About "Push Button" Advancement

In the '60's, '70's and '80's

A first enlistment in the Navy was for a total of 6 years.  Usual, it was 4 years of active duty followed by 2 years of stand-by (non-drilling) reserve.

Naval Reservists usually served 2 years of active duty and 4 years of drilling reserve duty.  There were other programs of varying amounts of active and stand-by or drilling reserve duty, but the total commitment was still 6 years.

After basic training, qualified sailors may qualify for a Class "A" school for training in a specific rating (MOS).  Upon graduation from Class "A" school they are sent to the fleet, to work in that rating, usually as an E-2 or E-3.

In some technical ratings there was a shortage of manpower and the Navy offered advancement incentives to get more people into those ratings.  Basically, if a Class "A" school student in one these ratings extended his active duty for the full 6 years, he was given additionally schooling and upon graduation he was automatically advanced to E-4
.  No tests, no nothin'.  Thus the tern, "Push Button."  In some ratings (especially nuclear ratings) the additional schooling resulted in automatic advancement to E-5.

The problem is that these "Push Button" Petty Officers (NCOs) may have the technical knowledge of their rating, but they have little or no fleet experience and no leadership skills, yet they are filing most of the billets.  This meant that ship board seamen, who had proven their qualification and were trying for advancement in these rates had to score almost perfect test scores in order to win the few remaining billets available.