“When everybody is special … nobody is.”


We had this, back in the day. There was the ” Enlisted Surface Warfare” Badge, and the “Aviation Warfare” wings. The initial idea behind this was to allow for those who wanted to work toward becoming “a resident expert” in their community.

The qualifications for earning the ESWS pin were as follows:
1. Be a Petty Officer
2. Have 24 months on a surface ship
3. Have a performance mark and Leadership marks of top 30% for CPO’s and 3.4 for Petty Officers.
4. Complete the PQS for Damage Control, Damage Control Petty Officer, Repair Party Leader, and Work Center Supervisor.
5. Qualify in all watch stations for rating and pay grade.
6. Perform an oral board held by the Commanding Officer, Executive Officer or LCDR.
7. Be recommended by the chain of command, and approved by the Commanding Officer.

This used to be voluntary. It was expected there would be those who would willingly accept this as a challenge to not only increase their knowledge about the ship(s) they were stationed on. It was also looked on as being a valid way to help in ranking the Sailors aboard your command. Those who elected to, more to the point, those who were successful in reaching this goal and were awarded the ESWS pin, could be viewed as a “cut above” their peers. And assuming the process was not “gun decked”, this was a valid yard stick.

The counter argument given by any number of Sailors was, they had to spend more time keeping proficient within their own specialty(s), or were already spending time pursuing college degrees. They felt as long as they met the requirements for their jobs and duties, that was more then enough. Others offered the opinion this was little more than envy. The pilots and aircrewmen had their “wings”. The SEALs, their insignia. The Submariners, their cherished (and very well earned) “Dolphins”. “So why can’t the rest of us have something shiny to wear on our chests?” That there was more then a little kernel of truth in all of the above, is perhaps what kept it “voluntary”. (This was true in the Aviation community where they started a similar version called the “Aviation Warfare pin” , or “wings” if you will. The same pros and cons were also applicable.)

I retired back in early 97. They were already “requiring” that you have your applicable “pin”, if you ever expected to make it to Chief Petty Officer. (Though exceptions were made, as the century drew to a close this became increasingly harder to do.) Thus, if you expected to have a career in the Navy lasting beyond 20 years, it behooved you to get your “pin”. (You had to be E-7 or above, or waiting results of the last selection board you were eligible for to release it’s results. Again, case by case exceptions would be made, and obviously if the needs of the Navy were such that they needed more folks, you could “extend”.)

Well, since the beginning of this program, back in ’79, it has taken the Navy a tad over 30 years, but they finally got where the neighsayers always said they were going with both the Surface and Aviation Warfare Pins.

Initial enlisted warfare qualifications are now mandatory for all Sailors per the recent release of NAVADMIN 268-10.

The link for the whole article is here.

And I guess I can give the folks who wrote up this piece a little credit for having some testicular fortitude. If only because they included the following in the list of “questions and answers” the Master Chief of the Navy addressed in relation to this …. piece of work.

– Will having mandatory qualifications water down the existing programs?

West stated, quite the contrary; by mandating warfare qualifications for all enlisted personnel, it will significantly “raise the bar” across the command regarding level of knowledge of the command and the systems our Sailors operate. It is incumbent on those that wear the warfare pin of the command to ensure the integrity and strength of the existing programs.

– How will Sailors stand-out amongst peers if everyone is required to have a warfare pin?

According to West, Sailors stand out every day. Performance and the Sailor’s overall command support should be the biggest factors to “break out” individuals.

To be fair to the Master Chief, I don’t know how he could have answered any other way. I, however do not have such restraints imposed upon me.

– Will having mandatory qualifications water down the existing programs?

Initially, probably not. But over time there will be those commands who, due to the pressure of wanting to excel and (appear to ) be the best, will either out and out “gun deck” the process, or look the other way while it is done. As more commands fall prey to this temptation, the program will be watered down, and will have to be “reviewed” and “redesigned”. When the “new and improved” program(s) are introduced to the fleet, this whole process will start over.

– How will Sailors stand-out amongst peers if everyone is required to have a warfare pin?

The short answer is “they won’t”. When everybody is special, nobody is. We will be back to where we were prior to 79, but this time there will be more work to be done, when perhaps … oh I don’t know … we should be concerning ourselves with being as proficient as possible within our respective ratings, and at the jobs and tasks we are assigned to at the moment. By all means work on qualifying for all the applicable spots on the “Watch, Quarters, and Station Bill”, become CPR qualified (if you are in an electrical specialty you already are), keep yourself in good enough shape to be able to do your job well, and to assist your shipmates if and when it’s needed. And IF time and command tempo permits, by all means work toward getting the applicable “pin” for your community. For up to now all those who have legitimately earned it over the past 30 years, have something to be proud of. I doubt the awardees of same, in the future, will be able to have that same sense of pride. For instead of being one in a million, they will be one OF a million.

I know a couple military folks peek into this bit o lint on the web, what do ya’ll think?

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6 Comments

Filed under Military, Politics, Scribbles

6 responses to ““When everybody is special … nobody is.”

  1. My EIB probably isn’t worth squat anymore. To earn a CIB all you have to do is be a grunt in a combat zone and not get blown away.

    I understand exactly what you’re thinking.

    • I didn’t know what the Army (or any of the other service branches have/had) which would equate to the ESWS/EAWS pins/wings. I suspect there are any number of similar “badges”, with similar concerns.

      Perhaps the rallying cry should be “Badges??? We don’t need no stinking badges!!!” Followed by incorporating all the tasks, learning objectives, and practical factors, into existing training courses or syllabuses. But that sounds much to simple and straight forward, plus you don’t get a shinny object to pin on your chest when you’re done.

  2. Ya know what just dawned on me? That black beret bullshit.
    Green berets= self explanatory
    Maroon berets= Airborne

    The wannabes wanted to wear a beret too. Glad I left before that chickenshit happened.

    • I remember the (legitimate) hue and cry over the black beret. And yes, that would be a perfect example of the mind set going on here.

      On the civilian side of the street, one could argue “a college degree” has become the same kind of item. As recently as 50-60 years ago, it could still be argued that if you had a degree, especially if it was at the post graduate level, you were “something special”, that you had (intellectually) excelled beyond the normal level/standard of learning. Now it is almost expected to have at least a bachelors degree in “something”. And that it is a “right”, not a privilege, to proceed beyond a high school (and or trade school) education. Thus, because everyone has one (a degree), the uniqueness of it, the special sense of educational achievement, becomes a moot point.

  3. You are absolutely right, of course. Glad I got mine (EAWS) when they still meant something.

    • The one time I was in “the right place at the right time”, they were “gundecking” the darn things. Needless to say, I didn’t play that game. Happy to hear you got yours the old fashion way, “You earned it!”

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