'Midship ... mates?' Navy moves to sink gender-specific titles

The U.S. Navy is looking for a few good names without "men" in them.

As part of the move to integrate women in all roles of the military, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has announced plans to make titles and descriptions gender neutral. That puts the time-honored name "Midshipman" squarely on the radar.

A review of the seafaring branch's titles already underway will "ensure they were representative of all sailors and did not discriminate based on gender," the Navy said in a statement.

“The United States Navy and Marine Corps have too many real enemies to defeat and deter. The Secretary of the Navy should have better things to do than adding the English language to the list."

— Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and retired Navy captain

Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson was ordered to look at ratings that referenced 'man' in the title, which includes more than 20 Navy jobs. Richardson, in turn, enlisted Mike Stevens, master chief petty officer of the Navy, to take the helm.

Stevens is now putting together a working group that will "canvass the fleet, talk with sailors to hear their thoughts, and provide recommendations based on feedback." A report detailing which titles should change is due to Mabus by April 1.

"This is an opportunity for us to take a look at our rates to see if their names and titles best represent the Sailors and the description of their jobs, just as we have done many times in the past," Stevens said in a Jan. 13 statement. There have been more than 700 rate name changes since the Navy's beginning, acccording to the Capital Gazette newspaper.

But not everyone is embracing the change, including Arizona senator and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain, who retired from the Navy as a captain in 1981.

“The United States Navy and Marine Corps have too many real enemies to defeat and deter," McCain told FoxNews.com on Wednesday.

"The Secretary of the Navy should have better things to do than adding the English language to the list," he said.

The rank of "midshipman" dates back to the 1600s, long before the Naval Academy in Annapolis opened its doors in 1845.

KT McFarland, a Fox News contributor who served in national security posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations, called the move for change "offensive."

McFarland argued that changing titles "wipes away decades, and in some cases centuries, of tradition and belittles the current holder of that position."

Others said the move is warranted, especially as the U.S. military welcomes women into previously closed positions.

Kyleanne Hunter, a former Marine Corps pilot and founder of the Think Broader Foundation, called the move to change titles "symbolic" and one that "has a very impactful meaning."

"I think that sometimes recognizing that traditions need to be changed is a positive step forward for everyone," Hunter told FoxNews.com.

"The formal barriers for women have been removed. However, changing the language is a final step to removing the informal barriers that still exist," she said.

"When you have 'men' or 'man' attached to titles -- whether its midshipman or infantryman -- it creates a mental picture that that job can only be done by a man," argued Hunter. "When you’re on the inclusive side of a tradition, it’s very hard to see the other side. Not only did I have to fight to do the actual job, in addition I had to constantly fight against the bias I didn’t belong there."

"This is really a win-win for everybody," said Hunter, who suggested replacing "midshipman" with "midshipmate."

Cristina Corbin is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow her on Twitter @CristinaCorbin.