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Navy looks to remove 'man' from all job titles

January 7, 2016 (Photo Credit: MCSN L.A. Preston/Navy)

It could spell the end of time-honored Navy titles like fireman and seaman. 

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 Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. A similar memo and mandate was sent to the Marine Corps commandant, asking for the same job title review. 

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." Aviation has the most to review, with five of their 12 enlisted rating descriptions ending with “man.” Surface engineering includes eight.

Those don’t include the traditional entry-level designations for non-rated sailors as well as designated strikers. How the Navy finds gender neutral titles for airman, seaman and fireman is likely to prove challenging, as well as for the Seabee and medical titles of constructionman and hospitalman for non-rated sailors.

Mabus hasn’t mandated 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. 

“This isn’t a isn’t a draconian edict to get rid of all references to the word 'man,' ” said the official, who asked not to be identified publicly while internal deliberations continue. “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 have been opened to women for decades, and without interruption since the Women's Armed Services Integration Act was enacted in 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 (WAVES) during World War II. 

But since the 1948 change in law, women have served permanently in the armed forces, and have been serving in nearly all enlisted ratings ever since. 

The job of coming up with these options — or justifications to keep things unchanged — 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.

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. 

Take fire controlman. This surface fleet specialty could be renamed to match their counterparts in the submarine force, the fire control technicians. 

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. 

Fireman could be easily changed to engineer, the sources say, which is technically a better description today anyway with fires less common than before.


The Navy has 21 rating designations that could get changed as a result of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ mandated review of job descriptions. The job titles include "man" in the title and could be removed: 

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 
  • 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


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