Jack Whittet the Navy was the greatest activity on earth. As the MCPON, he
retreated only in the face of logic and debate; his only fear was of those
who could not think. True patriotism required Whittet to act at times
contrary to what the Navy required. The Zumwalt changes were inspired by
imagination, without which reform is deadly, and spurred by Whittet’s
common sense, he put his trust in evolution, not upheaval, to help create
conditions under which a sailor could be more productive and of more
account. Jack Whittet had a great capacity for quick appreciation and
rapid execution of new ideas, adapting his own experience to their
implementation. His performance as the MCPON, in one of the most difficult
periods of our Navy, showed once again the extraordinary capabilities of
our Navy enlisted men.”
Admiral David H. Bagley,
In the foyer of
the Washington Navy Yard Chiefs Club hang the portraits of the seven Master
Chief Petty Officers of the Navy. On the evening of May 7, 1989, the light
over the second MCPON, John “Jack” D. Whittet, flickered briefly, then went
out. The next day, club employees gathered around the darkened portrait,
talking in hushed voices. They had just received the news that MCPON Whittet
had drowned in a diving accident the previous day.
news of Whittet’s death spread through the Navy, many remembered him as
“Zumwalt’s MCPON,” a label that had both positive and negative connotations,
depending on which side of the fence the speaker was in the tumultuous years
between 1970 and 1974. No other period in the history of the U.S. Navy could
claim as many changes or as much internal turmoil.
significant were the reforms introduced by Chief of Naval Operations Elmo R.
Zumwalt, Jr., that it was rare to find anyone serving in the Navy at that
time who remained neutral. You either believed in the CNO’s reforms or you
didn’t. MCPON Whittet did and it was his job to convince those who didn’t.
Whittet had been in the Navy for 28 years when he became MCPON. He loved it
with the dedication and commitment of an adopted child. He was seventeen
when he left his home in Providence, Rhode Island, to enlist in the Navy. It
was 1943 and the Navy was still two years away from victory over Japan in
the Pacific. After almost a year of training as an aviation machinist,
Whittet was sent to Guam with Torpedo Squadron 38. He won his combat
aircrewman wings flying 31 missions from the carriers Lexington and
After the war, he changed to the PB4Ys serving with east coast squadrons
and making a deployment to Saudi Arabia. When
the Korean War broke out, he was aboard the carrier Bon Homme Richard
with Carrier Air Group 102, which flew combat air strikes against the North
Koreans. During the next 15 years, he would serve at various air stations,
with a patrol squadron, two fighter squadrons, two attack squadrons, and as
the flight crew plane captain for the Commander, Naval Forces at the
Continental Air Defense Command at Colorado Springs, Colorado.
In the meantime, he was
advanced to Aviation Master Chief (AFCM) in 1967. He was serving as the
Aircraft Maintenance Control Chief and the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the
Commander, Fleet Air Argentia, Newfoundland, when he was recommended by his
commander for the job of MCPON.
While the selection
process was underway, Whittet was transferred to Norfolk to serve as the
Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic
Fleet. From there, he was summoned to Washington on November 8, 1970, as one
of the four finalists.
The first day, Whittet
and his wife, Helen, along with HMCM Herbert V. Miller and his wife,
Elizabeth; BMCM Edward R. Pellom, and his wife, Glenice; and AFCM Newsman E.
Wolf, and his wife, Oliva, made office calls on the Chief of Naval Personnel
(CNP) Dick H. Guinn. In the evening they were guests of honor at a cocktail
party attended by the CNO and other officials.
On the second day of
their visit, Admiral Zumwalt issued one of his most famous Z-grams, Z-57,
labeled “Demeaning and Abrasive Regulations, Elimination of.” In his book
On Watch, Zumwalt said his original title was “Mickey Mouse, Elimination
of,” but it was changed by his Vice CNO, Admiral Ralph Cousins, who feared
that “Mickey Mouse” would be considered “flippant.”
