September 29, 2016 is a day that Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman (SWCC) specialists will remember for a very long time. On that date, the Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP) Vice Admiral Robert P. Burke announced in NAVADMIN 218/16 the elimination of the centuries-old rating system, mandating that, from that date forward, Sailors would be addressed only by their grade or rate, with no reference to their ratings.

Fortunately for all Navy personnel, including SWCC Sailors, the decision to scrap the ratings system was reversed less than three months later, but the entire affair made all enlisted personnel realize just how much the ratings system is valued.

n the case of SWCC specialists, their Special Warfare Boat Operator (SB) ratings are extremely treasured not only because of the extremely difficult training regimen they completed in order to earn them, but also how long it took for the Navy to even recognize their specialty as deserving the recognition of a rating all its own.

The SB rating traces its origins to World War II and the PT Boats employed in the Pacific, while the duties and skills garnered with SWCC qualification are more closely associated with the “brown water Navy” and the riverine operations pioneered during the Vietnam War. But while the Navy created Seal Delivery Vehicle Teams and redesignated Boat Support Units as Special Boat Units (SBUs) in 1983, there was no official rating or even a qualification for Sailors serving on these craft. In 1994, the Navy created NEC 9533 for Sailors serving on SBUs this NEC later was changed to 5352, Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman.

The SWCC breast insignia awarded upon completing NEC 5352 was established in 2001, but another five years would pass before the Navy finally announced the creation of the SB rating on October 1, 2006, and along with it the opportunity for enlisted Sailors to reach the rate of Chief and higher in their specialty.

In addition to the dismay of having their rating effectively made null and void less than ten years after it was established, the announcement was likely even more of a shock because of the changes the Navy had just announced regarding the SWCC specialist breast insignia. About six weeks before the CNP made the ratings announcement, NAVADMIN 174/16 outlined a new SWCC qualification insignia featuring a new design and which would be issued at three levels (Basic, Senior, and Master). Although this new insignia was announced on August 16, its wear was mandated by October 1.


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