Crossing Over to the Dark Side of the Navy
Enlisted vs Officer Roles
There is a clear difference in the roles assumed when we talk about Officer versus Enlisted. The difference in culture is often highlighted within movies and media. A good example is in GI Jane when she calls the Master Chief, Sir. The Master Chief makes it clear that he is not a "SIR" and that he works for a living. This is often the perception of Officers versus Enlisted. The Enlisted are viewed as the workers; the ones who actually execute and do all the dirty work. They work long hours and they work hard. They EARN their rank as they move up the rank structure. Officers however are viewed quite differently. It is often said that Officers are given their rank. While this may be true sometimes it is not true after O3 (LT). Some professions within the Navy, rank is "given" to counteract pay in the civilian sector. Such as doctors, which yes can be highly frustrating when you are saluting an O4 or above who cannot even figure out their uniform. However at the same time leadership also goes up the chain of command. I believe it is more an individual personality. The ultimate difference is that Officers come into the military with a college degree. The actual role varies on the degree while Enlisted come into the military normally with no degree or specialty and receive on the job training and become the specialist. Ultimately a strong leader will stand out regardless of rank. I have seen E3s out perform Senior Sailors and Officers, it all depends on the individual and who is guiding them.
Officers play a very different role in what their line of responsibility is. While enlisted execute the task or order at hand, the Officer plans and determines the actions needed to execute the mission. Everyone has a responsibility to the mission and as long as both entities are performing, the mission is met to perfection. While there can often be tension within the Enlisted versus Officer ranks, it is more often a positive relationship that works well for accomplishment. Within these day to day taskers and orders is where the perception of "dark side" was created. More often than not, Officers come into the military with their degree but no leadership training and maybe leading Enlisted with more extensive experience in this field. This is where the perception of "given" their rank comes from. Sometimes there will be leaders who do not perform well as leaders simply because they have never been one.
The DARK Side
Now for the Dark Side, I am currently a Medical Service Corps Officer and I work as a Health Care Administrator. From the Ship to the Marines to the Hospital, I have had my challenges with the phrase crossing over to the DARK Side. It is understandable as I have seen many unqualified Officers in leadership but I would also argue that I have seen the same for the Senior Enlisted Side. Leadership is one of those characteristics that is ever evolving and growing. A leader is always learning even from what we may consider a bad leader. The reason I write this article is the fact that I want to elaborate on all the educational resources that the Military has to offer!
The reason I hate the phrase "crossing over to the DARK side" is simply because it is not true and it degrades from the actual progression of an individual if taken in the wrong context. I have watched many junior enlisted choose to stay enlisted simply because they felt pressured or felt that being an Officer had a negative connotation to it. To me this also constitutes poor leadership.
When I first joined I was not aware of the difference between Officer and Enlisted but we definitely learned in Officer Development School! When I was going through college, I had a few scholarships but mostly student loans. I worked 2-3 jobs at a time to be able to go to school and pay bills. Once I was in the Navy, I began to learn about all the programs available to Sailors and I was in awe! There is no reason that any Sailor cannot achieve a degree or profession of his or her choosing. Since my first day in the military, I have tried to learn as many programs as possible. I have a firm belief in encouraging others to achieve their dreams and ambitions whether it is becoming an Officer, Master Chief, and/or getting out a picking a profession within the civilian sector. I do not believe in a Dark side. The only Dark side that exists for me are those poor leaders that do not encourage development!
So I would end this with; If you are Enlisted and have heard this phrase, please do not conform to this thought process! YOU as an individual determines your career path and your goals/ambitions. I encourage you to take advantage of everything the military has to offer. If you are a civilian thinking about a specific career in the military, I encourage you to look at what is available. I have made a short YouTube video that highlights some of the Medical Enlisted to Officer Programs. This video also briefly describes some of the civilian programs as well! The video is listed below!
Be the change you deserve! It is ultimately up to you what path you want to take, whether it is the Enlisted chain, Officer, or civilian. Listen to people's advice but do not be afraid to take that step to better yourself. If you are excelling, you help others to excel! That is what leadership is all about; helping to grow those around us to be just as great and/or better!
Medical Enlisted to Officer Programs
Navy Medicine Professional Development Center
© 2017 Krystal