Z-57 was an order
liberalizing Navy regulations or practices on hair styles, beards,
sideburns, civilian clothing, dungaree uniforms, conditions of leave,
motorcycle operation on base, and others. The successful candidate for MCPON
would spend a good part of their tenure clarifying the intent of Z-57 to the
Six days later, the CNO
announced Whittet’s selection as MCPON Black’s relief. On March 31, 1971,
Whittet was appointed the second Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy by
Vice Admiral Dick H. Guinn, Chief of Naval Personnel. The letter of
appointment differed from the one given MCPON Black four years earlier. In
addition to reflecting the title change from Senior Enlisted Advisor, the
new MCPON was given the added responsibility for advising the Chief of Naval
Operations, as well as the CNP, “on matters affecting the
morale, retention, career enhancement and
general well being of the enlisted personnel of the Navy.”
The Whittets moved into
Quarters J at the Washington Navy Yard.
Like his predecessor,
Whittet used the first few months to learn his way around the Bureau and
visit a few East Coast commands. According to Admiral Zumwalt, he
immediately began including Whittet in his daily lineup at 7:15 a.m. when
his “mini-staff’ reported on significant happenings over the past 24 hours
in intelligence, operations, etc. The MCPON was there to report “any
astonishing news in the personnel field.”
“He was a full fledged
member of the inner sanctum that was dealing with daily developments,”
Zumwalt said. “He had complete access to me.”
Whittet also worked
closely with Rear Admiral David Bagley, the Assistant Chief of Naval
Personnel for Personal Affairs, (PERS P), the new ppst created by Admiral
Zumwalt. PERS P was the Navy Ombudsman within the Bureau of Naval Personnel.
All Navy people could write or call the office for help on matters
concerning conditions of service and personal affairs. The ombudsman office
also provided data, based on its contact with Navy people, for initiating
programs or modifying existing ones.
In his first two
articles in All Hands, Whittet said “enlisteds have been talking
about their grievances and problems for years. A few people have listened,
but very little has actually been done. Now there’s someone at the top who
is listening and taking action. We’ve moved further ahead in the past 11
months with our personnel programs than we have in the past 100 years.
People are realizing that if we treat our sailors like responsible
individuals, most will respond accordingly.”
Whittet inherited the
majority of the major personnel programs initiated through Z-Grams. By the
time he took office, the Navy had changed dramatically. Petty officers and
above were allowed to have civilian clothing aboard ship. Beer machines were
authorized in senior enlisted barracks. Motorcycles were allowed on bases.
Commissary hours were extended to give sailors more time to shop after
working hours. Detailers were going out to visit sailors at sea or shore
commands. A more lenient leave policy was in effect for post deployment
periods. Inspections were limited in the 30-day period before and after ship
deployments. Sailors were no longer required to have out-of-bounds or
liberty passes. The dungaree uniform was authorized for wear to and from
work. A liberal grooming policy allowed sailors to express their
individuality through longer hair and beards.
emphasized improved services in areas such as disbursing, household effects,
dispensaries, and tailoring. Procedures for checking in and outwere
simplified to reduce waiting time. Personnel involved in providing
such services were carefully scrutinized and
proper training was stressed. Those individuals who performed below
standards were reassigned.
Paychecks also received
attention in Z-Grams. Where deemed more convenient, cash replaced checks,
rapid processing of disbursing claims was stressed, personal check cashing
ceilings were raised, and the Navy Finance Center instituted a 24-hour
service desk to respond to callers around the world. For the first time, a
statement of earnings was made available on request to show sailors where
their money was coming from and where it was going.
Whittet praised one
command that he had visited for proving that “ZGram-ism” really works.
“It works because of
communications up and down the chain of command,” he wrote in his All
Hands column. “I did not hear one major complaint or gripe. There were
some minor problems, but the command is aware of these and is seeking
solutions. Morale was outstanding and a feeling of esprit de corps was
Whittet explained that
such a command starts with “the sincere concern of the commanding officer,
down to their officers, chief petty officers, petty officers and finally to
the seaman, until there is a relationship of mutual respect and
Retention at this
command, he pointed out, was at 54 percent first-term while the Navy’s
average was “about 15 percent.”
Retention, Recruiting and Uniforms
In the early seventies,
recruiting and retention drew even greater emphasis in anticipation of the
President’s announcement to end the draft. The Department of Defense set
July 1, 1973 as the target date for achieving an all-volunteer military
force. While the Navy did not take draftees, it was estimated that as many
as one-third of those who joined the Navy were reacting to the draft. Making
the Navy more attractive to prospective enlistees and to those already in
was a motivating factor behind many of the programs and incentives that
surfaced during the next few years.
