More than 75 ship's servicemen can leave service early under a new Navy policy designed to free up the overmanned skill set. Here, SH2 Lakena Lane serves aboard the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn. (MC3 James Turner/Navy)
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Equipment operators hold the most early-out spots, with more than 80 eligible to leave service. Here, EO1 Jose Murphy exits his grader in Atsugi, Japan, in 2013. (MCSN Ryan G. Greene/Navy)
Early outs are back.
But before you pack your sea bag and head down the brow — listen up: This isn’t like any other early-out program.
Officials aren’t opening the doors to everybody. Only those in select ratings, paygrades and year groups will get a ticket home.
Sailors will be able to leave the service up to two years early, but maximum quotas will be set for each eligible skill group and will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis.
The early outs are only being offered to sailors with 14 years or less of service. Early retirements aren’t in the offing right now, officials say.
The Navy is using the program to try to even out the enlisted workforce, which suffers from a score of clogged ratings while others are so undermanned that promotions are nearly automatic.
“As we have stabilized to our new end strength, we have looked to bring back those programs in a little bit of a different format,” said Capt. Karan Schriver, head of enlisted plans for the chief of naval personnel, in a May 6phone interview.
“Overmanning in any community can impact the opportunity across the board, so we want to offer programs like this to give sailors who want the opportunity to move on early to civilian life to leave early and free up advancement and re-enlistment opportunity for those who want to stay.”
How it works
The Enlisted Early Transition Program started by offering quotas to several thousand sailors across 10 ratings: six in Seabees, two aircrew ratings, one from engineering and one from supply.
There are 378 discharge quotas in the first round.
Schriver said they’ll adjust ratings and quotas in the future to target overmanned ratings; the latest quotas will be available on the Navy Personnel Command website.
Interested sailors should check it out every couple of weeks, Schriver said, adding that overmanned specialties could become eligible.
With retention still high, officials say they need a way to relieve pressure.
How she and her planners pick ratings isn’t rocket science. If a given rating, paygrade or individual year group is at 104 percent manning or more, it’s a candidate.
Officials post monthly snapshots of manning and advancement rates, by rating, on the community manager pages of NPC’s official website.
For example, the ship's serviceman rating is overmanned at all paygrades and officials are offering a total of 75 early outs between year groups 2004 and 2005 and 2007 through 2012; your year group is the year you entered active duty.
If a sailor believes his skill is overmanned but doesn’t find it on the list, Schriver says it’s OK to ask questions through proper channels.
“If they are in a close or overmanned rating at this point, their career counselor can send a request to the community managers and ask if it’s possible that their specific rating and year group will be added to the list,” she said.
Still, officials say there’s no planning to offer further incentives to thin out these ranks — such as offering early retirements, an option available to the Navy for the next few years. It would allow sailors with 15 years or more to retire, freeing up many billets in the overmanned paygrades.
The early transition program, Schriver said, is targeted to sailors with 14 years of service or less and subject to re-up rules under the Career Waypoints re-enlistment approval system, known as C-WAY.
“TERA is under a separate authorization; it’s a different program,” Schriver said in answer to a question about whether it was on the table. “Right now, although we are authorized to use TERA — as are all the services — the Navy has not funded TERA for use this year.”
The Navy has no plans to use TERA on the enlisted side this year, and no proposals have been put forward for fiscal year 2015, which starts in October, Schriver said. But she left the door open, saying the service will “always keep our options open” about whether to offer early retirement.
“It is something we are authorized to do,” she said. “As situations change, it is an option for us to bring up to leadership to use in year groups that are more senior and are not linked to C-WAY and can’t be reached by other force management tools.”
With an estimated 7,000 billets still open in fleet billets such as squadrons, submarines, ships and staffs, fleet officials were reluctant to offer early outs to everybody.
“The fleet’s concern was that this not be offered across all ratings and requested that it be directed specifically toward the rates that are overmanned,” she said. “It was also important that COs would have a chop.”
Before a request gets to the community managers, it must be approved by the commanding officer. If he says no, that’s it: There’s no appeal process.
Critics have argued that past early-out programs have failed because skippers were reluctant to let sailors go early without a relief anywhere in sight.
A relief isn’t guaranteed until an early-out sailor would have normally left the ship or the service. The current rules allow COs to discharge sailors up to three months early.
Still, Schriver believes the COs won’t balk at allowing some sailors out early.
“Those most likely to submit a request will be at commands where there will most likely be excess in their given ratings, so getting a relief won’t be a problem,” she said.
And personnel officials will work with commands to get reliefs sooner.
“If they are at a command that does not have an excess, we will work with [the detailers] to get a relief soon as possible,” she said.
No early-out quota offerings come from ratings and paygrades offering Selective Re-enlistment Bonuses. Should that change, sailors receiving SRBs who take the early out would forfeit future bonus payments and could be ordered to repay bonuses for time they won’t serve, states NAVADMIN 103/14, released May 8.
Not everyone in a targeted rating or skill set is eligible. Among those who aren’t: sailors with permanent change-of-station orders; those identified to fill an individual augmentation; and those on overseas Defense Department tours.
Once granted a quota, sailors won’t be eligible to compete for advancement, and they’ll be identified in the Career Waypoints re-enlistment approval system.
One warning: It will be tough for approved sailors to change their minds and decide to stay. Shriver said those requests will be handled individually.
WHO CAN GET OUT
Below are the first set of early out quotas, issued May 6. Officials say these are subject to change as sailors apply for and are approved for early release and will be revisited every two weeks, but will only be updated when quotas have been used or new skill and year-group combinations are added. As the list is updated, new versions will be posted on the Navy Personnel Command website — click on “Enlisted” in the main toolbar, then on “Community Managers,” then “Enlisted Early Transition Program.”
|Naval aircrewman (mechanical); NEC 8251|
|Naval aircrewman (avionics); NEC 9402|
*Ineligible BU, CE, EA, EO, SW and UT Navy enlisted classifications: 5633, 5931, 5932, 5933
**Ineligible CE NECs: 5633, 5810, 5931, 5932, 5933.