Mabus defends removing ‘corpsman’ title, other ratings from Navy

Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus . (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Armando Gonzales/Released)

The Secretary of the Navy is pushing forward with their plan of making all Naval job titles gender-neutral, including the cherished title of “corpsman.”

Defending his unpopular decision to stop identifying sailors by their specialty, saying the move will help sailors with promotions and assist them in the civilian world.

Speaking to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Mabus said the changes were part of his plan to remove the word “man” from all job titles.

“We’ve got several different specialties for working on aircraft,” he said. “We’ve got structural mechanics; we’ve got people who work on avionics; we’ve got people who work on the engines. They can only promote through their narrow communities. We’re losing people because they can’t promote.”

Mabus says the Navy will now be giving sailors a choice on their career progress.

“So what we’re going to try to do is put a lot of these specialties that are close to each other together so that while you’re a specialist in one thing, you could also train and become a specialist in three or four other areas so that you could promote in one if you can’t promote in the other,” Mabus said.

On the positive side of the change, the Navy will also begin training it’s aircraft maintainers and medical personnel to civilian standards so that their post-military transition will be more seamless.

However, one of the most sore points of contention for sailors and Marines is the dissolution of the title “corpsman,” pertaining to the medical personnel often attached to Marine units.

“It’s not a historic title,” Mabus said, insisting the necessity of the change. “It only came in after World War II. One of the problems people have been having transitioning out of the Navy is that while the Navy and Marines know what ‘corpsman’ means, not many other people do. That’s why the title is being changed to something more akin to ‘medic’ or medical technician.”

While Mabus is correct in that the term was not an official title until the 1950s, it has been a generic term that the Navy and Marine Corps had used before and throughout World War II.

One retired flag officer told the Navy Times that he wished the second-longest serving Secretary of the Navy would explain why the dropping of the titles is so important, instead of just changing things and forcing everyone to accept it.

“My questions are: Why now, and was this merely an attempt by SECNAV in a political year to rush an important personnel initiative to the forefront for some sort of political or personal legacy gain?” said the flag officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid issue with the Navy’s senior leadership.

Mabus insists the title is to “quit segregating women,” who have historically been forced to wear different uniforms from their male peers.

“Can you imagine if we asked another group to wear different kind of uniform?” he said.

Mabus has clashed with the Marines more than the Navy in regards to politically-correct changes, particularly about opening infantry and other combat jobs to women, despite hard data from studies that found that co-ed units did not perform as well as all-male units.

“One thing I’ll say about the Marines: Sometimes Marines are more hesitant than anybody else to make some of these changes,” Mabus said in January. “Once the decision is made, though, Marines move out faster than anybody I’ve ever seen.”

Despite his push for a more PC Navy and Marine Corps, Mabus has insisted that the standards will not be lowered- saying that if women could not pass more rigorous requirements, then there will be no female Marines in more intensive combat units.

When Mabus was asked on Wednesday when a woman would become a Navy SEAL, he chose to expound on his uncertainty.

“I don’t know, and I don’t think that’s the important thing,” he replied. “I think the important thing is that it’s open and the standards are the same.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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