During this time,
“cracker jacks” or “bell bottoms, the traditional uniform worn by sailors up
through E-6, came under renewed fire. While “bells” had been the subject of
change for many years, a Navywide survey conducted in December 1970 showed
that 80 percent of the 1,700 enlisted men polled favored a switch to the
double-breasted coat uniform worn by officers and CPOs.
Whittet supported the
change and reported to the CNO that sailors were complaining that “bells”
did not make them feel like men. At the same time, the CNO was getting
letters from wives who said they were “embarrassed to go in the store or to
church with their husbands dressed like little boys.” They wanted to know
why their husbands couldn’t wear suits like grown men. With the
anti-military feeling in the country, sailors were being made targets of
Left to Right: Retired MCPON
Delbert and Ima Black and, MCPON John
ridicule in their “crackerjacks.”
On June 13,1971, Z-Gram 87 went to the fleet,
advising of a uniform change that would put recruits to admirals in
the same type of uniform. The new uniform would be issued to recruits
beginning July 1, 1973. All sailors would be wearing the new service dress
blues by July 1, 1975. Also announced was the pendding demise of service
dress khaki for officers and chiefs, effective July 1, 1975.
The announcement of the change to what later became known as the “salt
pepper” uniform heralded the beginning of more than a decade of upheavel in
uniform guidance. The dungaree uniform had also been changed from.denim to a
50-50 blend of cotton and nylon with a light blue pullover shirt and dark
blue trousers that had straight legs, cuffs, and fore-and-aft creases. The
new uniform was designed to be more attractive for wear to Navy exchanges,
commissaries and from and to work. In the following years, the constant
revisions to uniforms exacerbated the problems the fleet would havein
reaching stability in the wake of “Z-gramism.”
In August 1971 All Hands, Whittet chided “a few thoughtless
individuals” were “abusing the trust and respect given them” through the new
The Chief of Naval Personnel and my office receive a large number of letters
and phone calls from ‘concerned people’ about the continued violation of
dungaree uniform regulations,” he wrote. “A few thoughtless sailors still
persist in using the dungaree working uniform as a liberty uniform. We all
know, or should know, that this was not the intent of Z-57.”
The Wearing of beards also became a point of contention
among active and
retired Navy men. Admiral
Zumwalt defended his policy by pointing out that Navy regulations had always
authorized beards, but many commanding officers would not allow them.
Z-Gram just really said obey the regulations on neatly trimmed beards,” he
recalled. “All my living CNO predecessors came in to remonstrate with me on
the beards. I took great pleasure in taking them out in the hallway there in
the Pentagon and showing them the portraits of our mutual predecessors in
the Navy with long beards and I told them we were just getting a little more
The “old salts”
throughout the Navy resisted many of the changes that Zumwalt initiated. A
poll conducted in the spring of 1971 showed 86 percent of enlisted and 80
percent of officers approved the new policies. The majority of those not
happy with the new order were senior people, both enlisted and officer. The
rapidity and volume of change, rather than the changes themselves, created
much of the opposition. Commanding officers and senior enlisted personnel
had difficulty in absorbing and interpreting the rapid influx of Z-Grams
into command policy. A perception grew in the fleet that Z-Grams were
directed to the sailors, bypassing the traditional chain of command.
Commanding officers, accustomed to running their ships under established
guidelines, chafed under the CNO’s intervention. Senior petty officers found
themselves caught between junior personnel eager to explore their newly
granted privileges and officers who sought to maintain some sense of control
and authority. The result was an inevitable weakening of senior leadership,
both officer and enlisted, in commands unable to adjust.
Responding to concerns
in the fleet about the number and speed of the changes introduced through
Z-Grams, Whittet acknowledged that “the potential and fulfillment of
individual human and common natural resources are being sought in ways that
often challenge established practices.”
“In this battle against
petty and sometimes obsolete regulations and requirements, as well as
demeaning practices,” he wrote in his February 1972 All Hands
article, “some Navy people, particularly some of our more senior personnel,
seem to have raised a banner of doubt.”
“Far from stripping
senior enlisted men of their authority, which is a sometimes heard
complaint, the hand of enlisted leadership has actually been strengthened.
