boards until promoted to the next higher pay grades.

Prine came to Navy Times after stints at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

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