Navy leadership learned a hard lesson on how important rating titles are to sailors during 2016’s disastrous, but short-lived, rating title elimination.
That effort to switch sailors to generic, rank only titles was ended by Navy leaders after months of pushback from sailors in the fleet. The message was clear — sailors are proud of their rating titles and the history behind them.
Now, back by popular demand of sailors is the historic Torpedoman’s Mate rating title and badge — but apparently only in the submarine force. The title has been absent for submariners since 1995 when the community decided to call sailors who manage torpedo’s and their related gear Machinist’s Mate (Weapons) or MMW.
In a separate effort the service has also updated the moniker for the fleet’s Ship’s Servicemen rating, who will now be called “Retail Services Specialists” in a nod to what most of these sailors really do in the fleet. Both moves are effective Oct. 1.
It’s back to the future for the Torpedoman’s Mate rating, which returns to the rating structure after 12-year absence of the title in the Navy as a whole and a 24-years since it was used in submarine force.
According to historical Navy documents, the service created the Torpedoman rating initially in 1921. The title was updated to Torpedoman’s Mate in 1942. TM, as the rating was abbreviated, survived in the submarine Navy into the 1990’s and in the surface Navy 10-years after that.
In 1995, the submarine community’s change to MMW was part of a larger effort in the submarine community that also changed the traditional rating names of Radioman and Quartermaster to Electronics Technician (Communications) and Electronics Technician (Navigation) respectively.
TM’s survived another 12 years in the surface force until merged into the Gunner’s Mate rating in 2007. Neither NavAdmin message 225/19 or its accompanying press release that announced the move, both issued on Sept. 30, make any mention of any reprise of the rating in the surface force.
Queries to the Chief of Naval Personnel’s office asking whether there was any thought given to re-establishing the rating in the surface force were not able to be answered by the time of this report, though Defense and Aerospace Report was promised an answer.
Currently the nearly 4,300 Gunner’s Mate rating handles torpedo work on surface ships. The Navy instead identifies and places sailors in those jobs by tagging them with one of four Navy Enlisted Classifications.
Currently there are about 1,100 sailors in the rating who will be impacted by the move. But it doesn’t appear there will be many complaints about switching rating badges on their dress uniforms once the Navy again stocks the rating badges in the exchanges.
“I think the Navy bringing back the TM rating is going to pay incredible dividends,” said Senior Chief Machinist’s Mate (Weapons) Heath Mangrum the force torpedoman at Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic in the Navy’s press release.
“The excitement level amongst the Sailors is through the roof. It’s the right time for a change like this to light the fire under our sailors, and embrace the heritage in the rating.”
The return to the traditional titles has long been discussed among submarine sailors along with other, similar desired moves. But none of them got any movement from big Navy until April. That’s when then Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson fielded questions from sailors on the topic. Richardson, himself a submariner, promised to look into it.
The move is also a one off, for the moment. Navy personnel officials say there’s no current efforts underway to bring back other traditional titles in the submarine force such as Radioman and Quartermaster.
Meanwhile, in the other re-naming effort, the the Navy has changed the Ship’s Serviceman rating — those sailors who operate the Navy’s shipboard retail stores, laundries and barber shops in the fleet to Retail Services Specialist a title that will also be abbreviated as RS.
The SH rating, was created in 1943 and is currently the occupational home to roughly 2,000 sailors.
It’s a natural move for the Navy, similar to the 2009 merger of the Storekeeper and Postal Clerk ratings into a the current Logistics Specialist rating. Like that move, sailors won’t be requried to change badges and will continue to wear the crossed key and quill specialty mark of the SH rating on their dress uniforms.
“The rating progression from four specialty ratings of Barber, Laundryman, Cobbler and Tailor to SH and now RS is a
natural one,” wrote Vice Adm. John Nowell in NavAdmin message 226/19 which announced the move. “This name change is in keeping with the tradition in the Navy of defining the occupation of a sailor in contemporary terms that better define the tasks to be performed and the skills needed to perform them.”