And the overwhelming majority of our senior petty officers are now ardent
supporters of the Z-gram changes and developments.”
Admiral Zumwalt credits
Whittet with “converting a large majority of the enlisted opposition.”
“When I would go to San
Diego or Norfolk and so on, Jack would have me meet with chief petty
officers to take their questions,” he said. “Of course, he was on the phone
or out there every day with them helping to convert these fellows.”
"Some neither myself nor Jack were able to change," he admitted, "and
they just left the Navy when their time was up." In his All Hands article,
Whittet addressed those leaders who "were not willing to put forth the time
and effort" to adapt to the changes and who had "reached the point where
theyjust don't give a damn anymore." He called them a "lead link" and urged
them to "step forward and join the team."
Developing the Chain
In July 1971, Whittet was instrumental in the issuance of Z-Gram 95 which
established the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Command (MCPOC) program.
Twenty-three master chiefs became either Master Chief Petty Officers of the
Fleet, Force or Command for the Pacific and Atlantic Fleet, Naval Forces
Europe, Naval Air Force Atlantic and Pacific Fleet, Naval Air Training
Command, Amphibious Force Atlantic and Pacific, Submarine Force Atlantic and
Pacific, Naval Communications Command, Cruiser/Destroyer Force Atlantic and
Pacific, Mine Force, Service Force Atlantic and Pacific, Naval Security
Group Command, Supply, Medical and Civil Engineer Corps, Naval Training
Center, Great Lakes, Illinois, San Diego, California, and Orlando, Florida.
To add visibility to the title, the "MCPOCs" and the MCPON removed their
rating specialty marks from their uniforms and replaced them with a gold
star. The two silver stars above the MCPOCs eagle's wing tips were replaced
with two gold stars. They were also authorized to wear a Senior Enlisted
Advisor (SEA) badge on their uniforms. Today, career counselors wear a badge
similar to the original SEA badge, which was changed in the 1978 Uniform
Regulations to a gold badge.
According to Whittet in an All Hands article, MCPOCs would hold
semiannual meetings on the East and West Coasts to exchange ideas on issues
concerning enlisted personnel. From those meetings, recommendations and
suggestions would be sent to the CNO, making the MCPOCs a CPO Advisory
Board. In the last Z-Gram he would issue before leaving office, the CNO
revised the program to include E-8s and E-7s, allowing commands without
master chiefs to have representation.
In 1972, Whittet began using the term "enlightened leadership" to
describe the petty officer who has an "open and obvious respect for the
self-esteem and general welfare of his shipmates."
"The enlightened leader will recognize individual differences and vary
his appeals (positive and negative) accordingly," he wrote in All Hands. "He
will try to create a sense of trust, self-discipline, and responsibility
that emphasizes the dignity and judgment of the individual Navy man or Navy
woman as well as the operational needs of the Navy."
In conclusion, he wrote, "I believe the enlightened leadership practiced
by our Chief of Naval Operations has proven it can raise the quality of Navy
life for young and old alike."
“enlightened leadership” could do little towards improving the quality of
Navy life for fleet sailors in 1972. On March 30, 1972, North Vietnam
launched a major offensive against South Vietnam. The number of ships and
units in Southeast Asia doubled. Reinforcements came from the Atlantic and
Pacific Fleets, impacting schedules and operating tempo all over the world.
At shore stations, manpower was decreased to meet fleet requirements while
support demands increased.
Admiral Zumwalt sent a message to the fleet: “As the current effort
continues, its effects will be strongly felt throughout the Navy and some of
the guidance established in previous NAVOPS must be temporarily held in
abeyance. One of my greatest concerns had been to ease the burdens on our
operating forces, and to enhance the attractions of a Navy career. Many of
our efforts to do so are being strained by the continuing crisis.” He urged
compassion and understanding to minimize “individual hardships resulting
from the increased tempo.”
