As we move toward a Navy where Sailors may hold multiple occupations, rating titles will no longer be applicable.Two-thousand-sixteen has been a year of dramatic change with regards to the naval uniform. Not a single seabag of any current member of the United States Navy will emerge untouched by the profound changes that have been mandated this year through the Navy Uniform Matters Office.
Although the decade-long saga of the controversial blue-and-gray camouflage Navy Working Uniform has entered its final chapter and the same Navy headgear is now worn by both male and female personnel, the latest change might prove to be the most profound. A tiny part of the standard enlisted dress uniform is to be eliminated after almost 150 years, and this will literally change the way Sailors view their occupations.
In contrast to the rather ostentatious gold trimmings symbolizing prestige or power on officers' uniforms that have come and gone over the last 241 years, the more modest specialty mark of the enlisted uniform has been an ubiquitous symbol of Navy professionalism since the first eight types were authorized in December 1866.
Emerging with the "New Navy" of the 1880s, the positioning of the roughly one square-inch occupational symbols between the eagle (commonly called a "crow") and the chevrons of the petty officer rating badges first authorized in 1886 has remained essentially unchanged since America's emergence as a world-class naval power.
Long before the advent of the Steel Navy, Sailors in certain specialized shipboard occupations began embroidering their own specialty marks to distinguish themselves from the rest of the crew. A woodcut in the Naval Magazine of November 1836, for example, shows a Boatswain's Mate with crossed anchors on his jacket sleeve.
Although a general sleeve insignia for petty officers was authorized in 1841, the uniform regulations of December 1, 1866 introduced eight specialty marks for petty officers. The ever more sophisticated naval vessels coming into the fleet over first few decades that followed, particularly during the 1880s, necessitated further division of labor. With it came more specialty marks, including those for the rank of Chief Petty Officer, established in 1893. Five years later, there were 15 specialty marks for enlisted personnel. A century later, there were 71.
|A World War I-era Chief Storekeeper rating badge. The job specialty itself, along with its specialty mark, was merged into the Logistics Specialist rate in 2010. (Jim Leuci Collection)|
|A closeup of a Master Chief Boatswain's Mate rating badge from the late-1950s. (Jim Leuci Collection)|