A petition to restore the Navy's historical job titles reached 100,000 signatures Friday morning, which means the White House must now weigh in on the controversy.
Late last month, the Navy announced that it would drop its historic rating structure that included such iconic titles as boatswain's mate, yeoman and master-at-arms. Under the change, an E-5 who used to be addressed as "corpsman second class" will now just be called a "second class petty officer." All job titles will be reduced to three: seaman, petty officer and chief.
The change sparked criticism among the military community, including many who wanted to bring the old traditions back.
The petition was launched on Sept. 29 on the White House's "We the People" petition website. Signers had until Oct. 30 to reach 100,000 signatures in order to force a White House response. An executive update is due in 60 days.
"For 241 Years Navy personnel have been identified by their Job specialty, known as a 'Rating'. The oldest rates such as Boatswain Mates, and Gunners Mate predate the founding of this country. Being known by your job title was a sense of pride. A sign of accomplishment," the petition says.
"The Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations just senselessly erased this tradition. One only has to visit Navy social media pages to see the disgust and outrage of current and former personnel. One by one current leadership continues to erode the very things that set the Navy apart from the other services. Mr. President, I and the others signing this petition request you use your authority to restore to our Sailors what they have earned."
Reaching the 100,000-signature threshold is largely a symbolic move and won't likely affect the rollout of the Navy's policy. But it does represent widespread repudiation of the controversial move.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said this month that the change was meant to "quit segregating women."
"Well, a couple of things. One is I changed it for the Marines too. And it's to quit segregating women," Mabus said at the National Press Club. "We do it by uniforms, women wear different uniforms. Can you imagine if we asked another group to wear a different kind of uniform?"
Mabus also noted that ratings names change all the time. Titles such as radioman or signalman are no longer used, for example.
The change followed a study to create gender-neutral titles in the wake of the decision to lift the combat ban for women. The Marine Corps also saw some changes, getting rid of "man" in 19 of its job titles.
Following the job-title review, the Navy took a more in-depth look at how the rating system could be updated to provide sailors more flexibility to advance and have more opportunities when leaving the Navy. Officials said the new rating system will give civilian employers a better idea of a sailor's skills.