August 1972, Zumwalt and Whittet visited 21 ships deployed off the coast of
Vietnam. In his “WestPac Trip Observations,” the CNO wrote: “We now have in
the Seventh Fleet 37 percent of our end F’Y 73 carriers (6 out of 16); 30
percent of our cruiser/destroyer — or warship-types (63 of 207); 25 percent
of our amphibians (17 of 68); 51 percent of our replenishment ships (31 of
61); 24 percent of our total ships (145 of 595); and 41 percent of our VF/VA
(aircraft) Squadrons (29 of 70).”
cannot come close to one-in-three deployment ratios. With Atlantic Fleet (LANTFLT)
carriers deploying to WestPac, all carriers are now averaging 6.6 months in
CONUS between 7.6 month deployments; present deployments for both LANTFLT
and Pacific Fleet’(PACFLT) are projected as an average of 8.6 months.”
Certain ratings in the Seventh Fleet were critically low, according to
Zumwalt, increasing time at sea.
the career-enlisted men in the 23 ships,” Zumwalt reported, “630 men (16
percent) have been at sea continuously for more than four years. The impact
of increased time away from homeport and tempo of operations is largely
borne by the very group we wish to retain — approximately 77 percent of the
men in the Seventh Fleet are first-termers.”
in Whittet’s All Hands wrap up on the trip, his mood was not so
CNO to seaman, from flight decks to fire rooms, the spirit was there,” he
wrote. “What deep pride, what serious professionalism. I cannot remember
when I have been more impressed with the readiness and morale of our combat
Vietnam cease-fire in January 1973 helped to create a more favorable climate
in the fleet for Zumwalt’s personnel programs. By FY 74, retention
forfirst-termers had risen from 10 percent in FY 70 to 32.9 percent.
the majority of Z-Grams were aimed at die-hard Navy traditions, a few were
targeted at the toughest foe of all — prejudice. In 1948, President Harry S.
Truman had established a policy of equal opportunity within the military,
declaring equality of treatmenb and opportunity for all persons without
regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.
in 1948, Congress passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act,
allowing females, previously held in reserve status, to join the Regular
Navy. The number of women was limited to two percent of the total force. On
July 7, 1948, the first enlisted woman was sworn into the Regular Navy. In
1967, the two percent ceiling on enlisted women in the Navy was eliminated.
According to Admiral Zumwalt, the Navy had practiced “tokenism,” in
granting equal opportunity
and in 1970 was “literally a racist and a sexist institution.” Z-66, issued
en December 17, 1970, addressed the undercurrent of insensitivity
surrounding minorities and the institutional discrimination in some
activities and programs. It provided for the appointment of Special
Master Chief John D. Whittet takes over office of the MCPON from MCPON
Delbert D. Black.
Assistant for Minority Affairs for every command with
direct access to the CO. Suitable cosmetics and other products for black
personnel and dependents were to be stocked in Navy exchanges, ship’s
stores would stock black grooming aids, and qualified barber/beauticians for
black personnel were to be sought for base and station shops. A
representative selection of books, magazines, and records by and about black
Americans were to be included in Navy libraries, wardrooms, clubs, and other
spite of the CNO’s efforts, racial conflicts erupted aboard the carrier
Kitty Hawk and the oiler Hassayampa in October 1972 and aboard
the carrier Constellation in November 1972. Naval and Congressional
investigations were held but failed to identify discrimination as the
primary cause of the conflicts. The CNO reaffirmed the Navy’s stance on
equality, placing the responsibility on commands to “create an environment
that makes equal opportunity a reality and discrimination, for any reason,
an unacceptable practice.”
increase awareness and sensitivity to discriminatory practices, all hands
were required to attend race relations education seminars by July 1, 1974.
The second phase of the Navy’s race relations program would concentrate on
institutional and personal affirmative action for equal opportunity and the
continuing effort to eliminate racism.
closely related policy statement issued in November 1970, Zumwalt had
stressed proper utilization of the human resources available to the new
Navy. Entitled, Human Resource Management, Z-55 expressed the CNO’s concern
and desire to achieve a high degree of competency and professionalism
throughout the Navy. Drug and alcohol abuse control, race rela. tions,
intercultural relations and human resource management were targeted for
improvements through Human Resource Development facilities. By September,
1972, the first two Human Resource Development Centers opened in San Diego,
California, and Newport, Rhode Island.
also established a task force to make recommendations concerning people and
communication areas in the Navy. The result was a recommendation for the
basis of leadership training in the Navy. A model was developed for a
ten-week command development course first offered in 1972. A Humar Resource
Management School, covering equal opportunity, race relations, drug and
alcohol rehabilitation, and intercultural relations, was established in
Memphis, Tennessee, in 1974. Also that year, Leadership and Management
Training (LMT) became a sponsored program with 15 authorized training sites.
