October has arrived.

Summer heat is slowly relinquishing its sweat-greasy grip on our parched throats and the crisp autumn breeze signals the approach of familial merriment, copious food and opulent gift-giving, the signs of another holiday season.

But for retail employees, the chill in the air only serves to conjure previously suppressed memories of seasons past — the painful recollections of Black Friday battles amidst the Hobbesian savagery of mall Santas, BOGO JCPenney sales and inexplicably long lines at Sbarro.

Mothers resort to pulling hair and gut punching in a desperate dash to obtain the latest must-have toy their rotten spawn should possess, or the terrorists win.

Fathers lose all semblance of civility, their primal grunts competing with the crunch and claw of fist and nail as they scrap a bloody path to the land of milk, honey and a 46-inch Samsung Smart LED TV that was marked down to $159.99.

If only there were military veterans who could employ proven tactics to lead war-weary retail employees into battle to stem the rising threat of holiday shoppers.

Fortunately, hope is on the horizon.

On Sept. 30, the Navy announced it will rebrand the ship’s serviceman rating as “retail services specialist."

The name “translates more easily to the civilian sector,” according to Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell Jr.

Finally we see a military occupational specialty that can prepare transitioning service members for ultracompetitive civilian vocations like Urban Outfitters merchandiser and Starbucks barista.

To the front lines will go already venti-sized sailors who have stocked the stores of warships, managed barber shops and tried in vain to keep their officers from leaping into pools of Fat Leonard cash or Thai SEAL Team prostitutes, distilling four years in the fleet into the merchandise magic of pumpkin spice lattes and Tommy Hilfiger Men’s Hendrix Skinny-Fit Jeans.

Imagine the intensity Seaman Timmy — patron saint of geedunk — will bring to his combat outpost at Ross Dress For Less, where not every shopper wants to leave haze gray and underway.

This is my price scanner! There are many like it but this one is mine!

One fluff, one fold!

Nowell emphasized that the rebranding rollout — a byproduct of the Navy’s Sailor 2025 rating modernization efforts — "better represents the professional expertise held by the members of the rating.”

That expertise traces its roots — much like Sears, Roebuck and Company — back to the late 1800s, when sailors earned the title of “tailor.”

In 1943, the rating evolved to ship’s serviceman, a role that incorporated such beloved duties as buzzing hair, washing and losing laundry, and cobbling footwear, along the way adding the exciting prospect of seeing the world from the inventoried shelves of a littoral combat ship that never leaves the pier.

“Please join me in congratulating our Retail Services Specialists on this milestone!” Navy Chief of Supply Corps Rear Adm. Michelle C. Skubic wrote in an announcement.

Her words echoed in the ears of roughly 2,000 retail specialists in the Navy’s ranks, each achieving this milestone merely by existing.

But now their real training begins, if they want to survive their future in the civilian mall apocalypse that begins annually on the day after Thanksgiving.

“Your military skills translate to the civilian sector,” the terrified stuffing manager at Build-A-Bear workshop will whisper to a seasoned sailor finally getting to wage the war on Christmas.

Unlike an 18-year high year tenured E-5 corpsman who made rate faster than 99 percent of her peers, she won’t tell the mangled bear carcass to take 800 milligrams of ibuprofen and hydrate, saving the moleskin for the really serious cases.

No, she’s a salty retail services specialist.

She’ll take charge of her post and all Build-A-Bear property in view, becoming the mean but never exactly lean consumer-killin’ machine her four years in the fleet made her.


Observation Post is the Military Times one-stop shop for all things off-duty. Stories may reflect author observations.

Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.

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