Three Sheets to the Winds of Change

Ray Mabus

On the morning of September 29, 2016, U.S. Navy commands around the world found in their inboxes NAVADMIN 218/16, an unclassified naval message which triumphantly announced Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus’ hard-fought victory over the restless ghost of Josephus Daniels in the battle to assume the ancient title of “Worst. SECNAV. Ever.” Considering Daniels prohibited the use of alcohol aboard U.S. Navy vessels in 1914, this was no small achievement.

Specifically, NAVADMIN 218/16 announced the replacement of so-called “ratings titles”—occupational labels for enlisted Sailors—with alphanumeric occupational codes used in the other armed services. A few of the rating titles, like Boatswain’s Mate and Gunner’s Mate, had been in use prior to the establishment of the U.S. Navy more than two centuries ago. The Navy was now playing fast and loose with history. Sailors and veterans balked.

The Trump Counterrevolution in Military Affairs


After eight years of an Obama Pentagon, certain defense issues were meant to be settled, finished, over, dead—shot by a firing squad composed of History and Progress and rolled without ceremony into shallow graves. The list included the integration of women into combat jobs, the normalization of transgender troops, and the importance of green energy to the military. The imposition of draft registration on women, though not yet accomplished, was thought to be all but inevitable.