Approximately five percent of Navy middle managers, (E-6s, E-7s and 0-is
through O-3s), attended the school annually. By 1976, thE number of courses
had grown to 157.
Zumwalt also attacked the institution of male domination in the Navy by
opening up ratings traditionally closed to women, including some sea-going
billets. In 1972, anticipating the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment,
Z-116 introduced initiatives that would enable the Navy to make optimum use
of women if and when ERA or statutes liberalizing the terms of female
service became law. The
ultimate goal was assignment of women to ships at sea. A pilot program for
assignment of women to ships was initiated aboard the hospital ship
Z-116 also authorized limited entry of women to
all 70 enlisted ratings. Three years later, in 1975, 15 sea-intensive
ratings were closed to women. Five of those reopened in 1978. Other ratings
have been opened and closed during the past decade in an attempt to provide
additional opportunities for women while preserving an acceptable sea/shore
rotation for men. Currently 84 of the Navy’s 102 ratings are open to women.
in 1972, the DOD All Volunteer Force (AVF) subcommittee began pushing the
services to develop plans to double the number of women in all services by
1977. The Navy established a goal of 2,000 women in the unrestricted line
officers and 20,000 enlisted women by 1975.
women in the Navy began breaking down barriers, some outspoken Navy wives
objected to the integration of women into seagoing routine, claiming that
even stable marriages were threatened. They were joined by a surprising
number of Congressional leaders and the retired military community.
many Navy traditionalists, it is even harder to give up the notion that
their beloved service should be all male than to give up the notion that it
should be all white,” Zumwalt said. Three years later, Whittet would praise
the performance of women in the non-traditional ratings.
who doubted the ability of women to perform effectively in jobs that were
once assigned only to males have by now seen the light,” he wrote. “For too
many years women have been a much neglected resource in nearly every facet
of American society. I, for one, am extremely proud of the continuing high
level of achievement exhibited by our enlisted women and am confident that
as more doors are opened to them, they will be better utilized and our ‘One
Navy’ concept will be strengthened.”
Drugs and Alcohol
and alcohol abuse was the subject of a number of policy statements by the
Secretary of the Navy and Zumwalt from 1971 to 1974. SECNAV John H. Chafee
addressed the issue through an instruction that granted exemption to
“members of the naval service who make voluntary disclosures” of drug use
and possession. In Z-94, Zumwalt explained that the program would enable
drug users to obtain needed medical and other rehabilitative help without
the fear of punishment on a one-time basis.
July 1972, DOD began its random urinalysis drug testing program. All members
of the armed forces became subject to random, periodic testing to detect
possible drug abuse.
same year, the first naval alcohol rehabilitation center was opened in
Norfolk, Virginia, with expansion planned to 14 naval hospitals worldwide.
Dignity and Worth
Through his people programs, Zumwalt sought to “instill at all levels an
attitude which clearly recognizes the dignity and worth of each individual
and creates an environment in which every officer and enlisted man will be
treated with respect and accorded the trust, confidence, and recognition
each human being wants and deserves.”
performers were singled out and recognized nationally through the Sea and
Shore Sailors of the Year program and the Recruiter of the Year. Meritorious
advancement was granted to reward hard workers who could not advance through
regular channels. The warrant officer program was opened to enlisted men in
the top four pay grades. E-7s were granted certain signature privileges
already granted to E-8s and E-9s.
Evaluation and advancement policies were revised. In 1974, BUPERS announced
a new plan that would give more emphasis tojob performance and leadership
and less emphasis to written examination scores. Designed to benefit good
performers whose exam scores fell below the cut-off scores, the plan began
with lowering the exam score cutoff for the February 1974 exams. It expanded
to include prospective E-4s through E-6s with the August 1974 exams. E-7s,
E-8s, and E-9s would not be included in the plan until fiscal year 1976. For
those interested in exam results, a two-minute recorded message at the new
Education and Training Program Development Center in Pensacola gave callers
information about probable and actual dates that examination results and
late advancement lists would be released, effective advancement dates for
those frocked, and general “how to” information.
