For those of you who may not know this, I am a Navy veteran. I did not serve in combat. Unlike, many of my Navy peers I did not see the world, Barring six months in training, the farthest I got from home in my two year stint was Camp LeJeune, NC. Nevertheless, I am proud to have served my country and my Navy service gave me a jump start into manhood that likely would have taken the spoiled 18 year that I was much longer to achieve. Just 6 months into my Navy career, I was working as a Hospital Corpsman in a Coronary Care Unit (CCU) at the Navy Hospital in Charleston, SC. alongside some of the finest corpsmen, nurses and doctors.
I realize that time brings on some harsh transitions. The Navy base in Charleston, SC closed in 1996. The hospital where I served closed in 2010. In March 2016, the hospital building was facing foreclosure. Any opportunity I would wish to have to roam the 9th floor of that hospital and envision the lives that were saved by all the personnel, before and after me, are long gone. Again, some of these things just happen with the passage of time.
Still, there are SOME changes that I just find very hard to digest. Case in point, the consensus of Ray Mabus (Secretary of the Navy) and Admiral John Richardson (Chief of Naval Operations) to dispense with all 91 of its enlisted ratings titles. The full story can be found by clicking here. The enlisted ratings system had been a Navy tradition for 241 (as old as our nation itself). To explain the ratings system for those who are not familiar, in addition to an enlisted rank, enlisted personnel were also identified by their rating (occupational code). A list of the enlisted ratings can be found here. For example, at the time of my discharge (1986), I was an E-3. My rating was HM (Hospital Corpsman). Therefore, my rank/ranking was shown as hospitalman. Again, this indicated, that I was an E-3 Hospital Corpsman. A Navy Photographer had a rating of PH. If said photographer was a 1st Class Petty Officer (E-6) then Joe Sailor would be identified as PH1 sailor (Photographer 1st Class).
I realize that may sound very convoluted to someone outside of the Navy but it was a great way to see how each person fit into the organizational that is the Navy. It was a great icebreaker. As a corpsman working in a hospital, we got patients of all ranks and ratings. FT2 Smith (not his real name) would get admitted to our unit. I could look at his rating and see he was a Fire Control Technician 2nd Class Petty Officer. Once I got his patient history, I could ask him questions about his job. This not only gave me a glimpse into FT2 Smith’s world, it had great potential of putting the patient at ease from a (most likely) heart related incident that cause his admission.
Those involved in the decision say that this change will help to ease the transition into civilian life. HUH? HOW, PRAY TELL, DOES THIS HELP SUCH A TRANSITION? Is Fire Control Technician 2nd Class Smith somehow more impeded from getting that civil service job with the county fire department than if he were simply identified as @nd Class Petty Office Smith. I truly DO NO GET IT Secretary Mabus. After all, you served in the Navy for as long (or as little) as I did and reached the distinguished rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade. I am speculating that you served in the Navy long enough to pay the government back for your college education. I have no problem with that at all in and of itself. How such tenure makes you an appropriate choice for Secretary of the Navy is strange to me but, hey, that’s politics for you.
I can only suspect that your doctorate from Harvard Law School left very little room for your to remember such trivial information as what your distinguished enlisted Navy personnel actually DO to serve their country. Let me put it to you simply Secretary Mabus, I was not just an E-3. I was a HOSPITAL CORPSMAN. By rank, I was a HOSPITALMAN and I WAS VERY PROUD OF MY JOB. It made me part of who I was in the world’s finest Navy. Perhaps, you should step down Mr. Secretary (after you repeal this decision).Perhaps, you can spend your years working at an American Legion Hall as a BINGO announcer. This way, you can continue to serve our military and only have to worry about saying things like: “B-8, I-17, O-21”. At the most, you have to deal with four syllables. Be sure to properly acknowledge the winner: “Congratulations, BM1 Jones. Thank you for your service.”