Whittet was instrumental in establishing an E-7 selection board in 1974,
eliminating the need for meritorious advancement for E-6 candidates. Under
the selection board process, increased emphasis was placed on performance
and leadership in determination of final multiples for E-6s.
Personalizing the System
Chiefs of Naval Personnel, Vice Admiral Dick H. Guinn and his relief, Vice
Admiral David H. Bagley, guided BUPERS through the administration and
management of the new or revised programs ushered in by Z-Grams.
“Personalizing” the detailing process also played a role in the retention
effort. Aware that a trip to Washington was out of the question for many
sailors, detailers began making more trips out to the fleet, armed with
fleet commanders’ requisitions and enlisted assignment documents. Whittet
accompanied a group of eight officers and 59 enlisted detailers on a sweep
through San Diego, Long Beach, Lemoore, and San Francisco, California,
Hawaii, and Whidbey Island, Washington.
was gratifying for me to watch so many sailors express their duty
preferences one day and have their orders in hand the very next day,” he
said in his All Hands article following the trip. “It is significant
that over 620
commitments were obtained and orders issued. We have come a long way in
improving communications between the Fleet and BUPERS since I received my
first set of orders.
of that change was spurred by the 1966 Retention Task Force that created
Whittet’s office. Included in its recommendations was a fully-integrated
computer assisted distribution system and a centralized process beyond the
existing three Enlisted Personnel Distribution Offices (EPDOs):
EPDO Atlantic, BUPERS, and
EPDO Pacific. In July 1972, allocation and assignment came under BUPERS and
manning control was placed under the newly created Enlisted Personnel
Management Center (EPMAC) in coordination with the Manning Control
Authorities (MCAs). The MCAs were designated as CINCPACFLT, CINCLANTFLT,
COMNAVRESFOR, and BUPERS. During the 1970’s, all enlisted Permanent Change
of Station (PCS) orders were produced through the Navy Enlisted System (NES),
an automated order writing system.
Further improvements were made in 1978 when EPMAC created an automated
input, the Readiness Information System (RIS) J File, tO the NES order
writer for seamen, firemen and airmen detailers. In 1981, automated input
was extended to the rated detailers. In 1987, with the advent of more
advanced computer technology, a second enlisted order writer was created
with a plain English format capability. Orders are written through Enlisted
Assignment Information System (EATS), combining the functions of several
systems already available in making assignment decisions. It calculates and
tracks PCS funds, produces plain language orders, and tracks and reserves
training quotas with real time information from the schools themselves.
Today, 40 percent of the orders are produced through EATS, and 60 percent
are still produced through NES. Efforts to streamline the detailing process
continue. Meanwhile, sailors are kept up-to-date on news concerning their
ratings and career opportunities through Link Magazine, a product of
one of Zumwalt’s early retention study groups.
Six More Years
Almost midway through
his tour as MCPON, Whittet took the CNO up on his offer in Z-108 to allow
“well-qualified senior petty officers” continuation of service beyond 30
years. On January 16, 1973 he reenlisted for six more years. The press
release announcing the event, held in the CNO’s office, said Whittet felt he
still had a “great deal to offer the Navy.”
“I don’t think a career
Navy man should automatically feel that he has served out his usefulness to
the service at the end of 30 years,” the release quoted Whittet. “The Navy
has done a lot for me and I think I still have a lot to contribute. That’s
why I made the decision to reenlist for another six years.”
According to the
release, Whittet would revert back to his rating of Master Chief Aircraft
Maintenanceman when he left the MCPON office. But one year later, he changed
to the new Master-at-Arms rating.
Changing the Watch
Zumwalt rescinded all
120 Z-Grams prior to his retirement July 1, 1974, confident that his
initiatives had been infused into the Navy directives system and that his
successor, Admiral James L. Holloway, III, could expand upon them.
One month before
leaving office, he presented the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) to
Whittet “for his outstanding contribution to the lives and careers of Navy
enlisted men and women.” With the presentation, Whittet joined retired MCPON
Black and Senior Chief Radarman Larry H. Nowell as the only enlisted men to
hold the DSM. Nowell received the medal for his work during combat
operations in Vietnam in 1972. The DSM ranks fourth in precedence and is
signed by the Secretary of the Navy.
Admiral Holloway was
commander of the Seventh Fleet in 1972 during the height of operations off
Vietnam. He was the first nuclear trained CNO and had spent most of his
career on the operational side of the Navy. He took office convinced that
the Navy needed time to heal in the wake of Vietnam and the “social
revolution” both inside and outside the Navy. His programs would focus on
quality rather than quantity, increased training and education, and putting
pride at the forefront of Naval service.
In April 1975, after
two working conferences with the Fleet Commanders-in-Chief, the CNO
announced five major goals: readiness, flexibility, offensive capability,
balance, and personnel professionalism and stability.
“The achievement of
these goals lies in the hands of people,” Admiral Holloway said. “Therefore,
every man and woman must strive for the highest possible degree of personal
pride in work and professionalism. This requisite professionalism cannot be
achieved without constant emphasis on stability in our daily lives. Programs
which develop professionalism and stability must receive the highest
The MCPON he inherited
adapted to the change of pace. In his final year and a half, Whittet’s
All Hands column dealt with subjects such as ecology, Navy wives,
humanitarian transfers, the rating classification system, and advancement.
In his September 1974 column, he reminded “workaholic’ sailors that
dedication “beyond normal expectations” can be detrimental.
have revealed that rest periods away from duty provide benefits to morale
and motivation — two key factors in maintaining maximum efficiency,” he
wrote. “Hard work will continue to be a Navy tradition! But, I
wholeheartedly endorse the efforts to create an atmosphere that makes it
possible for people to take leave when they desire. In the long run, it’s
for our own good to have a time for work and a time for play.”
In one of his last
columns, Whittet praised the Master Chief Petty Officet of the Command
Program, describing a conference attended by the fleet and force master
chiefs in Washington.
conference included meetings with 16 authorities whc supplied expertise in a
wide range of topics of direct concern to enlisted
personnel and their
dependents,” he wrote. “After each presentation, the master chiefs were
given an opportunity to ask questions of the experts and provide input.”
leaving Washington, the master chiefs met with the CNO and the CNP, listened
to their views and presented some recommendations of their own.
conference reaffirmed my belief that feedback from the fleet is invaluable
to everyone working at the Bureau level,” said Whittet. “By utilizing
information obtained from Navy men and women, programs which might have
otherwise adversely affected enlisted personnel have been favorably
modified. When modification has not been the appropriate solution, steps
have been taken to provide a better and more meaningful explanation of
farewell article, Whittet cited the “leadership and inspiration” of the
three Secretaries of the Navy, two CNOs, and three CNPs, with whom he had
traveled and worked as MCPON.
“Under the leadership of these men, I have
witnessed many beneficial and necessary changes within the Navy’s enlisted
structure,” he wrote. “These changes have had a significantly positive
effect on the enlisted community as is reflected in retention figures which
have risen from 11.6 percent in fiscal year 1971 to 39.9 percent for fiscal
recognized the efforts of his staff, the MCPOCs, his family, and his
never traveled to a ship or station where I was not greeted warmly,” he
said. “I will always be thankful that I had the opportunity to work and
serve with the world’s finest men and women, my shipmates in the United
Following a change of office ceremony September 25, 1975, Whittet began his
“twilight tour” with the Human Resources Management Program at Naval
Amphibious School, Coronado, California. Within a few months after arriving
at Coronado, he submitted his retirement papers. In 1976, after retiring
quietly, he served on Admiral Zumwalt’s campaign staff in an unsuccessful
bid for the U.S. Senate from Virginia. Whittet then served briefly with the
Noncommissioned Officers Association. Following that, he went into a home
repair service with retired Admiral Worth Bagley, the brother of Vice
Admiral David Bagley, who had served as Whittet’s CNP.
1979, he became director of morale, welfare, and recreation at Coronado
Naval Amphibious Base, where he remained until his death. Whittet, described
by his family as an “experienced scuba diver,” drowned when he was entrapped
in rocks while diving in the Colorado River in Arizona.
Admiral Zumwalt spoke at the memorial service held for Whittet on May 11,
1989, at the Coronado base chapel. Attending were the current MCPON Duane R.
Bushey, and former MCPONs Delbert Black and Tom Crow.
“I miss him badly,” Zumwalt said of Whittet
during a recent interview. “We loved each other. We were like a band of
brothers in everything we did.”